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Step-by-step instructions for performing operations with Kubernetes.

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Configure Access to Multiple Clusters

This page shows how to configure access to multiple clusters by using configuration files. After your clusters, users, and contexts are defined in one or more configuration files, you can quickly switch between clusters by using the kubectl config use-context command.

Note: A file that is used to configure access to a cluster is sometimes called a kubeconfig file. This is a generic way of referring to configuration files. It does not mean that there is a file named kubeconfig.

Before you begin

You need to have the kubectl command-line tool installed.

Define clusters, users, and contexts

Suppose you have two clusters, one for development work and one for scratch work. In the development cluster, your frontend developers work in a namespace called frontend, and your storage developers work in a namespace called storage. In your scratch cluster, developers work in the default namespace, or they create auxiliary namespaces as they see fit. Access to the development cluster requires authentication by certificate. Access to the scratch cluster requires authentication by username and password.

Create a directory named config-exercise. In your config-exercise directory, create a file named config-demo with this content:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Config
preferences: {}

clusters:
- cluster:
  name: development
- cluster:
  name: scratch

users:
- name: developer
- name: experimenter

contexts:
- context:
  name: dev-frontend
- context:
  name: dev-storage
- context:
  name: exp-scratch

A configuration file describes clusters, users, and contexts. Your config-demo file has the framework to describe two clusters, two users, and three contexts.

Go to your config-exercise directory. Enter these commands to add cluster details to your configuration file:

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-cluster development --server=https://1.2.3.4 --certificate-authority=fake-ca-file
kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-cluster scratch --server=https://5.6.7.8 --insecure-skip-tls-verify

Add user details to your configuration file:

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-credentials developer --client-certificate=fake-cert-file --client-key=fake-key-seefile
kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-credentials experimenter --username=exp --password=some-password

Add context details to your configuration file:

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-context dev-frontend --cluster=development --namespace=frontend --user=developer
kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-context dev-storage --cluster=development --namespace=storage --user=developer
kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo set-context exp-scratch --cluster=scratch --namespace=default --user=experimenter

Open your config-demo file to see the added details. As an alternative to opening the config-demo file, you can use the config view command.

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo view

The output shows the two clusters, two users, and three contexts:

apiVersion: v1
clusters:
- cluster:
    certificate-authority: fake-ca-file
    server: https://1.2.3.4
  name: development
- cluster:
    insecure-skip-tls-verify: true
    server: https://5.6.7.8
  name: scratch
contexts:
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: frontend
    user: developer
  name: dev-frontend
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: storage
    user: developer
  name: dev-storage
- context:
    cluster: scratch
    namespace: default
    user: experimenter
  name: exp-scratch
current-context: ""
kind: Config
preferences: {}
users:
- name: developer
  user:
    client-certificate: fake-cert-file
    client-key: fake-key-file
- name: experimenter
  user:
    password: some-password
    username: exp

Each context is a triple (cluster, user, namespace). For example, the dev-frontend context says, Use the credentials of the developer user to access the frontend namespace of the development cluster.

Set the current context:

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo use-context dev-frontend

Now whenever you enter a kubectl command, the action will apply to the cluster, and namespace listed in the dev-frontend context. And the command will use the credentials of the user listed in the dev-frontend context.

To see only the configuration information associated with the current context, use the --minify flag.

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo view --minify

The output shows configuration information associated with the dev-frontend context:

apiVersion: v1
clusters:
- cluster:
    certificate-authority: fake-ca-file
    server: https://1.2.3.4
  name: development
contexts:
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: frontend
    user: developer
  name: dev-frontend
current-context: dev-frontend
kind: Config
preferences: {}
users:
- name: developer
  user:
    client-certificate: fake-cert-file
    client-key: fake-key-file

Now suppose you want to work for a while in the scratch cluster.

Change the current context to exp-scratch:

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo use-context exp-scratch

Now any kubectl command you give will apply to the default namespace of the scratch cluster. And the command will use the credentials of the user listed in the exa-scratch context.

View configuration associated with the new current context, exp-scratch.

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo view --minify

Finally, suppose you want to work for a while in the storage namespace of the development cluster.

Change the current context to dev-storage:

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo use-context dev-storage

View configuration associated with the new current context, `dev-storage.

kubectl config --kubeconfig=config-demo view --minify

Create a second configuration file

In your config-exercise directory, create a file named config-demo-2 with this content:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Config
preferences: {}

contexts:
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: ramp
    user: developer
  name: dev-ramp-up

The preceding configuration file defines a new context named dev-ramp-up.

Set the KUBECONFIG environment variable

See whether you have an environment variable named KUBECONFIG. If so, save the current value of your KUBECONFIG environment variable, so you can restore it later. For example, on Linux:

export  KUBECONFIG_SAVED=$KUBECONFIG

The KUBECONFIG environment variable is a list of paths to configuration files. The list is colon-delimited for Linux and Mac, and semicolon-delimited for Windows. If you have a KUBECONFIG environment variable, familiarize yourself with the configuration files in the list.

Temporarily append two paths to your KUBECONFIG environment variable. For example, on Linux:

export  KUBECONFIG=$KUBECONFIG:config-demo:config-demo-2

In your config-exercise directory, enter this command:

kubectl config view

The output shows merged information from all the files listed in your KUBECONFIG environment variable. In particular, notice that the merged information has the dev-ramp-up context from the config-demo-2 file and the three contexts from the config-demo file:

contexts:
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: frontend
    user: developer
  name: dev-frontend
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: ramp
    user: developer
  name: dev-ramp-up
- context:
    cluster: development
    namespace: storage
    user: developer
  name: dev-storage
- context:
    cluster: scratch
    namespace: default
    user: experimenter
  name: exp-scratch

For more information about how kubeconfig files are merged, see Organizing Cluster Access Using kubeconfig Files

Explore the $HOME/.kube directory

If you already have a cluster, and you can use kubectl to interact with the cluster, then you probably have a file named config in the $HOME/.kube directory.

Go to $HOME/.kube, and see what files are there. Typically, there is a file named config. There might also be other configuration files in this directory. Briefly familiarize yourself with the contents of these files.

Append $HOME/.kube/config to your KUBECONFIG environment variable

If you have a $HOME/.kube/config file, and it’s not already listed in your KUBECONFIG environment variable, append it to your KUBECONFIG environment variable now. For example, on Linux:

export KUBECONFIG=$KUBECONFIG:$HOME/.kube/config

View configuration information merged from all the files that are now listed in your KUBECONFIG environment variable. In your config-exercise directory, enter:

kubectl config view

Clean up

Return your KUBECONFIG environment variable to its original value. For example, on Linux:

export KUBECONFIG=$KUBECONFIG_SAVED

What’s next

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