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Set up Rancher with GitOps

Rancher Kubernetes

Rancher Installation - Create EKS Cluster, bootstrap Flux, deploy Rancher.

Install and manage with git only.

Here is a straightforward approach to create EKS Cluster and deploy Rancher Server in high available mode with Helm Charts using Flux2.

Create EKS cluster

Creating the EKS cluster

AWS Resources

note that AWS resources cost money. make sure to remove resources you don't use.

This could be with Terraform or other tools, but since this is a very small cluster which will require minimum configuration changes, Terraform seems like over-complicating to me.

Since eksctl allows to use .yml config file, it fits the GitOps approach.

We use one config file to define everything we need, without the overhead of terraform.

In this example I set up the cluster in an existing VPC

You should adapt this to your needs.

The cluster is configured/upgraded by the cluster.yml config file.

eksctl create cluster -f cluster.yml

kind: ClusterConfig
  name: rancher-eks
  region: us-east-1
  version: "1.18"
  id: vpc-xxxxxxxx
          id: "subnet-xxxxxxxx"
          id: "subnet-xxxxxxxx"
          id: "subnet-xxxxxxxx"
          id: "subnet-xxxxxxxx"
          id: "subnet-xxxxxxxx"
          id: "subnet-xxxxxxxx"
  - name: ng-rancher-nodes
    labels: { role: rancher-node }
    instanceType: t2.medium
    volumeSize: 80
    volumeType: gp2
    desiredCapacity: 3
    privateNetworking: true
      publicKeyPath: Your.Key.Pair
        - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonEKSWorkerNodePolicy
        - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonEKS_CNI_Policy
        - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/ElasticLoadBalancingFullAccess
        - arn:aws:iam::xxxxxxxxxx:policy/s3-backup-etcd
        externalDNS: true
        certManager: true      

Upgrade EKS Cluster

Update eks version in the cluster.yml file

name: rancher-eks
region: us-east-1
version: "1.17" update to "1.18"

Upgrade the cluster:

eksctl upgrade cluster --config-file cluster.yml


Add nodegroup

eksctl create nodegroup  -f cluster.yml

Delete nodegroups

eksctl delete nodegroup --config-file=cluster.yml --include=ng-private-rancher

Expected output:

2021-04-13 21:59:11 [ℹ]  eksctl version 0.44.0
2021-04-13 21:59:11 [ℹ]  using region us-east-1
2021-04-13 21:59:12 [ℹ]  comparing 2 nodegroups defined in the given config ("cluster.yml") against remote state
2021-04-13 21:59:12 [ℹ]  combined include rules: ng-private-rancher
2021-04-13 21:59:12 [ℹ]  1 nodegroup (ng-private-rancher) was included (based on the include/exclude rules)
2021-04-13 21:59:13 [ℹ]  (plan) would drain 1 nodegroup(s) in cluster "rancher-eks"
2021-04-13 21:59:13 [ℹ]  (plan) would delete 1 nodegroups from cluster "rancher-eks"
2021-04-13 21:59:14 [ℹ]  (plan) 1 task: { 1 task: { delete nodegroup "ng-private-rancher" [async] } }
2021-04-13 21:59:14 [ℹ]  (plan) would delete 1 nodegroups from auth ConfigMap in cluster "rancher-eks"
2021-04-13 21:59:14 [✔]  (plan) would have deleted 1 nodegroup(s) from cluster "rancher-eks"
2021-04-13 21:59:14 [!]  no changes were applied, run again with '--approve' to apply the changes

Review the output.

Run the above command with --approve to apply.

The nodes will pause,drain and eventually will be removed from the cluster and terminated.

  • cordon:
NAME                          STATUS                     ROLES    AGE     VERSION
ip-10-10-1-40.ec2.internal    Ready,SchedulingDisabled   <none>   3h34m   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-1-83.ec2.internal    Ready                      <none>   9m18s   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-2-97.ec2.internal    Ready,SchedulingDisabled   <none>   3h34m   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-3-10.ec2.internal    Ready                      <none>   9m21s   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-3-226.ec2.internal   Ready,SchedulingDisabled   <none>   3h34m   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-3-82.ec2.internal    Ready                      <none>   9m21s   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
  • Deleted:
ip-10-10-1-83.ec2.internal   Ready    <none>   11m   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-3-10.ec2.internal   Ready    <none>   12m   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c
ip-10-10-3-82.ec2.internal   Ready    <none>   12m   v1.18.9-eks-d1db3c

Install Rancher with Flux2 gitops-toolkit

Bootstrap Flux

Now that we have our k8s cluster ready, we can install Rancher, not manually but with Flux2.

