Amazon EKS Distro: The Kubernetes Distribution Used by Amazon EKS

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Our customers have told us that they want to focus on building innovative solutions for their customers, and focus less on the heavy lifting of managing Kubernetes infrastructure. That is why Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) has been so popular; we remove the burden of managing Kubernetes while our customers glean the benefits.

However, not all customers choose to use Amazon EKS. For example, they may have existing infrastructure investments, data residency requirements or compliance obligations that lead them to operate Kubernetes on-premises. Customers in these situations tell us that they spend a lot of effort to track updates, figure out compatible versions of Kubernetes and the complicated matrix of underlying components, test them for compatibility, and keep pace with the Kubernetes release cadence, which can be as frequent as every three to four months. If customers are not able to maintain pace for testing and qualifying new versions, they risk breaking changes, version compatibility issues, and running unsupported versions of Kubernetes lacking critical security patches.

We have learned a lot while providing Amazon EKS at AWS and have developed a deep understanding of how to deliver Kubernetes with operational security, stability, and reliability. Today we are sharing Amazon EKS Distro, which we built using that knowledge.

EKS Distro is a distribution of the same version of Kubernetes deployed by Amazon EKS, which you can use to manually create your own Kubernetes clusters anywhere you choose. EKS Distro provides the installable builds and code of open source Kubernetes used by Amazon EKS, including the dependencies and AWS-maintained patches. Using a choice of cluster creation and management tooling, you can create EKS Distro clusters in AWS on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), in other clouds, and on your on-premises hardware.

EKS Distro includes upstream open source Kubernetes components and third-party tools including configuration database, network, and storage components necessary for cluster creation. They include Kubernetes control plane components (kube-controller-manager, etcd, and CoreDNS) and Kubernetes worker node components (kubelet, CNI plugins, CSI Sidecar images, Metrics Server and AWS-IAM-authenticator).

Building a Cluster
The EKS Distro repository has everything you need to build and create Kubernetes clusters. The repository contains the raw documentation for EKS Distro, and it has been built and published at https://distro.eks.amazonaws.com.

To create a new cluster, I follow this section of the documentation. The guide explains how I can build all of the parts and ultimately deploy a cluster to some EC2 instances on AWS using the open source tool kOps. EKS Distro works with many other tools besides kOps. You can find the details in the partner section of the documentation, and many partners have released blogs today that explain how you can deploy using their tooling.

The guide explains that before I can build my cluster, I need to get several container images. I can get them from the EKS Distro Container repository, download them as a tarball, or build them from scratch. I opt to build my containers from scratch and follow the Build Guide. An hour later, I have managed to create twenty containers and have pushed them into Amazon Elastic Container Registry.

The instructions detail several prerequisites that are required by both the build and deploy stages. I follow the guide and install all of the tools suggested.

Next, as per the guide, I locate the kops.sh script in the development folder of the EKS Distro repository. After running the script, it prompts me to enter a Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN). I provide newsblog.thebeebs.net.

This script does several things, including creating an S3 bucket in my account to store artifacts required by kOps. Also, it creates a file called newsblog.thebeebs.net.yaml. I edit this file and replace the container Image URLs with ones that point to my images in Elastic Container Registry.

I continue to follow the guide, which now instructs me to run some kOps commands to create my cluster. These commands use the newsblog.thebeebs.net.yaml file, which was an output of the previous step.

CLUSTER_NAME=newsblog.thebeebs.net
kops create -f ./$CLUSTER_NAME.yaml
kops create secret --name $CLUSTER_NAME sshpublickey admin -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
kops update cluster $CLUSTER_NAME --yes
kops validate cluster --wait 10m
cat << EOF > aws-iam-authenticator.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  name: aws-iam-authenticator
  namespace: kube-system
  labels:
    k8s-app: aws-iam-authenticator
data:
  config.yaml: |
    clusterID: $CLUSTER_NAME
EOF

One of these commands creates a file called aws-iam-authenticator.yaml. I will apply this file to my kubernetes cluster so that it works correctly with the aws-iam-authenticator.

kubectl apply -f aws-iam-authenticator.yaml

I can now verify that my Kubernetes cluster is using the EKS Distro images by using kubectl to list all of the namespaces.

kubectl get po --all-namespaces -o json | jq -r .items[].spec.containers[].image | sort

Lastly, I delete my cluster by using kOps and issuing a delete command.

kops delete -f ./newsblog.thebeebs.net.yaml --yes

Updates
New versions of EKS Distro will be released soon after we make releases to Amazon EKS. The source code, open source tools, and settings are provided for reproducible builds so you can be assured EKS Distro matches what is deployed by Amazon EKS.

Things to Know
EKS Distro supports the same versions of Kubernetes and point releases that Amazon EKS uses. EKS Distro provides the same upstream versions of Kubernetes and dependencies that operating system vendors have tested and confirmed work with Kubernetes. This means that EKS Distro already works with common operating systems, such as CentOS, Canonical Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse, and more.

Pricing and Support
EKS Distro is an open source project and will be distributed for free. Please collaborate with us on GitHub to make it even better. For example, if you find any issues, please submit them or create a pull request and we will fix them on a best effort basis. Partners will receive support through the Amazon Partner Network program and customers that adopt EKS Distro through partners will receive support from those providers.

What is Coming Next?
In 2021 we will be launching EKS Anywhere, which will provide an installable software package for creating and operating Kubernetes clusters on-premises and automation tooling for cluster lifecycle support, it will enable you to centrally backup, recover, patch, and upgrade your production clusters with minimal disruption. EKS Anywhere creates clusters based on EKS Distro, and so you will have version consistency with Amazon EKS. This version and tooling consistency will reduce support costs, and eliminate the redundant effort of using multiple tools for managing your on-premises and Amazon EKS clusters.

Available Now
EKS Distro is available today for download and you can get the source and builds from GitHub. To help you get started, check out the documentation.

Happy Deploying!

— Martin

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