Linking ConfigMaps to Deployments with Wave

In Kubernetes, most of the configuration for an application should be stored inside so-called ConfigMaps (or Secrets). You mount such ConfigMaps either as files into a pod’s container or expose their value through environment variables to the container.

This is a quite common setup that is easy to grasp, prepare, and that usually also works with very small applications. But what happens when you change the configuration? By default: nothing. The application already has its settings and doesn’t notice the change, nor does Kubernetes notify the application.

There are a couple of ways to solve this:

  • The application could periodically fetch the configuration directly through the Kubernetes API.
  • Some event system notifies the application of the change in configuration (it could also implement a Kubernetes controller itself and listen for changes to ConfigMaps).

All these are usually overkill for smaller applications or aren’t even possible for legacy systems where you cannot really modify the application to make it more dynamically configured.

A third approach would be a controller that listens for changes to ConfigMaps (or Secrets) and basically triggers a rolling update on all Deployments, StatefulSets, etc. that have that a ConfigMap or Secret mounted.

This is pretty much what Pusher’s Wave project does. It registers controllers to listen for changes to Deployments, StatefulSets, and DaemonSets that have a "true" annotation. Furthermore, it registers handlers for changes to secrets and ConfigMaps. When the content of either of those changes, the connected Deployments/StatefulSets/DaemonSets get updated.

If you want to learn more about the motivation behind this project, Joel Speed gave a talk about that and Wave at this year’s KubeCon Europe in Barcelona. You can find the recording of that on YouTube.

Demo setup

Let’s work on a little example here (you can find the complete set of resource definitions on Github. I have a simple NGINX instance which serves a single index.html. The content of that index.html is generated out of the content of a ConfigMap:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: nginx
  annotations: "true"
      app: nginx
        app: nginx
        - name: cfg
            name: application-config
        - name: nginx
          image: nginx:latest
            - name: http
              containerPort: 80
            - name: cfg
              subPath: "index.html"
              mountPath: /usr/share/nginx/html/index.html
apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
  name: application-config
  index.html: "Hello world"

I’ve put these two into a separate namespace, wave-demo.

Next, let’s setup wave inside the wave-system namespace:

$ k kustomize | k apply -f - created created
secret/wave-webhook-server-secret created
service/wave-controller-manager-service created
statefulset.apps/wave-controller-manager created

Since I’m using RBAC in the setup, I had to modify the wave-manager-role a bit to also grant access to StatefulSets and DaemonSets. The cluster role binding also needed to have access to my wave-demo namespace. At the time of writing this, Wave’s kustomize configuration contained a little bug that I’ve fixed with this PR. Nothing fancy but you’d need to change the configuration for the controller a bit and then restart the the manager’s pod:

# Add the extended cluster role settings
kubectl kustomize wave | kubectl apply -f -

# Restart wave
kubectl --namespace wave-system delete pod \

Now, when you change the data inside the application-config ConfigMap, Wave will update the deployment and you will see the new content in the frontend:

$ kubectl --namespace wave-demo patch configmap \
    application-config \
    -p '{"data": {"index.html": "updated"}}'
configmap/application-config patched

$ kubectl --namespace wave-demo port-forward \
    svc/nginx 8888:80 &

$ curl http://localhost:8888

If that doesn’t work for you, make sure to check the log of the wave-controller-manager-0 pod. You might have missed giving the service access to your namespace or to the Deployment kind πŸ™‚

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