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How to use Podman inside of Kubernetes

More information about Podman in containers; specifically with regard to Kubernetes.
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Podman in Kubernetes/OpenShift

In part one, the focus was on Podman in Podman scenarios. We saw some of the different rootful and rootless Podman combinations. We also discussed the ramifications of the --privileged flag.

But what about Podman and Kubernetes? There are plenty of options available for relating these two services, as well.

For part two of the series, I am using a Kubernetes cluster running with CRI-O as the runtime.

[ Free cheat sheet: Kubernetes glossary ]

Rootful Podman with the privileged flag set

Here we're running a privileged container with the root user so that Podman will run as root inside the container.

Here is the YAML file: rootful-priv.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
 name: podman-priv
spec:
 containers:
   - name: priv
     image: quay.io/podman/stable
     args:
       - sleep
       - "1000000"
     securityContext:
       privileged: true
➜ kubectl exec -it podman-priv -- sh
sh-5.0# id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root)
sh-5.0# podman run ubi8 echo hello
Resolved "ubi8" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/shortnames.conf)
Trying to pull registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8:latest...
Getting image source signatures
Copying blob fdb393d8227c done
Copying blob 6b536614e8f8 done
Copying config 4199acc83c done
Writing manifest to image destination
Storing signatures
hello

We can also successfully build images inside the privileged container with rootful Podman. Let's build an image where we install BusyBox on Fedora.

sh-5.0# cat Containerfile
FROM fedora
RUN dnf install -y busybox
ENV foo=bar
 
sh-5.0# podman build -t myimage -f Containerfile .                                                                                     
STEP 1: FROM fedora                                                                                                                    
STEP 2: RUN dnf install -y busybox                                                                                                     
Fedora 33 openh264 (From Cisco) - x86_64        3.0 kB/s | 2.5 kB     00:00                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64                      1.4 MB/s | 3.3 MB     00:02                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64 - Updates            1.3 MB/s | 3.1 MB     00:02                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64 - Updates                    1.6 MB/s |  27 MB     00:16                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64                              3.6 MB/s |  72 MB     00:19                                                            
Dependencies resolved.                                                         
...
Running transaction
 Preparing        :                                                        1/1
 Installing       : busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                         1/1
 Running scriptlet: busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                         1/1
 Verifying        : busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                         1/1
 
Installed:
 busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                                                
 
Complete!
--> 734a45854d1
STEP 3: ENV foo=bar
STEP 4: COMMIT myimage
--> 2326e34ac82
2326e34ac82173c849e0282b6644de5326f6b5bfba8431cf1c1115d846e440e9
 
sh-5.0# podman images                                                                                                                  
REPOSITORY                         TAG     IMAGE ID      CREATED         SIZE                                                          
localhost/myimage                  latest  2326e34ac821  48 seconds ago  427 MB                                                        
registry.fedoraproject.org/fedora  latest  9f2a56037643  3 months ago    182 MB    
 
sh-5.0# podman run myimage busybox                                                                                                     
BusyBox v1.32.1 (2021-03-22 18:56:41 UTC) multi-call binary.                                                                           
BusyBox is copyrighted by many authors between 1998-2015.                                                                              
Licensed under GPLv2. See source distribution for detailed                                                                             
copyright notices.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                      
Usage: busybox [function [arguments]...]                                                                                               
  or: busybox --list[-full]                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --show SCRIPT                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --install [-s] [DIR]                                                                                                    
  or: function [arguments]...
...

Rootless Podman with the privileged flag set

Here we're running a privileged container with the podman(1000) user so that Podman runs as user 1000 inside the container.

