Goglides Dev 🌱

Goglides Dev 🌱 is a community of amazing users

We are working on this space so that IT professionals can grow together.

Create account Log in
Cover image for Kubernetes Services Explained
Roshan Thapa
Roshan Thapa

Posted on • Updated on

Kubernetes Services Explained

Kubernetes networking principles are really confusing, especially if you’re a beginner.

Regardless of how well I followed the official documentation, I honestly didn’t understand a single damn thing!

This blog post is my take on explaining Kubernetes networking concepts in depth and answering the following questions, which always confused me:

  • How does a Kubernetes networking resource solve the Service Discovery problem in Kubernetes?
  • Does a LoadBalancer service really provision a load balancer automatically? What will happen if I create this service locally?
  • How does a production-ready Kubernetes cluster expose its applications?
  • What is the difference between an Ingress and an Ingress controller?
  • and more…

Let’s Get Started

Throughout the entire blog post, we will assume the following.

  • You have familiarity with the structure of Kubernetes YAML resource definition.
  • You have deployed an imaginary Kubernetes cluster on the cloud across three VMs. The VMs/nodes have the following Public IP addresses
    • Node A (192.168.0.1)
    • Node B (192.168.0.2)
    • Node C (192.168.0.3)
  • A microservices application having four services is deployed on that K8s cluster. The application is deployed in such a way that each VM has at least one replica of that service running
    • Products
    • Reviews
    • Details
    • Ratings
  • Notations
    • $Reviews_A$ denotes that the Reviews service is running on node A
    • K8s denotes Kubernetes
    • LBs denotes Load Balancers

Image description

Kubernetes Cluster

Let’s start by answering the why.

Why Do We Need Services in the First Place?

In the K8s cluster, our application code is running inside containers using the K8s Deployment resource. This deployment resource internally creates a K8s Pod resource, which in turn actually runs the containers.

K8s assigns an IP address whenever a pod is created. The command below shows you an example IP address of the Pod

kubectl get pods <pod-name> -o wide
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Image description

Example Pod IP

K8s pods are short-lived/ephemeral.

So if a pod dies for any reason, K8s will automatically restart the pod, but the IP address assigned to that pod also changes. This in turn will lead to communication failure between the $Products_A$ and $Reviews_A$ microservice, as the IP address of $Reviews_A$ service is hardcoded in the configuration file of $Products_A$ service. This is problematic!

Wouldn’t it be great if somehow a static IP address or a DNS name was assigned to the Pod? This will solve our problem.

That’s where the Service resource of K8s comes to the rescue. I know the name Service sounds deceiving. A Service resource doesn’t run our containers. It merely provides and maintains a network identity for our Pod resource.

This Service network identity provides both a static IP address and a DNS name. We just need to specify the ports on which the incoming request will be received and the port of the pod on which the request has to be sent.

Services listen on a static address that doesn’t change and forwards the request to the unreliable container address. It internally keeps a map that always contains the latest IP address of the Pod. So, whenever a Pod restarts, it updates that map automatically so you get a seamless connection.

Another benefit of using services is load balancing between replicas of the same application. With our imaginary application, because there are three instances of each microservice running on separate VMs, a service will load balance the request between the replicas of $Products_A$ $Proudcts_B$ $Products_C$.

Image description

Load Balancing between Pods in K8s using Service Resource

Until now, we have understood what are services and why are they needed. Let’s check out the different services that K8s offers and their use cases.

How Do I make Products_As Service Talk to Reviews_As service?

ClusterIP Service to the Rescue

The following YAML defines a service of type ClusterIP

apiVersion: v1
 kind: Service
 metadata:
  labels:
    app: reviews
  name: reviews
 spec:
  ports:
  - name: http
    port: 5000
    protocol: TCP
    targetPort: 80
  selector:
    app: reviews
  type: ClusterP
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The important fields in this YAML are

  • targetPort: denotes the container port on which the request has to be forwarded
  • port: denotes the port on which the service accepts incoming requests
  • selector: used for associating/attaching a K8s Service resource to a K8s Pod resource. This is done by matching labels (key-value pairs) of the pod with selectors labels specified in the selector section.

