In this post we will see how to automate the deployment of an ASP.NET Core application on an On-Prem Kubernetes cluster. We will base our work on the excellent blog “Deploying ASP.NET Core apps on App Engine” by Mete Atamel. Our contribution would be a) showing how to target public as well as private clouds for Kubernetes deployments, and b) automate the delivery of your software through a basic CI/CD based on Jenkins.

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What will we be using

  • An Ubuntu 16.04 machine
  • git command-line client (installed by sudo apt install git)
  • Internet access
  • $0, yes this is going to be a “look how much you can do for free” kind of blog post

Quick outline

  • Create an ASP.NET Core application on the Ubuntu machine and push the code to GitHub.
  • Package the application in a Docker container and upload it to Docker Hub
  • Spin-up a Kubernetes cluster, the Canonical distribution. Here we will deploy that cluster locally, but you can use any private or public cloud you might have access to.
  • Deploy your application on the Kubernetes cluster and expose it.
  • Deploy Jenkins next to Kubernetes and automate the delivery of your app.

Let’s not waste any time we have a long way ahead of us.

ASP.NET Core applications on Linux

Installing .NET on an Ubuntu 16.04 is as simple as adding a repository and getting dotnet-sdk-2.1.4:

$ curl https://packages.microsoft.com/keys/microsoft.asc | gpg --dearmor > microsoft.gpg 
$ sudo mv microsoft.gpg /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/microsoft.gpg
$ sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://packages.microsoft.com/repos/microsoft-ubuntu-xenial-prod xenial main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dotnetdev.list'
$ sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install dotnet-sdk-2.1.4

We can now create our application. It is going to be the template razor application as described in Mete’s codelab and we will not even bother to change the application’s name!

$ mkdir -p ~/workspace/dotnet
$ cd ~/workspace/dotnet
$ dotnet new razor -o HelloWorldAspNetCore
$ cd HelloWorldAspNetCore
$ dotnet run

You should see the application on your browser at http://localhost:5000

Our code will be on a public github repository so go ahead and create an account if you do not already have one (https://github.com). Click the “New repository” button to create a public repository named HelloWorldAspNetCore.

Creating a repository for our code.

Lets add a .gitignore file at the root of our project and push our code:

$ cd ~/workspace/dotnet/HelloWorldAspNetCore
$ wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/OmniSharp/generator-aspnet/master/templates/gitignore.txt
$ mv gitignore.txt .gitignore
$ git init
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Initial commit"
$ git remote add origin https://github.com/ktsakalozos/HelloWorldAspNetCore.git
$ git push -u origin master

You can now relax! Your code is safe with github.

Package your application in a Docker container

Installing docker would require adding the respective repository and apt getting docker-ce:

$ sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl \
software-properties-common
$ curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo apt-key add -
$ sudo add-apt-repository \
"deb [arch=amd64] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu \
$(lsb_release -cs) \
stable"
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install docker-ce
$ sudo usermod -a -G docker $USER
$ newgrp docker

While we are in the process of setting up docker we might as well register with Docker Hub and create a repository to store our images. Go to https://hub.docker.com and create an account. I will be here waiting :).

After logging in to Docker Hub click on the “Create Repository” button and create a new public repository. That is where we will be pushing our docker images. For the rest of this blog the docker user is “kjackal” and the repository is named “hello-dotnet”. This will make more sense to you shortly.

New docker repository form.

To package our application we first need to ask dotnet to compile our code and gather any dependencies into a folder for later deployment. This is done with:

$ dotnet publish -c Release

Our docker container should package everything under bin/Release/netcoreapp2.0/publish/. We create a `Dockerfile` on the root of our project with the following contents:

$ cd ~/workspace/dotnet/HelloWorldAspNetCore/
$ cat ./Dockerfile
FROM gcr.io/google-appengine/aspnetcore:2.0
ADD ./bin/Release/netcoreapp2.0/publish/ /app
ENV ASPNETCORE_URLS=http://*:${PORT}
WORKDIR /app
ENTRYPOINT [ "dotnet", "HelloWorldAspNetCore.dll"]

Building the container and testing that it works:

$ docker build -t kjackal/hello-dotnet:v1 .
$ docker run -p 8080:8080 kjackal/hello-dotnet:v1

You should see the output at http://localhost:8080 .

It is time to push the first version to Docker Hub:

$ docker login
$ docker push kjackal/hello-dotnet:v1

The Dockerfile should be part of the code so we commit it and push it to the git repository:

$ git add Dockerfile
$ git commit -m "Adding dockerfile"
$ git push origin master

Deploy a Kubernetes Cluster

For the on-prem Kubernetes deployments we will go with Canonical’s solution. The reason being (apart from me being biased) that Canonical offers a seamless and effortless transition from a toy deployment running on your laptop to a full blown production grade Kubernetes deployed on private, public clouds or even on bare metal.

