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Community Blog Kubernetes Namespaces

Kubernetes Namespaces

In this tutorial, we'll show you how you can keep the work of different teams or projects separate by using Kubernetes namespaces.

By Alwyn Botha, Alibaba Cloud Tech Share Author. Tech Share is Alibaba Cloud's incentive program to encourage the sharing of technical knowledge and best practices within the cloud community.

Kubernetes namespaces are used to keep the work of different teams or projects separate. For example if you work in a company with 50+ other developers in 5 different teams, you do not want to see all the Kubernetes resources created by all those people all the time.

You want to see only the resources in your team - much shorter list of Pods, Deployments, and around 25 other Kubernetes resources. By the same logic you may want to set up your own mini environment where you see only the Kubernetes resources you work with. All the above can be done using Kubernetes namespaces.

Namespaces are easy to define, and once you switch to such a namespace all your work is automatically kept in that separate namespace - not visible to others on the same development server.

Minor note: The official documentation inconsistently refers to namespaces with upper or lower case first letter. I did the same throughout this tutorial; globally replacing it with lowercase will give your yaml syntax errors.

Default Kubernetes Namespaces

Get a list of current namespaces:

kubectl get namespaces
NAME          STATUS   AGE
default       Active   11d
kube-public   Active   11d
kube-system   Active   11d

These three Namespaces are all automatically created during a new Kubernetes install.

Create Two Namespaces

We are now going to create two new namespaces so that we can create Kubernetes objects in it - to see how the separation works.

Create and read YAML file below to see how we create a development Namespace.

nano dev-namespace.yaml

kind: Namespace
apiVersion: v1
metadata: 
 name: development
 labels: 
  name: development

Create and read YAML file below to see how we create a tutorials Namespace.

nano tutorials-namespace.yaml

kind: Namespace
apiVersion: v1
metadata: 
 name: tutorials
 labels: 
  name: tutorials

Run kubectl create to create those two Namespaces.

kubectl create -f dev-namespace.yaml

kubectl create -f tutorials-namespace.yaml

Get detail about just created Namespaces.

kubectl get namespaces --show-labels
NAME          STATUS   AGE     LABELS
default       Active   11d     <none>
development   Active   3m48s   name=development
kube-public   Active   11d     <none>
kube-system   Active   11d     <none>
tutorials     Active   9s      name=tutorials

Our 2 new objects are listed and ready for use.

Set-Context to Switch between Namespaces

In order to easily switch between Namespaces we use the concept of switching context.

Switching between Namespaces directly would have been quite straightforward to understand, but as it is Kubernetes decided to implement switching Namespaces only via switching contexts .

Let's investigate our current context:

kubectl config view

apiVersion: v1
clusters:
- cluster:
    certificate-authority: C:\Users\alwyn\.minikube\ca.crt
    server: https://192.168.99.117:8443
  name: minikube
contexts:
- context:
    cluster: minikube
    user: minikube
  name: minikube
current-context: minikube
kind: Config
preferences: {}
users:
- name: minikube
  user:
    client-certificate: C:\Users\alwyn\.minikube\client.crt
    client-key: C:\Users\alwyn\.minikube\client.key

Only one context available: minikube.

To see the current context we are working in, use:

kubectl config current-context

minikube

Let's create contexts for our 2 Namespaces : development and tutorials.

kubectl config set-context development --namespace=development --cluster=minikube --user=minikube

Context "development" created.

kubectl config set-context tutorials --namespace=tutorials --cluster=minikube --user=minikube

Context "tutorials" created.

To keep it simple the name of the context is equal to the Namespace name.

Let's view config again:

kubectl config view

apiVersion: v1
clusters:
- cluster:
    certificate-authority: C:\Users\alwyn\.minikube\ca.crt
    server: https://192.168.99.117:8443
  name: minikube
contexts:
- context:
    cluster: minikukbe
    namespace: development
    user: minikube
  name: dev
  
- context:
    cluster: minikube
    namespace: development
    user: minikube
  name: development

- context:
    cluster: minikube
    user: minikube
  name: minikube

- context:
    cluster: minikube
    namespace: tutorials
    user: minikube
  name: tutorials

- context:
    cluster: minikukbe
    namespace: tutorials
    user: minikube
  name: tuts

current-context: minikube
kind: Config
preferences: {}
users:
- name: minikube
  user:
    client-certificate: C:\Users\alwyn\.minikube\client.crt
    client-key: C:\Users\alwyn\.minikube\client.key

Easily readable we can see our contexts pointing to the correct Namespaces.

To get the current context, use:

kubectl config current-context

minikube

minikube is the default context. If you are not following these tutorials on a minikube installation your default context will probably have a different name.

Not a problem; the context your are in now is your default context.

Let's create a Pod in this context to see how it is kept separate / hidden from other contexts.

nano myNamespacedPod-3.yaml

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: my-minikube-pod
  labels:
    app: myapp
spec:
  containers:
  - name: myapp-container
    image: busybox
    command: ['sh', '-c', 'echo The Pod is running ... now sleeping && sleep 3600']

IMPORTANT : Note that nowhere in that YAML spec do we specify a Namespace to create this Pod in.

