Deploying Kitura with Docker & Kubernetes: Getting Started

Kitura servers built in Swift are pretty cool, but it’s even cooler to deploy them in the cloud! See how to build a Docker image, then deploy to Kubernetes. By Audrey Tam.

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Optional: Viewing in Xcode

If you feel more comfortable when you can view the files in Xcode, enter this command:

swift package generate-xcodeproj

This creates an xcodeproj file in the project folder. Open the project in Xcode by double-clicking this file in Finder, or enter this command in Terminal:

open EmojiJournalServer.xcodeproj

You can also use this command to open the project in Xcode:

xed .


In a browser, login to Docker Hub and create a new repository named emojijournal.

Create DockerHub repository

Back in Terminal, still in the EmojiJournalServer directory, run this command:

docker tag emojijournal-run:latest <your Docker username>/emojijournal:v1.0.0

You’re creating a tag that refers to your local Docker image — the tag matches your new repository name, and adds a version number.

Note: Kubernetes best practice is to create Docker tags from version numbers or source control commit hash values, not latest. This ensures that Kubernetes pulls and deploys any new images you push to Docker Hub, because the new image has a different tag.

Now push your tagged image to your Docker repository:

docker push <your Docker username>/emojijournal:v1.0.0

Once that has completed, go back to your browser and reload your Docker Hub repo page to confirm it’s there:

Confirm Docker push

Deploying from Docker to Kubernetes

OK, you’re all set to deploy your app to your IBM Cloud Kubernetes cluster! All you need is a Helm chart … what? how? No worries, it’s already in your Kitura app! You just have to customize it with the name of your Docker image.

In the terminal window with working directory EmojiJournalServer, cd to the directory containing the chart files:

cd chart/emojijournalserver/

Next, open EmojiJournalServer/chart/emojijournalserver/values.yaml in your favorite text editor, and edit the image:repository value:

repository: <your Docker username>/emojijournal

Kubernetes looks in Docker Hub by default, so you don’t need to specify the URL — just write the image name as you would in a docker pull command.

And you don’t have to change the tag value, because that’s the tag I told you to use! ;]

Save values.yaml, then initialize Helm:

helm init

This command configures the local Helm client and installs the Tiller server into your Kubernetes cluster. Tiller interacts with Kubernetes to install, upgrade, rollback, query and remove Kubernetes resources based on your Helm chart.

And — finally! — install the chart into your Kubernetes cluster:

helm install --name emojijournal .
Note: If this fails with Error: could not find a ready tiller pod, run tiller in your terminal, Control-C to stop it, and then try again.

Here’s the output of this command, for my deployment:

NAME:   emojijournalserver
LAST DEPLOYED: Sat Feb  9 16:19:28 2019
NAMESPACE: default

==> v1/Service
NAME                TYPE      CLUSTER-IP      EXTERNAL-IP  PORT(S)         AGE
emojijournalserver  NodePort  <none>       8080:32078/TCP  0s

==> v1beta1/Deployment
emojijournalserver-deployment  1        0        0           0          0s

==> v1/Pod(related)
NAME                                            READY  STATUS   RESTARTS  AGE
emojijournalserver-deployment-85f48f796c-zc8sl  0/1    Pending  0         0s
Note: Your cluster IP and port values will be different.

The app is starting up, so the values of CURRENT, AVAILABLE, READY, etc. are all 0.

Enter this helm command to see these values updated to 1, once your app is running:

helm status emojijournal

Kubernetes Terminology

So many moving parts! Time for some definitions:

  • Service: An API object that describes how to access applications, such as a set of Pods, and can describe ports and load-balancers.
  • Deployment: An API object that manages a replicated application.
  • Cluster: A set of machines, called nodes, that run containerized applications managed by Kubernetes. A cluster has several worker nodes and at least one master node.
  • Pod: The smallest and simplest Kubernetes object. A Pod represents a set of running containers on your cluster. A Pod is typically set up to run a single primary container.
  • Node: A node is a worker machine, which may be a VM or a physical machine. It has an External IP address — available from outside the cluster — and an Internal IP address, routable only within the cluster. IBM Cloud’s names for these are Public IP and Private IP.

To access your application, you have to find the external IP address of the worker node it has been deployed to. Where is it? Time to go exploring!

Enter this kubectl command for another view of your deployed service:

kubectl describe service emojijournalserver

The output lists the same cluster IP address as the helm status command, and also an Endpoint, a Port (8080) and a NodePort (32078, for me):

Name:                     emojijournalserver
Namespace:                default
Labels:                   chart=emojijournalserver-1.0.0
Selector:                 app=emojijournalserver-selector
Type:                     NodePort
Port:                     <unset>  8080/TCP
TargetPort:               8080/TCP
NodePort:                 <unset>  32078/TCP
Session Affinity:         None
External Traffic Policy:  Cluster
Events:                   <none>
Spoiler: Grab your NodePort value — you’ll need it soon!

Accessing your Deployed App

Because you deployed your app to IBM Cloud, you can also view information about it there. On the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Clusters page, select your emojijournalcluster. Then, on the emojijournalcluster page, click the Kubernetes Dashboard button:

Kubernetes dashboard

Scroll down to see your app in the Deployments section, with one Pod running:

Kubernetes deployments

The information in the Kubernetes Dashboard matches the output of the helm and kubectl commands above. But your app is in IBM Cloud, which adds another set of information. Back in the IBM Cloud emojijournalcluster page, select the Worker Nodes tab to see — aha! —Private and Public IP addresses:

Cluster IP addresses

Alternatively, enter this ibmcloud command in Terminal, to get the Public IP address:

ibmcloud cs workers emojijournalcluster

Now you’ve got the numbers you need! In a browser, open {Public IP}:{NodePort}. You should see the Kitura welcome page:

Kitura welcome page

Add /client to the browser location to see the EmojiJournal entries:

Your app in the cloud!


Connecting to a Database in Kubernetes

Our Server Side Swift with Kitura book uses a PostgreSQL database for EmojiJournalServer, and shows you how to deploy PostgreSQL and EmojiJournalServer to Kubernetes. This is more straightforward than deploying Cloudant/CouchDB because there’s a Helm chart for PostgreSQL in the stable Helm repository. The CouchDB Helm chart is in the incubator.

A similar, but shorter route is IBM’s ToDoBackend tutorial, which shows you how to:

Both of these tutorials run Kubernetes in Docker, completely on your Mac.