Here is the YAML file: rootless-priv.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
 name: podman-rootless
spec:
 containers:
   - name: rootless
     image: quay.io/podman/stable
     args:
       - sleep
       - "1000000"
     securityContext:
       privileged: true
       runAsUser: 1000
➜ kubectl exec -it podman-rootless -- sh

sh-5.0$ id
uid=1000(podman) gid=1000(podman) groups=1000(podman)

sh-5.0$ podman run ubi8 echo hello
Resolved "ubi8" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/shortnames.conf)
Trying to pull registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8:latest...
Getting image source signatures
Copying blob 6b536614e8f8 done
Copying blob fdb393d8227c done
Copying config 4199acc83c done
Writing manifest to image destination
Storing signatures
hello

We can also successfully build images inside the privileged container with rootless Podman. Let's build an image where we install BusyBox on fedora.

sh-5.0$ cat Containerfile
FROM fedora
RUN dnf install -y busybox
ENV foo=bar
 
sh-5.0$ podman build -t myimage -f Containerfile .                                                                                                                                                                                                
STEP 1: FROM fedora                                                                                                                    
Resolved "fedora" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)                                                  
Getting image source signatures                                                                                                        
Copying blob 157ab8011454 done                                                                                                         
Copying config 9f2a560376 done                                                                                                         
Writing manifest to image destination                                                                                                  
Storing signatures                                                                                                                     
STEP 2: RUN dnf install -y busybox                                                                                                     
Fedora 33 openh264 (From Cisco) - x86_64        4.8 kB/s | 2.5 kB     00:00                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64                      462 kB/s | 3.3 MB     00:07                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64 - Updates            520 kB/s | 3.1 MB     00:06                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64 - Updates                    7.5 MB/s |  27 MB     00:03                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64                              522 kB/s |  72 MB     02:20                                                            
Dependencies resolved.
...
Installed:
 busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                                                
 
Complete!
--> 92087429448
STEP 3: ENV foo=bar
STEP 4: COMMIT myimage
--> 16dd65e3f57
16dd65e3f57a5808035b713a6ba3267146caf2a03dd4205097a5727f9d326de9
 
sh-5.0$ podman images
REPOSITORY                         TAG     IMAGE ID      CREATED             SIZE
localhost/myimage                  latest  16dd65e3f57a  About a minute ago  427 MB
registry.fedoraproject.org/fedora  latest  9f2a56037643  3 months ago        182 MB
 
sh-5.0$ podman run myimage busybox                                                                                                                                                                                                               
BusyBox v1.32.1 (2021-03-22 18:56:41 UTC) multi-call binary.                                                                           
BusyBox is copyrighted by many authors between 1998-2015.                                                                              
Licensed under GPLv2. See source distribution for detailed                                                                             
copyright notices.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                      
Usage: busybox [function [arguments]...]                                                                                               
  or: busybox --list[-full]                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --show SCRIPT                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --install [-s] [DIR]                                                                                                    
  or: function [arguments]...
...

[ Getting started with containers? Check out this free course. Deploying containerized applications: A technical overview. ]

Rootless Podman without the privileged flag

To eliminate the privileged flag, we need to do the following:

  • Devices: /dev/fuse is required to use fuse-overlayfs inside of the container, this option tells Podman on the host to add /dev/fuse to the container so that containerized Podman can use it.
  • Disable SELinux: SELinux does not allow containerized processes to mount all of the file systems required to run inside a container. So we need to disable SELinux on the host that is running the Kubernetes cluster.

To be able to mount a device in Kubernetes, you first have to create a Device Plugin and then use that in the pod spec.

Here is an example of a Device Plugin for /dev/fuse: https://github.com/kuberenetes-learning-group/fuse-device-plugin/blob/main/fuse-device-plugin-k8s-1.16.yml.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: DaemonSet
metadata:
 name: fuse-device-plugin-daemonset
 namespace: kube-system
spec:
 selector:
   matchLabels:
     name: fuse-device-plugin-ds
 template:
   metadata:
     labels:
       name: fuse-device-plugin-ds
   spec:
     hostNetwork: true
     containers:
     - image: soolaugust/fuse-device-plugin:v1.0
       name: fuse-device-plugin-ctr
       securityContext:
         allowPrivilegeEscalation: false
         capabilities:
           drop: ["ALL"]
       volumeMounts:
         - name: device-plugin
           mountPath: /var/lib/kubelet/device-plugins
     volumes:
       - name: device-plugin
         hostPath:
           path: /var/lib/kubelet/device-plugins
     imagePullSecrets:
       - name: registry-secret

