One of the fundamental principles of cloud native applications is the ability to consume assets that are externalized from the application itself during runtime. This feature affords portability across different deployment targets as properties may differ from environment to environment. This pattern is also one of the principles of the Twelve Factor app and is supported through a variety of mechanisms within Kubernetes. Secrets and ConfigMaps are implementations in which assets can be stored whereas the injection point within an application can include environment variables or volume mounts. As Kubernetes and cloud native technologies have matured, there has been an increasing need to dynamically configure applications at runtime even though Kubernetes makes use of a declarative configuration model. Fortunately, Kubernetes contains a pluggable model that enables the validation and modification of applications submitted to the platform as pods, known as admission controllers. These controllers can either accept, reject or accept with modifications the pod which is attempting to be created.

The ability to modify pods at creation time allows both application developers and platform managers the ability to offer capabilities that surpass any limitation that may be imposed by strict declarative configurations. One such implementation of this feature is a concept called PodPresets which enables the injection of ConfigMaps, Secrets, volumes, volume mounts, and environment variables at creation time to pods matching a set of labels. Kubernetes has supported enabling the use of this feature since version 1.6 and the OpenShift Container Platform (OCP) made it available in the 3.6 release. However, due to a perceived direction change for dynamically injecting these types of resources into pods, the feature became deprecated in version 3.7 and removed in 3.11 which left a void for users attempting to take advantage of the provided capabilities.
As time went on and Kubernetes and OpenShift continued to mature, a new mechanism for providing admission controllers was created. Instead of admission plugins being defined within the API server itself, they could instead be run externally and the API server instead makes an HTTP invocation to the remote endpoint. This mechanism is known as a webhook admission controller and enabled end users the ability to easily extend the platform with their own set of features. One of the most popular forms of webhook admission controllers is the injection of a sidecar container to support applications running on the Istio Service Mesh. Even though the upstream PodPresets admission plugin was deprecated in OpenShift, there has been the continued desire for this type of feature. Thanks to a webhook based admission solution, this functionality can be restored with minimal changes. The remainder of this entry will provide an overview of the webhook admission controller including the deployment and implementation to an OpenShift environment.

The PodPreset Webhook admission controller project is located on GitHub in a repository called podpreset-webhook and is located within the Red Hat Community of Practice organization and contains all of the resources necessary to deploy the solution. The assets contained within the repository consist of a set of OpenShift/Kubernetes resources that registers a new PodPreset Custom Resource Definition (CRD), configures the permissions necessary in order for the controller to function properly as well as facilitate a deployment of a container image. Once stated, the container exposes a web server endpoint that listens for requests that are sent by the API server to determine whether newly created resources are valid and/or should be modified. ValidatingWebhookConfigurations and MutatingWebhookConfigurations are Kubernetes/OpenShift objects that registers the types of resources that should undergo assessment by an external web server as well as the location of where this component resides within the cluster. In the case of the PodPreset Webhook admission controller, at initialization time, a MutatingWebhookConfiguration resource is dynamically created that dictates that all newly created pods should be considered by the web server. The API server sends an AdmissionReview object that contains information related to the newly created resource including the pod itself. Logic contained within the web server (identical to the included upstream Kubernetes PodPreset admission plugin) will determine whether the labels on the pod matches a PodPreset custom resource contained within the same namespace as the pod request. If a match is found, the pod is mutated as per the rules contained in the PodPreset. Finally, a resulting Response is sent back to the API server containing any modifications that should be applied to the original pod (as JSON patches) and whether the object itself is valid. The pod then continues through the remainder of the admission process until the object is persisted in etcd.

With an understanding of the functionality of the PodPreset webhook admission controller, let’s deploy it to an OpenShift environment.

As a logged in user with elevated permissions, clone or download the repository to your local machine.

