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Application Access to a StatefulSet

Application Access to a StatefulSet

Application Access

After setting up the database and connecting to it using the psql utility, the next step is to access the database with an application running on Kubernetes.

At this point we should remember that Kubernetes is not a fully featured platform but rather platform for building platforms [4]. So in contrast to technologies such as Cloud Foundry [5] there is no such thing as a Service Binding as defined in the Open Service Broker API [6] where application developers can bind apps to service instances such as PostgreSQL with a single command. This will then create a dedicated database user which will be deleted if the application is unbound from the service. This requires a so-called Service Broker such as implemented by the a9s Data Services [7] which can then be integrated with Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes. The integration of Service Brokers with Kubernetes requires the Service Catalog extension [8]. However, this lesson is about core Kubernetes, so Service Bindings won't be covered in detail.

With the absence of Service Bindings we fall back to using Kubernetes Secrets as covered in earlier chapters. Hence, with a bare Kubernetes it is up to the user to manage Secrets to grand and/or revoke access to StatefulSets.

You may ask yourself why not use the existing postgres user?

In non-production applications - where security is not a concern - using the postgresql is possible. However, for production grade applications, it makes sense to stick to the least privilege principle [9]. According to this principle, the application user should be limited to the minimum set of privileges necessary to carry out the application's tasks. Consequently, an application user should not be granted admin privileges unless absolutely necessary. Another major drawback of using shared credentials among users is that the credentials have to be changed if a user is removed. Think about a team member who knew the postgresql password and then left the team. In order to secure access to the database, the password needs to be changed. If the password is used by ten other users including application machine users, the effort for updating the password is highly wasteful. With a dedicated set of credentials - a database username and password - per user is therefore much simpler. It allows revoking access or modifying privileges on a per-user level easily.


In this example you will create another Secret, deploy a simple application and gran the application access to the PostgreSQL StatefulSet.

The Example Application

The example uses a very simple web app [1] written in Go [2]. The corresponding container image can be found on Docker Hub [3].

The app is not meant to show state-of-the-art Go code and is solely used for didactic purposes of this training.

The container image can be referenced from a Pod definition as:


Even without knowledge of the Go language, it is easy to identify the section in the source code reading the access credentials.

The relevant part of the application is the following:

postgresUsername := os.Getenv("POSTGRES_USERNAME")
postgresPassword := os.Getenv("POSTGRES_PASSWORD")
postgresHost := os.Getenv("POSTGRES_HOST")

connStr := "user=" + postgresUsername + " dbname=postgres sslmode=disable password=" + postgresPassword + " host=" + postgresHost

This reads the environment variables POSTGRES_USERNAME, POSTGRES_PASSWORD and POSTGRES_HOST.

We do not plan to share the PostgreSQL instance so hard coding the database name postgresql is ok, at least for this example.

Be aware that using environment variables has the drawback that the application needs to be re-deployed in order to update the environment variables, in case the Secret is being changed. As mentioned in an earlier lesson, the alternative would be to mount the Secret as a file and let the application re-read it from time to time. For this example, environment variables will do the trick.

In order to keep the application independent of a particular instance of the PostgreSQL StatefulSet we need a Secret consisting of the following elements:

  • Username
  • Password
  • Hostname

The username and password can be created along with the Secret.

As this is a machine user, using a cryptic username makes it harder to guess and the application doesn't care about the password complexity.


The hostname is determined by the headless Service you have created earlier.

The DNS hostname of the Service postgresql-svc in the Namespace k8s-training for a Kubernetes cluster with the cluster domain cluster.local is then:


In order to bring the username and password to life, you need to create a database user.

Creating the Database User

In the previous lesson, you have used a separate Pod to connect to the PostgreSQL database to demonstrate a remote access. In this case, all you want is to create a database user. The easier way to get to the database is to start a shell directly on the database Pod:

kubectl exec -it postgresql-sfs-0 -- bash

Now, you are within the data service Pod and have access to PostgreSQL command line utilities such as createuser.

To get more information on which parameters need to passed to the command execute:

createuser --help

The command pattern is:

createuser [OPTION]... [ROLENAME]

Which leads to the following command:

createuser --username=postgres -W gaeMo6di -P

This needs explanation.

The --username=postgres option is to authenticate the createuser command. You don't want anybody with shell access to create users and therefore authentication is necessary. The postgres user has sufficient rights to create new users. The -W makes psql prompt for the password to authenticate the postgresql user. Use the tes6Aev8 password - or your version of it - that you used during the creation of the PostgreSQL StatefulSet.

Then the gaeMo6di is the [ROLENAME] from the command pattern describe above. It's a bit confusing as you may read -W gaeMo6di as if gaeMo6di is an argument to the option -W, but this is a false friend. -W is an option and gaeMo6di a stand-alone argument. Finally, the -P makes the createuser command prompt for the password of the gaeMo6di user. Use the password UaGu5chu - or your alternative for it.