In this blog we show how to deploy Kubernetes and Jenkins on your localhost (laptop/desktop) — just make sure you have at least 8GB of RAM. We first need to have LXD running. LXD is a really powerful type of container based on the same technologies as Docker. Contrary to Docker, LXD containers resemble more to virtual machines (VMs). Lets simplify things and assume from now on that LXD containers are VMs that boot instantly and have no performance overhead!

In the following snippet we install LXD. While initialising ( /snap/bin/lxd init) make sure you go with the defaults but you do not enable ipv6. When asked “What IPv6 address should be used (CIDR subnet notation, “auto” or “none”) [default=auto]?” Reply with “none”.

$ sudo snap install lxd
$ sudo usermod -a -G lxd $USER
$ newgrp lxd
$ /snap/bin/lxd init

At this point we can use either Juju or Conjure-up to deploy Kubernetes. Conjure-up is essentially a wizard sitting on-top of Juju.

As already mentioned by Tim installing Kubernetes with conjure-up is as simple as:

$ sudo snap install conjure-up --classic
$ conjure-up

Canonical Kubernetes comes in two flavours:

  1. kubernetes-core is a cut down version installed in two machines, in our case two LXD containers running on our localhost.
  2. canonical-kubernetes is the full production grade deployment with features such as HA and monitoring.

We will go for kubernetes-core; on the next screen select localhost as the cloud provider. Follow the wizard’s steps till the end and wait for the deployment to finish. For a headless deployment you can do a conjure-up kubernetes-core localhost .

To review the status of our deployment have a look at:

$ juju status

Getting into one of the LXD containers/machines we use juju ssh, for exmple:

$ juju ssh kubernetes-master/0

Inside kubernetes-master under /home/ubuntu you will find a config file you can use for accessing your cluster. We can fetch that file with:

$ juju scp kubernetes-master/0:config .

Conjure-up has already copied the Kubernetes config locally and installed kubectl for us. How nice!

Automate the deployment process, CI/CD

We will be showing a few Jenkins jobs to automate the process of building, packaging and deploying our application. The intention here is to show everything that happens under the hood and not hide behind a flashy UI.

First things first, we need a Jenkins machine.

$ juju deploy jenkins

We deploy Jenkins next to our Kubernetes cluster. This will take some time, you can check the progress of the deployment with juju status.

Next we need to set a password to Jenkins and expose it so we can access its UI on port 8080. Exposing Jenkins is not needed in the localhost deployment which uses LXD containers but we show it here for completeness.

$ juju config jenkins password='your_secure_password'
$ juju expose jenkins

Before we start crafting our jobs we need to configure Jenkins a bit more. I can tell you beforehand our jobs need to sudo run without asking for a password. The easiest way to do that is to edit /etc/sudoers in the Jenkins machine. Here is how we append a line to the sudoers file with Juju:

$ juju run --unit jenkins/0 -- 'sudo echo "jenkins ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL" >> /etc/sudoers'

We also know that our Jenkins jobs need to talk to the Kubernetes. To this end Jenkins will need the kubeconfig file. We take the file from the kubernetes-master and place it in our Jenkins machine under /var/tmp:

$ juju scp kubernetes-master/0:config .
$ juju scp config jenkins/0:/var/tmp/

Last part of the configuration, I promise! We know our application will be exposed using Kubernetes NodePort on port 31576. We need to make sure there is no firewall blocking that port and requests can reach it:

$ juju run --application kubernetes-worker -- open-port 31576

We are now ready to create our three main jobs:

Three jobs we will be creating
  • The first Jenkins jobs is the “Install dependencies”. This job is just a shell script installing all software packages needed to a) talk to kubernetes, b) build our ASP.NET application and c) package everything into a docker container. Place the following in a shell script job and run it once:
echo "Installing kubectl"
sudo snap install kubectl --classic
echo "Installing dotnet"
curl https://packages.microsoft.com/keys/microsoft.asc | gpg --dearmor > microsoft.gpg
sudo mv microsoft.gpg /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/microsoft.gpg
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://packages.microsoft.com/repos/microsoft-ubuntu-xenial-prod xenial main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/dotnetdev.list'
sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https -y
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dotnet-sdk-2.1.4 -y
echo "Installing docker"
sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl \
software-properties-common -y
curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo apt-key add -
sudo add-apt-repository \
"deb [arch=amd64] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu \
$(lsb_release -cs) \
stable"
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install docker-ce -y
  • The second Jenkins job bootstraps the service in Kubernetes. It creates a deployment using the v1 image we created above and it makes sure all operations are recorded ( — record param). This deployment is exposed using NodePort 31576. Place the following in a Jenkins jobs and run it once, remember to update the docker user name (kjackal):
sudo /snap/bin/kubectl --kubeconfig=/var/tmp/config run hello-dotnet \
--image=kjackal/hello-dotnet:v1 --port=8080 --record
echo "apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
name: hello-dotnet
spec:
type: NodePort
ports:
- port: 8080
nodePort: 31576
name: http
selector:
run: hello-dotnet" > /tmp/expose.yaml
sudo /snap/bin/kubectl --kubeconfig=/var/tmp/config apply -f /tmp/expose.yaml

Use juju status to find the IP of a kubernetes worker and open a browser at http://<kubernetes-worker-ip>:31576 . Your application is served from Kubernetes! But we are not done yet.