$ git clone
$ cd podpreset-webhook

Next, create a new project called podpreset-webhook

$ oc new-project podpreset-webhook

Deploy the resources to the newly created project

$ oc apply -f deploy/crds/redhatcop_v1alpha1_podpreset_crd.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/service_account.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/clusterrole.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/cluster_role_binding.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/role.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/role_binding.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/secret.yaml
$ oc apply -f deploy/webhook.yaml

Verify controller pod has started by viewing all pods within the namespace

$ oc get pods

podpreset-webhook-665f68679b-nnx8n 1/1 Running 0 56s
podpreset-webhook-665f68679b-pn96c 1/1 Running 1 55s

Verify the controller also created the MutatingWebhookConfiguration

$ oc get mutatingwebhookconfiguration mutating-webhook-configuration -o yaml

kind: MutatingWebhookConfiguration
generation: 1
name: mutating-webhook-configuration
resourceVersion: ""
selfLink: /apis/
- admissionReviewVersions:
- v1beta1
name: podpreset-webhook
namespace: podpreset-webhook
path: /mutate-pods
failurePolicy: Ignore
- key: control-plane
operator: DoesNotExist
- apiGroups:
- ""
- v1
- pods
scope: '*'
sideEffects: Unknown
timeoutSeconds: 30

As expressed in the generated MutatingWebhookConfiguration, a web server called was produced that specifies that all pods that are created invoke a web server located at the service called podprerset-webhook within the podpreset-webhook namespace at the /mutate-pods endpoint.

With the webhook server ready to accept requests from the API, lets walk through a scenario that demonstrates the functionality of this solution. As described previously, PodPresets can inject several different types runtime requirements into applications including environment variables. For this instance, PodPresets will be used to dynamically inject an environment variable named FOO with a value of bar. To confirm the existence of the environment variable, an example application will be deployed which repeatedly prints out the value of the FOO environment variable every 30 seconds.

First, let’s start by defining a new PodPreset object:

kind: PodPreset
name: podpreset-example
- name: FOO
value: bar
role: podpreset-example

Save the content to a file called podpreset-example.yaml and execute the following command to add the PodPreset to the project:

$ oc create -f podpreset-example.yaml

Now, create the application:

$ oc run podpreset-webhook-app --command=true -- bash -c 'while true; do echo "Value of FOO is: $FOO" && sleep 30; done'

Wait until the application starts to run and then view the logs:

$ oc logs -f $(oc get pods -l deploymentconfig=podpreset-webhook-app -o name)

Value of FOO is:

As seen in the above output, no value is currently present for the environment variable named FOO. In the PodPreset object, only pods with the label “role=podpreset-example” will have this environment variable automatically injected.

Patch the DeploymentConfig for the application to include the requisite label:

$ oc patch dc/podpreset-webhook-app -p '{"spec":{"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"role":"podpreset-example"}}}}}'

Wait until the new pod has been deployed and view the logs:

$ oc logs -f $(oc get pods -l deploymentconfig=podpreset-webhook-app -o name)

Value of FOO is: bar

Confirm the environment variable has been set to match the value shown in the pod log output by describing the pod itself:

$ oc describe $(oc get pods -l deploymentconfig=podpreset-webhook-app -o name)
Container ID: cri-o://571afdbfea25089333a16ec758cadd77e663f0a81da9953374fa167e7bba5f89
Image ID:
Host Port:
while true; do echo "Value of FOO is: $FOO" && sleep 30; done
State: Running
Started: Thu, 26 Sep 2019 21:00:27 +0200
Ready: True
Restart Count: 0
FOO: bar
/var/run/secrets/ from default-token-nns9t (ro)

As you can see, the environment variable FOO has been set with the value bar as described in the PodPreset API object and applied at runtime thanks to the PodPreset admission controller. Environment variables are only one such resource that can be managed by this MutatingWebhook. Other such use cases include adding secrets which may contain certificates or credentials injected as volumes for consumption by applications. This would decouple the logic necessary to support namespace level specifications as one environment may differ from another. The power of being able to dynamically manipulate the definition of resources across a fleet of applications demonstrates the benefits enabled by this functionality which can be deployed to both OpenShift and Kubernetes platforms.



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