Grand the New User Access Privileges

Now, there is a user gaeMo6di, but it is lacking of appropriate access privileges. If you try to access the postgres database, you'll see an error message such as:

permission denied for table user

Therefore, you need to grant the user gaeMo6di privileges to access the postgres database which can be done using psql.


psql -U postgres

Execute the following SQL commands:

GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON DATABASE "postgres" to "gaeMo6di";

Testing the User Access

Note that, with the default config of PostgreSQL, using psql locally to verify the created user is pointless as PostgreSQL does not require a password authentication and trusts anybody connecting from localhost. This setting is not safe for productive use and means that you can't verify your password with it.

So to test the credentials we need a remote Pod:

kubectl run pg-psql -i --tty --image=postgres:14.5 --restart=Never --env="PGPASSWORD=UaGu5chu" -- psql -h postgresql-svc.k8s-training.svc.cluster.local -U gaeMo6di -d postgres

You should see a psql prompt similar to:

id | name
1 | anynines GmbH
(1 row)


Ok, now that you have collected all pieces of information necessary, you can proceed with creating the Secret.

Creating the Application Secret

First, create a separate Secret. As this is an additional Secret a unique name is required: postgresql-secret-2.

You can see where this is going if a large number of StatefulSets and a large number of users are necessary. You will have to manage many Secrets.

To create the Secret postgresql-secret-2 execute:

kubectl create secret generic postgresql-secret-2 \
--from-literal=POSTGRES_HOST=postgresql-svc.k8s-training.svc.cluster.local \
--from-literal=POSTGRES_USERNAME=gaeMo6di \

This creates three keys provided as literals corresponding to the aforementioned credentials.

Verify your Secret with:

kubectl describe secret postgresql-secret-2

Check whether the desired key-value-pairs have been created:

Name:         postgresql-secret-2
Namespace: k8s-training
Labels: <none>
Annotations: <none>

Type: Opaque


With the Secret being ready, it's time to think about the application deployment.

Deploying the Application

Before thinking about more complex structures such as ReplicaSets or StatefulSets, you can start with a simple Pod. This will allow you to focus on mounting the Secret into the Pod. The idea is to start simple and take little steps. This keeps frustration low. Solving each little challenge also provides a little reward. Later if you are well practices, these little steps may become wasteful and larger steps become more economic.

In order to get the Secrets into the Pod you can use the Secret example from an early chapter which you will then modify incrementally.

This is the Secret example from the earlier lesson:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
name: busybox-secrets
- image: busybox
name: busybox-secrets-container
- 'env'
- name: USERNAME
name: area51
key: username
- name: PASSWORD
name: area51
key: password
restartPolicy: Never

Create a file 40-postgressql-application.yaml, paste the example from above and modify its content by performing the following steps:

  1. Choose a name for the Pod such as postgresql-application and name the container respectively.
  2. Adapt the name of the Secret from area51 to postgresql-secret-2.
  3. Copy one of the elements of the env array to define an additional environment variable.
  4. Change the name attributes to match the env variable names and the key attributes to match the name of the keys in the corresponding Secrets. In this case the name for both the env variable name and the Secret key are identical.
  5. Change the container image from busybox to fischerjulian/smpl-go-pg:0.2.0.
  6. Remove the command section. The container image already defines a meaningful startup command.
  7. Change the restartPolicy to Always as we want the web app to restart in case of a container failure.

The modified result looks like the following:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
name: postgresql-application
app: postgresql-app
- image: fischerjulian/smpl-go-pg:0.2.0
name: postgresql-application-container
name: postgresql-secret-2
name: postgresql-secret-2
name: postgresql-secret-2
- containerPort: 8080
name: http
restartPolicy: Always
kubectl apply -f 40-postgressql-application.yaml

Application Service

As we have seen in earlier lessons it is useful to have a Service in front of an application. This will provide a stable network entry point in form of a DNS name as well as an IP address. Also, it will enable a load balancing if further Pods will be added.

Create a file 50-pg-app-svc.yaml with the following content:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
name: pg-app-svc
app: postgresql-app
- port: 8080
name: http-port
app: postgresql-app

And apply it:

kubectl apply -f 50-pg-app-svc.yaml

Start the kubectl proxy:

kubectl proxy

And access the web application by browsing to the URL:


Alternatively, you can use an auxiliary Pod to execute a curl command to issue an HTTP request to the app:

kubectl run -i --tty nspct --image=fischerjulian/nspct --restart=Never -- bash

Once withing the Pod, you can verify that all necessary Services resolve:

nslookup pg-app-svc.k8s-training.svc.cluster.local
nslookup postgresql-svc.k8s-training.svc.cluster.local

And issue the HTTP request:

curl localhost:8080

Which should return something like:

<h1>Simple PostgreSQL Web App</h1><h2>Company: anynines GmbH<h2>


Based on the Pod specification for the postgres-application perform the following steps:

  1. Create a ReplicaSet with replicas: 1.
  2. Set replicas: 3.
  3. Create a Deployment.

The ReplicaSet will replace your Pod. The Deployment will replace your ReplicaSet. So before creating the ReplicaSet delete the postgresql-application Pod. Let your ReplicaSet create it. Then delete your ReplicaSet and create a Deployment that will create your ReplicaSet and Pods.

  1. Simple Go PostgreSQL Application, Julian Fischer @ Github,
  2. Golang,
  3. Simple Go PostgreSQL Application Container Image, Julian Fischer @ Docker Hub,