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Bootstrapping Pet Sets


This purpose of this guide is to help you become familiar with the runtime initialization of Pet Sets. This guide assumes the same prerequisites, and uses the same terminology as the Pet Set user document.

The most common way to initialize the runtime in a containerized environment, is through a custom entrypoint. While this is not necessarily bad, making your application pid 1, and treating containers as processes in general is good for a few reasons outside the scope of this document. Doing so allows you to run docker images from third-party vendors without modification. We will not be writing custom entrypoints for this example, but using a feature called init containers, to explain 2 common patterns that come up deploying Pet Sets.

  1. Transferring state across Pet restart, so that a future Pet is initialized with the computations of its past incarnation
  2. Initializing the runtime environment of a Pet based on existing conditions, like a list of currently healthy peers

Example I: transferring state across Pet restart

This example shows you how to “carry over” runtime state across Pet restart by simulating virtual machines with a Pet Set.


Applications that incrementally build state usually need strong guarantees that they will not restart for extended durations. This is tricky to achieve with containers, so instead, we will ensure that the results of previous computations are transferred to future pets. Doing so is straightforward using vanilla Persistent Volumes (which Pet Set already gives you), unless the volume mount point itself needs to be initialized for the Pet to start. This is exactly the case with “virtual machine” docker images, like those based on ubuntu or fedora. Such images embed the entire rootfs of the distro, including package managers like apt-get that assume a certain layout of the filesystem. Meaning:

Simulating Virtual Machines

Since Pet Set already gives each Pet a consistent identity, all we need is a way to initialize the user environment before allowing tools like kubectl exec to enter the application container.

Download this petset into a file called petset_vm.yaml, and create it:

$ kubectl create -f petset_vm.yaml
service "ub" created
petset "vm" created

This should give you 2 pods.

$ kubectl get po
vm-0      1/1       Running    0          37s
vm-1      1/1       Running    0          2m

We can exec into one and install nginx

$ kubectl exec -it vm-0 /bin/sh
vm-0 # apt-get update
vm-0 # apt-get install nginx -y

On killing this pod we need it to come back with all the Pet Set properties, as well as the installed nginx packages.

$ kubectl delete po vm-0
pod "vm-0" deleted

$ kubectl get po
vm-0      1/1       Running   0          1m
vm-1      1/1       Running   0          4m

Now you can exec back into vm-0 and start nginx

$ kubectl exec -it vm-0 /bin/sh
vm-0 # mkdir -p /var/log/nginx /var/lib/nginx; nginx -g 'daemon off;'

And access it from anywhere in the cluster (and because this is an example that simulates vms, we’re going to apt-get install netcat too)

$ kubectl exec -it vm-1 /bin/sh
vm-1 # apt-get update
vm-1 # apt-get install netcat -y
vm-1 # printf "GET / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n" | netcat vm-0.ub 80

It’s worth exploring what just happened. Init containers run sequentially before the application container. In this example we used the init container to copy shared libraries from the rootfs, while preserving user installed packages across container restart. '[
        "name": "rootfs",
        "image": "ubuntu:15.10",
        "command": [
            "for d in usr lib etc; do cp -vnpr /$d/* /${d}mnt; done;"
        "volumeMounts": [
                "name": "usr",
                "mountPath": "/usrmnt"
                "name": "lib",
                "mountPath": "/libmnt"
                "name": "etc",
                "mountPath": "/etcmnt"

It’s important to note that the init container, when used this way, must be idempotent, or it’ll end up clobbering data stored by a previous incarnation.

Example II: initializing state based on environment

In this example we are going to setup a cluster of nginx servers, just like we did in the Pet Set user guide, but make one of them a master. All the other nginx servers will simply proxy requests to the master. This is a common deployment pattern for databases like Mysql, but we’re going to replace the database with a stateless webserver to simplify the problem.


Most clustered applications, such as mysql, require an admin to create a config file based on the current state of the world. The most common dynamic variable in such config files is a list of peers, or other Pets running similar database servers that are currently serving requests. The Pet Set user guide already touched on this topic, we’ll explore it in greater depth in the context of writing a config file with a list of peers.

Here’s a tiny peer finder helper script that handles peer discovery, available here. The peer finder takes 3 important arguments:

The role of the peer finder:

You can invoke the peer finder inside the Pets we created in the last example:

$ kubectl exec -it vm-0 /bin/sh
vm-0 # apt-get update
vm-0 # apt-get install curl -y
vm-0 # curl -sSL -o /peer-finder
vm-0 # chmod -c 755 peer-finder

vm-0 # ./peer-finder
2016/06/23 21:25:46 Incomplete args, require -on-change and/or -on-start, -service and -ns or an env var for POD_NAMESPACE.

vm-0 # ./peer-finder -on-start 'tee' -service ub -ns default

2016/06/23 21:30:21 Peer list updated
was []
now [vm-0.ub.default.svc.cluster.local vm-1.ub.default.svc.cluster.local]
2016/06/23 21:30:21 execing: tee with stdin: vm-0.ub.default.svc.cluster.local
2016/06/23 21:30:21 vm-0.ub.default.svc.cluster.local
2016/06/23 21:30:22 Peer finder exiting

Nginx master/slave cluster

Lets create a Pet Set that writes out its own config based on a list of peers at initialization time, as described above.

Download and create this petset. It will setup 2 nginx webservers, but the second one will proxy all requests to the first:

$ kubectl create -f petset_peers.yaml
service "nginx" created
petset "web" created

$ kubectl get po --watch-only
web-0     0/1       Pending   0          7s
web-0     0/1       Init:0/1   0         18s
web-0     0/1       PodInitializing   0         20s
web-0     1/1       Running   0         21s
web-1     0/1       Pending   0         0s
web-1     0/1       Init:0/1   0         0s
web-1     0/1       PodInitializing   0         20s
web-1     1/1       Running   0         21s

$ kubectl get po
web-0     1/1       Running   0          1m
web-1     1/1       Running   0          47s

web-1 will redirect all requests to its “master”:

$ kubectl exec -it web-1 -- curl localhost

If you scale the cluster, the new pods parent themselves to the same master. To test this you can kubectl edit the petset and change the replicas field to 5:

$ kubectl edit petset web

$ kubectl get po -l app=nginx
web-0     1/1       Running   0          2h
web-1     1/1       Running   0          2h
web-2     1/1       Running   0          1h
web-3     1/1       Running   0          1h
web-4     1/1       Running   0          1h

$ for i in $(seq 0 4); do kubectl exec -it web-$i -- curl localhost; done | sort | uniq

Understanding how we generated the nginx config is important, we did so by passing an init script to the peer finder:

echo `
readarray PEERS;
if [ 1 = ${#PEERS[@]} ]; then
  echo \"events{} http { server{ } }\";
  echo \"events{} http { server{ location / { proxy_pass http://${PEERS[0]}; } } }\";
fi;` > /conf/nginx.conf

All that does is:

It’s important to note that in practice all Pets should query their peers for the current master, instead of making assumptions based on the index.

Next Steps

You can deploy some example Pet Sets found here, or write your own.

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