  • Lets create a third job (“Build and release”) that pulls your code from GitHub, compiles it, puts it in a container and deploys that container. Replace the repository and the docker username in the following snippet. Then create a Jenkins job:
rm -rf HelloWorldAspNetCore
git clone https://github.com/ktsakalozos/HelloWorldAspNetCore.git
cd HelloWorldAspNetCore
dotnet publish -c Release
sudo docker login -u kjackal -p ${DOCKER_PASS}
sudo docker build -t kjackal/hello-dotnet:${DOCKER_TAG} .
sudo docker push kjackal/hello-dotnet:${DOCKER_TAG}
sudo /snap/bin/kubectl --kubeconfig=/var/tmp/config set image deployment/hello-dotnet hello-dotnet=kjackal/hello-dotnet:${DOCKER_TAG}

Two parameters are needed: ${DOCKER_TAG} is a string, and ${DOCKER_PASS} holds the docker password of the user (kjackal in this case). You have to tick the checkbox indicating this is a parametrized job and add the two parameters. We are ready! Trigger the job and wait for it to finish. Your code should find its way to our Kubernetes cluster.

You do not believe me? Have a look at the rollout history of our deployment.

$ kubectl rollout history deployment/hello-dotnet

Release from GitHub

Everything looks great so far. Every time we want to release we will login to Jenkins and trigger the “Build and release” job…. Lets try something different. Let’s trigger a release from our code by creating a tag.

Create a “Release from Github” job on Jenkins and have it running periodically every 5 minutes:

Trigger job every 5 minutes

We want this job to look for new tags and if it detects a new one to perform the usual compile, package, deploy cycle. Here is how one such job:

#!/bin/bash
REPO="https://github.com/ktsakalozos/HelloWorldAspNetCore.git"
rm -rf ./HelloWorldAspNetCore
git clone $REPO
cd HelloWorldAspNetCore
# Initialise tags list
if [ ! -f /var/tmp/known-tags ]; then
git tag > /var/tmp/known-tags
echo "Initialising. List of preexisting git tags:"
cat /var/tmp/known-tags
exit 1
fi
mv /var/tmp/known-tags /var/tmp/know-tags.old
git tag > /var/tmp/known-tags
diff /var/tmp/known-tags /var/tmp/know-tags.old
if [ $? == '0' ]; then
echo "No new git tags detected."
exit 2
fi
# We have new tags
last_tag=$(grep -v -f /var/tmp/know-tags.old /var/tmp/known-tags | tail -n 1)
git checkout tags/${last_tag}
echo "Buidling ${last_tag}"
dotnet publish -c Release
sudo docker login -u kjackal -p <replace_with_docker_password>
sudo docker build -t kjackal/hello-dotnet:${last_tag} .
sudo docker push kjackal/hello-dotnet:${last_tag}
sudo /snap/bin/kubectl --kubeconfig=/var/tmp/config set image deployment/hello-dotnet hello-dotnet=kjackal/hello-dotnet:${last_tag}

Make sure you run the this job once so it gets initialised. Afterwords, and every 5 minutes, this job will look at the available tags and fail if no new tags are present.

Lets create a new tag/release now. Go to your GitHub repository click releases -as shown below- and fill up the release form.

Here is where you find the releases you have.
Release form on Github

Within 5 minutes your release will reach Kubernetes! Without you needing to login to Jenkins. Automagically!

A few points to note:

  1. There might be Jenkins plugins for this. But we said we will be looking at what is under the hood without hiding behind a GUI.
  2. You should place your Jenkins jobs on GitHub along with your code.

Where to go from here

So far you have seen the parts of a basic, yet fully functional CI/CD that delivers a .NET application onto any Kubernetes cluster. Each of the steps shown above are subject to improvements and tailoring based on your needs.

  • The ASP.NET application would normally have automated tests. You would want to run these tests in your CI. Travis is a great tool for this purpose and depending on the size and nature of your project it could be free. Alternatively you could setup Jenkins to run these tests as often as you please and report back the result.
  • Look into Helm if you intend to distribute your application instead of offering it as a service hosted by you.
  • Experiment with release strategies and find the one that best suits your needs. Make sure you read through Kubernetes deployment strategies.
  • You could consider using the auto scaling features of Kubernetes.
  • The Kubernetes cluster here is on LXD containers. You should use a cloud either private (eg Openstack) or public. With Conjure-up and Juju the cluster deployment process remains the same regardless of the targeted cloud. You have no excuse.
  • Finally, as you move to a cloud make sure you deploy the Canonical Distribution of Kubernetes instead of kubernetes-core. You will get a more robust deployment with HA features, logging and monitoring.

Resources


Automated Delivery of ASP.NET Core Apps on On-Prem Kubernetes was originally published in ITNEXT on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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