Selector labels must match to attach a service to a pod.

The command below shows you the static IP address of the service which can be used by other Pods:

kubectl get service <service-name>
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Image description

You can use the above IP address for communication between the $Products_A$ and $Reviews_A$ microservices.

There are two way to communicate using DNS.

  • Pods residing in the same K8s Namespace can use the name of the service for DNS resolution
    • Example → http://reviews:5000
  • Pods residing in other namespaces can use the following DNS notation → <service-name>.<namespace>.svc.cluster.local
    • Let’s say $Products$ Pod resides in the products namespace and the $Reviews$ pod resides in reviews namespace. For the $Products$ pod to communicate with the $Reviews$ pod, you would use the following DNS → http://reviews.reviews.svc.cluster.local:5000

Now you can pass these addresses to your microservice for communication.

Image description

Internal Communication Using Cluster IP Service

Until now, we've understood how applications inside the K8s cluster talk to each other, but you made your application to be consumed by users on the internet. Let’s check out how it is done.

How Do I Expose Products_As Service Over the Internet?

Every application that is deployed in K8s by default cannot be accessed over the network/internet. They need to be exposed Via a Service. K8s provides two Services to do just that:

NodePort Service

The following YAML can be used to create a NodePort service:

apiVersion: v1
 kind: Service
 metadata:
  labels:
    app: reviews
  name: reviews
 spec:
  ports:
  - name: http
    port: 5000
    protocol: TCP
    targetPort: 80
  selector:
    app: reviews
  type: NodePort
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The above YAML definition is very similar to the ClusterIP Service definition. The only field that has changed is the type field from ClusterIP to NodePort. When you create a NodePort service, K8s will randomly select any available port on the node/VM between 30000 - 32767 and listen on it for incoming requests.

You can specify the NodePort field yourself in the service definition, but you have to deal with the hassle of checking if the port is available on every node.

After creating the service, to get the port on which this NodePort service is listening for requests, use the command:

kubectl get service <service-name>
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Image description

In our imaginary K8s cluster, this will happen on all the nodes:

  • Node A (192.168.0.1:30519)
  • Node B (192.168.0.2:30519)
  • Node C (192.168.0.3:30519)

You can access your application using the address nodeIP:30519. For Node A, it would be 192.168.0.1:30519.

Image description

Exposing Application Using Nodeport Service

But this is not practical. Users of your application won’t remember your IP address and port for accessing your app. They need a domain name like myapp.com to access your app. We solve this by putting an external load balancer in front of our VMs. The load balancer's public IP is mapped to myapp.com, so when you type myapp.com in a browser, it resolves to load balancer's IP. Then, the load balancer forwards these requests to any of our three nodes according to an algorithm configured in the load balancer.

K8s provides another service to expose your application called the LoadBalancer service.

LoadBalancer

The following YAML can be used a create a LoadBalancer service:

apiVersion: v1
 kind: Service
 metadata:
  labels:
    app: reviews
  name: reviews
 spec:
  ports:
  - name: http
    port: 5000
    protocol: TCP
    targetPort: 80
  selector:
    app: reviews
  type: LoadBalancer
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

The above YAML definition is very similar to the ClusterIP Service definition. The only field that has changed is the type field from ClusterIP to LoadBalancer.

The LoadBalancer service is an abstraction over the NodePort service. What’s special about this service is that, if you are using a managed Kubernetes service like EKS(AWS), GKS(GCP), AKS(Azure), or any other cloud provider, it provisions a load balancer by itself so that you don’t have the hassle setting up a load balancer yourself.

After creating the service, to get the public IP address of the load balancer provisioned by this service, use the command:

kubectl get service <service-name>
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Image description

Load Balancer Service Example

But what happens if you create a LoadBalancer service on your local K8s cluster or configured your own K8s from scratch in the cloud?

The answer is: It won’t do anything. You will see a state for the IP address section. The reason is that cloud-specific K8s clusters add other special programs/controllers that detect the LoadBalancer service creation and take the appropriate action accordingly.

One thing to note here: The LoadBalancer service doesn’t expose any ports by itself like the NodePort service.