Here is the YAML file: rootless-no-priv.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
 name: no-priv
spec:
 containers:
   - name: no-priv
     image: quay.io/podman/stable
     args:
       - sleep
       - "1000000"
     securityContext:
       runAsUser: 1000
     resources:
       limits:
         github.com/fuse: 1
     volumeMounts:
       - mountPath: /home/podman/.local/share/containers
         name: podman-local
 volumes:
   - name: podman-local
     hostPath:
       path: /home/umohnani/.local/share/containers
✗ kubectl exec -it no-priv -- sh          
sh-5.0$ id
uid=1000(podman) gid=1000(podman) groups=1000(podman)

sh-5.0$ podman run ubi8 echo hello
Resolved "ubi8" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)
Trying to pull registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8:latest...
Getting image source signatures
Copying blob 55eda7743468 done 
Copying blob 4b21dcdd136d done 
Copying config 613e5da7a9 done 
Writing manifest to image destination
Storing signatures
hello
 
sh-5.1$ cat containerfile
FROM ubi8
RUN echo "hello"
ENV foo=bar
 
sh-5.1$ podman build --isolation chroot -t myimage -f containerfile .                                                               
STEP 1: FROM ubi8                                                                                                                 
STEP 2: RUN echo "hello"                                                                                                            
hello                                                                                                                              
--> 096250be78f                                                                                                                   
STEP 3: ENV foo=bar                                                                                                                
STEP 4: COMMIT myimage                                                                                                             
--> ea849ac9875                                                                                                                    
Ea849ac9875eb926d743362bce2e32e90d34fda7a88f28ebd6a1a546db99338f
 
sh-5.1$ podman images
REPOSITORY                   	TAG 	IMAGE ID  	CREATED     	SIZE
localhost/myimage            	latest  ea849ac9875e  41 seconds ago  245 MB
registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8  latest  0724f7c987a7  3 weeks ago 	245 MB

Rootful Podman without the privileged flag

Create your device plugin as shown above.

You'll need to add the following capabilities for this:

  • CAP_SYS_ADMIN is required for the Podman running as root inside of the container to mount the required file systems.
  • CAP_MKNOD is required for Podman running as root inside of the container to create the devices in /dev. (Note that Docker allows this by default).
  • CAP_SYS_CHROOT and CAP_SETFCAP are required as they are part of the default list of capabilities in Podman, and when you run a Podman command, it adds the capabilities it needs, so if you run your k8s pod without this capability, Podman fails.

Here is the YAML file: rootful-no-priv.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
 name: no-priv-rootful
spec:
 containers:
   - name: no-priv-rootful
     image: quay.io/podman/stable
     args:
       - sleep
       - "1000000"
     securityContext:
       capabilities:
         add:
           - "SYS_ADMIN"
           - "MKNOD"
           - "SYS_CHROOT"
           - "SETFCAP"
     resources:
       limits:
         github.com/fuse: 1
✗ kubectl exec -it no-priv-rootful -- sh
sh-5.0# id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root)

sh-5.0# podman run ubi8 echo hello
Resolved "ubi8" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)
Trying to pull registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8:latest...
Getting image source signatures
Copying blob 55eda7743468 done
Copying blob 4b21dcdd136d done
Copying config 613e5da7a9 done
Writing manifest to image destination
Storing signatures
hello

Podman-remote in a Kubernetes pod with the Podman socket running on the host

You need to do the following to set up for this use case:

  • Disable SELinux on the host.
  • Follow this article to enable the Podman socket on your host.

Here is the YAML file: remote.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
 name: podman-remote
spec:
 containers:
   - name: remote
     image: quay.io/podman/stable
     args:
       - sleep
       - "1000000"
     volumeMounts:
         - mountPath: /var/run/podman
           name: podman-sock
 volumes:
   - name: podman-sock
     hostPath:
         path: /var/run/podman

We're leaking the Podman socket that is running on the host into the pod by creating a volume mount for it.