Kubernetes objects are automatically created in the current context.

Create the Pod.

kubectl create -f myNamespacedPod-3.yaml 
   
pod/my-minikube-pod created
   

List all available / visible Pods:

kubectl get po 
   
NAME              READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
my-minikube-pod   1/1     Running   0          22s
   

Create Pod in Development Namespace

Let's switch context to development and create a Pod there.

kubectl config use-context development 

Switched to context "development".

Create YAML file for the Pod.

nano myNamespacedPod-1.yaml

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: my-development-pod
  labels:
    app: myapp
spec:
  containers:
  - name: myapp-container
    image: busybox
    command: ['sh', '-c', 'echo The Pod is running ... now sleeping && sleep 3600']

Create the Pod.

kubectl create -f myNamespacedPod-1.yaml 
   
pod/my-development-pod created
   

List all available / visible Pods:

kubectl get po

NAME                 READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
my-development-pod   1/1     Running   0          7s

Only this one Pod that I created in this Namespace is listed.

my-minikube-pod in default minikube Namespace / context not visible and not listed.

Create Pod in Tutorials Namespace

For experience let us create one Pod in our last context : tutorials .

Let's switch context to tutorials and create a Pod there.

kubectl config use-context tutorials 

Switched to context "tutorials".

YAML source spec for our Pod.

nano myNamespacedPod-2.yaml

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: my-tutorials-pod
  labels:
    app: myapp
spec:
  containers:
  - name: myapp-container
    image: busybox
    command: ['sh', '-c', 'echo The Pod is running ... now sleeping && sleep 3600']

Create the Pod.

kubectl create -f myNamespacedPod-2.yaml 
   
pod/my-tutorials-pod created
   

List all available / visible Pods:

kubectl get po

NAME                 READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
my-tutorials-pod   1/1     Running   0          7s

Only this one Pod that I created in this Namespace is listed.

my-minikube-pod and my-development-pod in other 2 Namespaces / contexts not visible and not listed.

Using Namespaces

To separate your Kubernetes resources just switch context and do your work there. Objects automatically created in your current context.

Let's quickly investigate the resources visible in our Namespaces.

Each context only shows its single Pod.

kubectl config use-context tutorials
Switched to context "tutorials".

kubectl get po

NAME               READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
my-tutorials-pod   1/1     Running   0          78s

kubectl config use-context development

Switched to context "development".

kubectl get po
NAME                 READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
my-development-pod   1/1     Running   0          2m48s

kubectl config use-context minikube
Switched to context "minikube".

kubectl get po
NAME              READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
my-minikube-pod   1/1     Running   0          10m

Kubectl api-resources in Namespaces

Not all Kubernetes resources are in a Namespace.

Get a list of Kubernetes API resources in a Namespace:

kubectl api-resources --namespaced=true

Expected output :

NAME                        SHORTNAMES   APIGROUP                    NAMESPACED   KIND
bindings                                                             true         Binding
configmaps                  cm                                       true         ConfigMap
endpoints                   ep                                       true         Endpoints
events                      ev                                       true         Event
limitranges                 limits                                   true         LimitRange
persistentvolumeclaims      pvc                                      true         PersistentVolumeClaim
pods                        po                                       true         Pod
podtemplates                                                         true         PodTemplate
replicationcontrollers      rc                                       true         ReplicationController
resourcequotas              quota                                    true         ResourceQuota
secrets                                                              true         Secret
serviceaccounts             sa                                       true         ServiceAccount
services                    svc                                      true         Service
controllerrevisions                      apps                        true         ControllerRevision
daemonsets                  ds           apps                        true         DaemonSet
deployments                 deploy       apps                        true         Deployment
replicasets                 rs           apps                        true         ReplicaSet
statefulsets                sts          apps                        true         StatefulSet
localsubjectaccessreviews                authorization.k8s.io        true         LocalSubjectAccessReview
horizontalpodautoscalers    hpa          autoscaling                 true         HorizontalPodAutoscaler
cronjobs                    cj           batch                       true         CronJob
jobs                                     batch                       true         Job
leases                                   coordination.k8s.io         true         Lease
events                      ev           events.k8s.io               true         Event
daemonsets                  ds           extensions                  true         DaemonSet
deployments                 deploy       extensions                  true         Deployment
ingresses                   ing          extensions                  true         Ingress
networkpolicies             netpol       extensions                  true         NetworkPolicy
replicasets                 rs           extensions                  true         ReplicaSet
networkpolicies             netpol       networking.k8s.io           true         NetworkPolicy
poddisruptionbudgets        pdb          policy                      true         PodDisruptionBudget
rolebindings                             rbac.authorization.k8s.io   true         RoleBinding
roles                                    rbac.authorization.k8s.io   true         Role

Get a list of Kubernetes API resources not in a Namespace:

kubectl api-resources --namespaced=false

Expected output :