  • This is a one-time setup, create personal token for your Git Project
export GITLAB_USER="[email protected]"
  • Bootstrap Flux
flux bootstrap gitlab --token-auth \                    
    --owner="devops" --path="devops" \ 
    --repository="rancher" \ 
    --branch="rancher-2.5.x" \  
    --path="./clusters/rancher-eks" \ 
    --namespace="flux-system" \ 

Setting up sources, kustomizations & HelmReleases

|-- apps
|   |-- rancher
|   |   |-- kustomization.yaml
|   |   |-- namespace.yaml
|   |   `-- release.yaml
|   |-- rancher-backup
|   |   |-- kustomization.yaml
|   |   `-- release.yaml
|   `-- rancher-backup-crd
|       |-- kustomization.yaml
|       |-- namespace.yaml
|       `-- release.yaml
|-- cluster.yml
|-- clusters
|   `-- rancher-eks
|       `-- flux-system
|           |-- apps.yaml
|           |-- gotk-components.yaml
|           |-- gotk-sync.yaml
|           |-- infrastructure.yaml
|           |-- kustomization.yaml
|           `-- monitoring-kustomization.yaml
`-- infrastructure
    |-- cert-manager
    |   |-- kustomization.yaml
    |   |-- namespace.yaml
    |   `-- release.yaml
    |-- external-dns
    |   |-- kustomization.yaml
    |   `-- release.yaml
    |-- ingress
    |   |-- kustomization.yaml
    |   |-- namespace.yaml
    |   `-- release.yaml
    |-- kustomization.yaml
    `-- sources
        |-- external-dns.yaml
        |-- ingress-nginx.yaml
        |-- jetstack.yaml
        |-- kustomization.yaml
        |-- monitoring.yaml
        |-- rancher-charts.yaml
        `-- rancher.yaml


define dependencies deployment before installing rancher

Inside the infrastructure directory we define all the components we will need before deploying the Rancher Application

In the sources directory we define Helm repositories to pull Helm Charts from.

The repository with all required files is Here

This will automatically set up all required components in order to prepare the cluster for rancher Setup, and then it will install rancher itself and the rancher-backup.

SSL is also configured with cert-manager & LetsEncrypt

  • Create flux-system & ingress-nginx namespaces.
  • Add Helm repositories for ingress-controller & monitoring components.
  • Add Helm repository for external-dns.
  • Add Helm repository for rancher, rancher-backup-crd, rancher-backup.
  • Install HelmRelease of ingress-nginx-controller with an external LoadBalancer address.
  • Install HelmRelesae of external-dns and set DNS record for the LoadBalancer address.
  • Install HelmReleasesof rancher,rancher-backup-crd,rancher-backup in cattle-resources-system namespace.
  • Install HelmRelease of monitoring stack.

Flux will first reconcile all sources and HelmReleases under infrastructure, and only then will deploy the Rancher Application.

eksctl auto bootstrap flux is currently experimental (12.04.2021) so not in use here, but we should use it when it's GA.

Quickstart profiles can only be applied when used with Flux v1 (git.repo). Support for profiles with Flux v2 (gitops.flux) is not yet available.

However this is not an issue, as we bootstrap as seen at the top of the page just like in any cluster.

    gitProvider: gitlab
    # hostname: #currently No option to set custom hostname 
    owner: devops                    
    repository: rancher     
    personal: true                    
    branch: rancher-2.5.x                    
    namespace: "flux-system"         
    path: "./clusters/rancher"        
    authTokenPath: ""

Backing up Rancher

Rancher Backup is configured and backup files are stored at S3 Bucket by the rancher-backup operator.

(installed via Flux as well)

The EKS workers instances have an IAM Policy which is assigned to them, and allows to Store the backups remotely in the above S3 bucket under the /rancher-backup folder.

Restoring Rancher

The new rancher-backup operator allows Rancher to be backed up and restored on any Kubernetes cluster.

This application is a Helm chart, and it can be deployed through the Rancher Apps & Marketplace page, or by using the Helm CLI.

Depending on the use case (Restoring Rancher/Migrating Rancher to a New Cluster) this is a one time manual operation which is documented Here


That's it.

Once flux will lift up all resources your should be able to see that all HelmReleases are READY.

flux get helmreleases --all-namespaces
NAMESPACE               NAME                READY   MESSAGE                             REVISION    SUSPENDED
cattle-resources-system rancher-backup      True    Release reconciliation succeeded    1.0.301     False
cattle-resources-system rancher-backup-crd  True    Release reconciliation succeeded    1.0.301     False
cattle-system           rancher             True    Release reconciliation succeeded    2.5.7       False
cert-manager            cert-manager        True    Release reconciliation succeeded    v1.0.4      False
ingress-nginx           ingress-nginx       True    Release reconciliation succeeded    3.12.0      False
kube-system             external-dns        True    Release reconciliation succeeded    4.10.0      False
  • Now you can access Rancher UI from your browser with the Endpoint (DNS record) you set for your LB.

  • You now have a high available Rancher deployed on EKS.

  • You didn't have to run kubectl in order to configure components.

  • You only use Git repository as a declarative GitOps approach to set the desired state of your apps.

  • You can destroy and recreate the entire project easily.


eksctl, Flux2, Cert-Manager, external-dns, Rancher