✗ kubectl exec -it podman-remote -- sh
sh-5.0# id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root

sh-5.0# podman --remote run ubi8 echo hello
Resolved "ubi8" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)
Trying to pull registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8:latest...
Getting image source signatures
Copying blob sha256:55eda774346862e410811e3fa91cefe805bc11ff46fad425dd1b712709c05bbc
Copying blob sha256:4b21dcdd136d133a4df0840e656af2f488c226dd384a98b89ced79064a4081b4
Copying config sha256:613e5da7a934e1963e37ed935917e8be6b8dfd90cac73a724ddc224fbf16da20
Writing manifest to image destination
Storing signatures
hello

Builds with the Podman socket leaked into the container:

sh-5.0# cat /home/podman/Containerfile
FROM fedora
RUN dnf install -y busybox
ENV foo=bar

sh-5.0# podman --remote build -t myimage -f Containerfile .                                                                           
STEP 1: FROM fedora                                                                                                                   
STEP 2: RUN dnf install -y busybox                                                                                                  
Fedora 33 openh264 (From Cisco) - x86_64 4.7 kB/s | 2.5 kB 00:00                                                           
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64 1.8 MB/s | 3.3 MB 00:01                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64 - Updates 5.2 MB/s | 3.1 MB 00:00                                                           
Fedora 33 - x86_64 - Updates 4.3 MB/s | 27 MB    
00:06                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64 1.0 MB/s | 72 MB    
01:13                                                           
Dependencies resolved.
...
Installed:
 busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                                               

Complete!
--> 6ef78b975e1
STEP 3: ENV foo=bar
STEP 4: COMMIT myimage
--> 481c5a0e453
481c5a0e4534573a3872f7cc1ff6806a3ce143edce2ed39568d23efe6f65a292

sh-5.0# podman --remote images
REPOSITORY TAG IMAGE ID CREATED SIZE
localhost/myimage latest 481c5a0e4534 
2 minutes ago 427 MB
registry.fedoraproject.org/fedora latest 
9f2a56037643 3 months ago 182 MB

sh-5.0# podman --remote run myimage busybox                                                                                           
BusyBox v1.32.1 (2021-03-22 18:56:41 UTC) multi-call binary.                                                   

BusyBox is copyrighted by many authors between 1998-2015.                                                                             
Licensed under GPLv2. See source distribution for detailed                                                                             
copyright notices.                                                                                                                    

Usage: busybox [function [arguments]...]                                                                                              
  or: busybox --list[-full]                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --show SCRIPT                                                                                                          
  or: busybox --install [-s] [DIR]                
  or: function [arguments]...  

...

[ Learn the basics of using Kubernetes in this free cheat sheet. ]

Podman in a locked-down container using user namespaces in Kubernetes

This only works if you are using CRI-O as your runtime engine for your Kubernetes cluster.

We need to add the userns annotation to the runtime (e.g., runc, crun, kata, etc.) you'll be using with CRI-O.

[crio.runtime.runtimes.runc]
runtime_path = ""
runtime_type = "oci"
runtime_root = "/run/runc"
allowed_annotations = [
       "io.containers.trace-syscall",
       "io.kubernetes.cri-o.userns-mode",
]

Add the Podman UID/GID ranges to the subuid and subgid files on the host.

✗ cat /etc/subuid
umohnani:100000:65536
containers:200000:268435456

✗ cat /etc/subgid
umohnani:100000:65536
containers:200000:268435456

Restart CRI-O after this and then start up your Kubernetes cluster:

✗ sudo systemctl restart cri-o

✗ ./local-cluster-up.sh

Since we're running this without the privileged flag, we need to mount /dev/fuse, as shown in the examples above. So, create your /dev/fuse Device Plugin to be used in the pod spec.

Here is the YAML file: userns.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
 name: podman-userns
 annotations:
   io.kubernetes.cri-o.userns-mode: "auto:size=65536;keep-id=true"
spec:
 containers:
   - name: userns
     image: quay.io/podman/stable
     command: ["sleep", "10000"]
     securityContext:
       capabilities:
         add:
           - "SYS_ADMIN"
           - "MKNOD"
           - "SYS_CHROOT"
           - "SETFCAP"
     resources:
       limits:
         github.com/fuse: 1

We've added the userns annotation to the podspec specifying the range of UIDs/GIDs to use and what ID should be set in the container—it'll be set to the root user in this case.