NAME                              SHORTNAMES   APIGROUP                       NAMESPACED   KIND
componentstatuses                 cs                                          false        ComponentStatus
namespaces                        ns                                          false        Namespace
nodes                             no                                          false        Node
persistentvolumes                 pv                                          false        PersistentVolume
mutatingwebhookconfigurations                  admissionregistration.k8s.io   false        MutatingWebhookConfiguration
validatingwebhookconfigurations                admissionregistration.k8s.io   false        ValidatingWebhookConfiguration
customresourcedefinitions         crd,crds     apiextensions.k8s.io           false        CustomResourceDefinition
apiservices                                    apiregistration.k8s.io         false        APIService
tokenreviews                                   authentication.k8s.io          false        TokenReview
selfsubjectaccessreviews                       authorization.k8s.io           false        SelfSubjectAccessReview
selfsubjectrulesreviews                        authorization.k8s.io           false        SelfSubjectRulesReview
subjectaccessreviews                           authorization.k8s.io           false        SubjectAccessReview
certificatesigningrequests        csr          certificates.k8s.io            false        CertificateSigningRequest
podsecuritypolicies               psp          extensions                     false        PodSecurityPolicy
podsecuritypolicies               psp          policy                         false        PodSecurityPolicy
clusterrolebindings                            rbac.authorization.k8s.io      false        ClusterRoleBinding
clusterroles                                   rbac.authorization.k8s.io      false        ClusterRole
priorityclasses                   pc           scheduling.k8s.io              false        PriorityClass
storageclasses                    sc           storage.k8s.io                 false        StorageClass
volumeattachments                              storage.k8s.io                 false        VolumeAttachment

Quick comments about some resources NOT in a Namespace :

  • nodes / servers running Kubernetes - must be visible in all Namespaces
  • Namespaces itself must be visible in all Namespaces - otherwise switching would be impossible
  • PersistentVolumes must be visible everywhere
  • same for the full list of other resources NOT in a Namespaces

We have seen throughout this tutorial that Pods ARE created in Namespaces.

Switch between the Namespaces and you will see the 2 commands below show the full list of nodes and Namespaces.

kubectl get ns

NAME          STATUS   AGE
default       Active   12d
development   Active   16m
kube-public   Active   12d
kube-system   Active   12d
tutorials     Active   16m

kubectl get no

NAME       STATUS   ROLES    AGE   VERSION
minikube   Ready    master   12d   v1.12.4

Namespaces Are Not a Secure Feature

As you have just seen I can easily create contexts and use it to switch Namespaces.

Also, Namespaces names are by default visible to everyone.

There is built-in functionality to show all resources while in ANY Namespace:

It is called adding the --all-namespaces=true flag.

kubectl get po --all-namespaces=true

NAMESPACE     NAME                                    READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
default       my-minikube-pod                         1/1     Running   2          134m
development   my-development-pod                      1/1     Running   2          126m
kube-system   coredns-576cbf47c7-28l4x                1/1     Running   16         12d
kube-system   coredns-576cbf47c7-6lh8g                1/1     Running   16         12d
kube-system   etcd-minikube                           1/1     Running   8          7d19h
kube-system   kube-addon-manager-minikube             1/1     Running   17         12d
kube-system   kube-apiserver-minikube                 1/1     Running   0          3h48m
kube-system   kube-controller-manager-minikube        1/1     Running   0          3h48m
kube-system   kube-proxy-dh4vs                        1/1     Running   0          3h47m
kube-system   kube-scheduler-minikube                 1/1     Running   17         12d
kube-system   kubernetes-dashboard-5bff5f8fb8-h25d5   1/1     Running   48         12d
kube-system   storage-provisioner                     1/1     Running   48         12d
tutorials     my-tutorials-pod                        1/1     Running   2          125m

That list is a bit messy, let us exclude kube-system Pods.

kubectl get po --all-namespaces=true | grep -v system

NAMESPACE     NAME                                    READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
default       my-minikube-pod                         1/1     Running   2          136m
development   my-development-pod                      1/1     Running   2          128m
tutorials     my-tutorials-pod                        1/1     Running   2          127m

All Pods created in this tutorial show - across 3 Namespaces.

Out of the box Namespaces are a convenience feature.

You have to use the Kubernetes Authorization Plugin to properly secure each Namespaces in isolation.

Kubernetes Authorization Plugins controls not just Namespaces. It also enables fine-grained-access control for specific containers, other Kubernetes objects and general Kubernetes administrator operations.

Clean Up

Our previous command showed we have 3 Pods running.

Let us now delete it.

Note each delete command will take 30 seconds since I did not force delete it immediately using --force --grace-period=0 on the delete command.

kubectl config use-context minikube

kubectl delete pod/my-minikube-pod

kubectl config use-context development 

kubectl delete pod/my-development-pod

kubectl config use-context tutorials  

kubectl delete pod/my-tutorials-pod

Important : switch to default context: minikube

kubectl config use-context minikube

Otherwise you will delete the context you are currently switched to:

kubectl config delete-context development
kubectl config delete-context tutorials

kubectl delete namespaces development
kubectl delete namespaces tutorials
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