LoadBalancer is a superset of NodePort, which is a superset of the clusterIP service, which means that, when you create a service of type NodePort, a ClusterIP service also gets created implicitly. So if you create a NodePort service for a $Products$ microservice, then this same service can be used for both internal communications by other pods and accessing the $Products$ service on the internet.

Image description

Service Superset

What Should We Use NodePort or LoadBalancer Service?

If you read carefully, you will observe there is not much difference between the NodePort and LoadBalancer service, except for some automation being done in the latter one.

Using a LoadBalancer service takes away the trivial task of configuring and provisioning LBs. Meanwhile, using a NodePort gives you the freedom to set up your own load-balancing solution, such that configuring environments that are not fully supported by Kubernetes, or even exposing one or more nodes’ IPs directly.

So it depends upon the situation you are in, but the general rule of thumb is to try to use the LoadBalancer service first, but if it doesn’t work for your environment, go for the NodePort service

That is it, these two services are used to expose your application outside of the cluster. But there is a slight problem.

If you want to expose more than one application, you end up creating multiple NodePort / LoadBalancer Services. This gets the job done but you have to face some consequences because with each NodePort service you need to deal with the hassle of manually managing the IPs and ports. And with each LoadBalancer service, you go on increasing your cloud bill.

No worries, K8s has addressed this issue with the use of Ingress and Ingress controllers.

How to Expose Multiple Applications Without Creating Multiple Services

Ingress and Ingress Controller

Ingress and Ingress controllers are two different things.

An Ingress controller is just another K8s deployment resource (an app running in a container), but what is special about this deployment is that it provides a single point of control for all incoming traffic into the Kubernetes cluster.

Think of the Ingress controller as a smart proxy running in K8s and Ingress as a K8s resource that configures the routing logic of the Ingress controller. For people who have worked with Nginx, the Nginx webserver would be your Ingress controller, and the nginx.conf file would be your Ingress resource.

With these, you can specify what request needs to be routed to which service in your K8s cluster on the basis of any request parameter, like host, URL path, subdomain, etc.

The following YAML can be used to create an Ingress resource:
apiVersion: networking.k8s.io/v1

kind: Ingress
metadata:
  name: ingress-wildcard-host
spec:
    ingressClassName: nginx
  rules:
  - host: "products.myapp.com"
    http:
      paths:
      - pathType: Prefix
        path: "/products"
        backend:
          service:
            name: products-app
            port:
              number: 80
  - host: "ratings.foo.com"
    http:
      paths:
      - pathType: Prefix
        path: "/ratings"
        backend:
          service:
            name: ratings-app
            port:
              number: 80
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

With the above YAML, we have exposed two services. If a request comes from products.myapp.com and the request path starts with /proudcts, we send it to our products-app K8s Service, which in turn forwards the request to our container.

Similarly, if a request comes from ratings.bar.com it is forwarded to ratings-app

Ingress YAML Explanation

The important fields in these YAML are:

  • ingressClassName: Usually, there is only one ingress controller in the cluster, but no one is stopping you from creating many. This field is used for the selection of ingress controller, similar to the selector field of services
  • service: denotes the name of the service on which the request has to be forwarded

An ingress resource should be created in the same namespace where the corresponding K8s Service resides, but an ingress controller can be placed in any namespace. It will automatically detect Ingresess defined in other namespaces on the basis of ingressClassName.

An important thing to remember is that an Ingress by itself doesn’t expose any port. In the end, it’s just a K8s deployment resource. You need a service(NodePort/LoadBalancer) in front of it to expose it.

Image description
Exposing Application Using Load Balancer Service

Conclusion

Congratulations on sticking around until the end. Let’s summarize what we have learned so far. Kubernetes gives us three types of Service Resource Object

  • Cluster IP Service
    • Used for internal communication among workloads and handles Service Discovery.
  • NodePort Service
    • Used for exposing applications over the internet, mostly used in development environments
  • LoadBalancer Service
    • Used for exposing applications over the internet
    • Provision actual load balancer on the cloud, on supported cloud platforms
  • Ingress Resource
    • Used for controlling incoming traffic in the Kubernetes cluster
    • Various implementations are available each with its pros and cons

Discussion (0)