✗ kubectl exec -it podman-userns -- sh
sh-5.0# id
uid=0(root) gid=0(root) groups=0(root)

sh-5.0# cat /proc/self/uid_map
        0     265536      65536

sh-5.0# cat /proc/self/gid_map
        0     265536      65536

sh-5.0# podman run ubi8 echo hello
Resolved "ubi8" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)
Trying to pull registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8:latest...
Getting image source signatures
Copying blob 4b21dcdd136d done 
Copying blob 55eda7743468 done 
Copying config 613e5da7a9 done 
Writing manifest to image destination
Storing signatures
hello

Builds with rootful Podman in a locked-down container with usernamespaces

sh-5.0# cat Containerfile
FROM fedora
RUN dnf install -y busybox
ENV foo=bar
 
sh-5.0# podman build -t myimage -f Containerfile .                                                                                     
STEP 1: FROM fedora                                                                                                                    
Resolved "fedora" as an alias (/etc/containers/registries.conf.d/000-shortnames.conf)                                                  
Getting image source signatures                                                                                                        
Copying blob 157ab8011454 done                                                                                                         
Copying config 9f2a560376 done                                                                                                         
Writing manifest to image destination                                                                                                  
Storing signatures                                                                                                                     

STEP 2: RUN dnf install -y busybox                                                                                                     
Fedora 33 openh264 (From Cisco) - x86_64        764  B/s | 2.5 kB     00:03                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64                      348 kB/s | 3.3 MB     00:09                                                            
Fedora Modular 33 - x86_64 - Updates            2.2 MB/s | 3.1 MB     00:01                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64 - Updates                     11 MB/s |  27 MB     00:02                                                            
Fedora 33 - x86_64                              2.1 MB/s |  72 MB     00:34                                                            
Dependencies resolved.       
...
Installed:
 busybox-1:1.32.1-1.fc33.x86_64                                                
 
Complete!
--> 1b0633e5309

STEP 3: ENV foo=bar

STEP 4: COMMIT myimage
--> 2212a101136
2212a1011369ee7e6a4a5d4c15a56fc531a5d43ac24f49d432730c620cec4378
 
sh-5.0# podman images                                                                                                                  
REPOSITORY                         TAG     IMAGE ID      CREATED             SIZE                                                      
localhost/myimage                  latest  2212a1011369  About a minute ago  427 MB                                                    
registry.fedoraproject.org/fedora  latest  9f2a56037643  3 months ago        182 MB
 
sh-5.0# podman run myimage busybox                                                                                                     
BusyBox v1.32.1 (2021-03-22 18:56:41 UTC) multi-call binary.                                                                           
BusyBox is copyrighted by many authors between 1998-2015.                                                                              
Licensed under GPLv2. See source distribution for detailed                                                                             
copyright notices.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                      
Usage: busybox [function [arguments]...]                                                                                               
  or: busybox --list[-full]                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --show SCRIPT                                                                                                           
  or: busybox --install [-s] [DIR]                                                                                                    
  or: function [arguments]...
... 

Final thoughts

Here, in part two of the article series, I demonstrated various use cases related to Podman and Kubernetes interactions. Many of the choices are similar to those we saw in the part one article with Podman in Podman.

[ Get this free book from Red Hat and O'Reilly - Kubernetes Operators: Automating the Container Orchestration Platform. ]

Series wrap up

It's common for the Podman team to field questions related to running Podman inside containers. There are many possible approaches to doing this, with various related security concerns.

One of the biggest differentiators is Podman on Podman or Podman within Kubernetes, along with how Docker plays into the discussion.

As you start to implement Podman in these scenarios, don't forget the privileges information discussed at the start of article one, and be sure to weigh the considerations regarding the --privileged flag. Contact the Podman team for more information.

Don't forget that Enable Sysadmin has lots of Podman content.

Check out these related articles on Enable Sysadmin

Topics:   Containers   Linux   Podman   Kubernetes  
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Urvashi Mohnani

Urvashi Mohnani is a senior software engineer at Red Hat on the Container Runtimes team. She has spent the past few years developing emerging open source container technologies such as CRI-O, Buildah, and Podman and presenting on the latest developments in the space. More about me

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Dan Walsh

Daniel Walsh has worked in the computer security field for over 30 years. Dan is a Consulting Engineer at Red Hat. He joined Red Hat in August 2001. Dan leads the Red Hat Container Engineering team since August 2013, but has been working on container technology for several years. More about me

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