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AKS Cluster Part.1


Published Date: 28-JAN-2019


The code and approach below has been updated 03-JUN-2019 to align with Post 3.

What do we need? An Azure Kubernetes Cluster built with Terraform and setup for az-cli and kubectl to have at it when its done! Easy enough right ;)

The scenario we're building here is getting a Kubernetes cluster up & running in Azure; and using a Private Docker registry to store and pull our application from. We'll be building and deploying into the 'Australia East' Azure Region.

Series Overview

I call it a 'series', but I really only want to break it up into a couple (maybe 3) parts so its easier to write and more concise to read.

  1. Get Kubernetes cluster up and running on Azure Kubernetes Managed Service (AKS)
  2. Create a private Docker Registry in the cloud using Azure's Container Registry Managed service (ACR)
  3. Deploy a simple application to it.

As usual, we want to automate all the building steps we can. But as you'll see, there are a few parts of this which (to the best of my current knowledge) couldn't be automated and was done manually.

Right, let's go!


You will need setup a few things before you can deploy anything to the cloud.

  1. Azure portal account
  2. Azure az-cli (command line interface)
  3. Terraform installed (zipped binary, copy to ~/bin)
  4. (optional) Kubectl installed

Once you have all these in place, proceed to the Azure setup

Azure setup

Once your portal account is created, and you have a valid subscription (Free Tier works), you need to login to link your azure-cli to your account, so from your terminal run this:

az login

a browser window opens, you login with your azure portal account..

and then you'll see something like this:

[email protected]:~$ az login
Note, we have launched a browser for you to login. For old experience with device code, use "az login --use-device-code"
Opening in existing browser session.
You have logged in. Now let us find all the subscriptions to which you have access...

which then spits out some subscription information at you in json

"cloudName": "AzureCloud",
"id": "0d667072-XXXX-46ef-a5b4-86979fdXXXXX",
"isDefault": true,
"name": "Free Trial",
"state": "Enabled",
"tenantId": "889cad64-XXXX-410e-b4fd-1cbXXXX537d",
"user": {
"name": "[email protected]",
"type": "user"

note this is the output of the following command: $ az account list

next, you need a service principal created to have permissions over your infrastructure

Setup Service Principals for Cluster

You need a Service Principal (sp) setup as Role Based Access Control (rbac) so it has permission and authority over your cluster.

Run this to setup an 'sp' for the subscription you see above under 'id'

az ad sp create-for-rbac --role="Contributor" --scopes="/subscriptions/XXXXXXX-XXXX-46ef-a5b4-86979fdXXXXX" -n "http://cluster-admin"

what's happening here:

  • this creates a new service principal (sp) named "cluster-admin"
  • the 'Contributor' role is assigned to it
  • this sp has power over the subscription with id='0d667072-XXXX-46ef-a5b4-86979fdXXXXX' (Contributor has read/write access)

output example looks like this - first the command throws a notice at you

Changing "cluster-admin" to a valid URI of "http://cluster-admin", which is the required format used for service principal names
Retrying role assignment creation: 1/36

then you get a JSON result

"appId": "475cafbb-b339-40b4-8e69-XXXXXXXXXXX",
"displayName": "cluster-admin",
"name": "http://cluster-admin",
"password": "6f8c2642-df14-XXX-9438-XXXXXXXXXXXXX",
"tenant": "889cad64-XXX-410e-b4fd-1cbfd002537d"

so now you have your 'sp' setup, it has the right permissions and you have your appId (client_id) and password (client_secret) to use in terraform for building the cluster.

Terraform setup


Note: using terraform v0.12.0 at time of writing.

As per usual terraform build, we need to configure a few key pieces of infrastructure to be built in our cloud.

Key approaches include:

  • use workspaces
  • use service principals
  • use cli inputs instead of hard-coded creds (always a good idea not to hard-code creds)
  • use an env file to override the default

terraform workspace

Best Practice Tip: use terraform workspaces to separate you infra code per environment/project.

run terraform workspace new <environment name> e.g.

13:18 $ terraform workspace new cloudbuilderio
Created and switched to workspace "cloudbuilderio"!

You're now on a new, empty workspace. Workspaces isolate their state,
so if you run "terraform plan" Terraform will not see any existing state
for this configuration.

then, with all your terraform files in the dir, setup this workspace with: terraform init

Let's have a look at our (updated) files...

Provider (

this is the Azure provider

provider "azurerm" {
version = "=1.27.0"
subscription_id = "${var.subscription_id}"

Main (

main includes setup for resource groups and cluster resources

# Kubernetes Resources

# resource group for cluster
resource "azurerm_resource_group" "aks" {
name = "${var.resource_group_name}"
location = "${var.location}"

# k8s cluster
resource "azurerm_kubernetes_cluster" "k8s" {
name = "AKS-${ terraform.workspace }"
kubernetes_version = "${var.kubernetes_version}"
location = "${azurerm_resource_group.aks.location}"
resource_group_name = "${}"
dns_prefix = "AKS-${var.dns_prefix}"

linux_profile {
admin_username = "${var.linux_login_user}"

ssh_key {
key_data = "${var.ssh_public_key}"

agent_pool_profile {
name = "${var.node_pool_name}"
count = "${var.node_pool_size}"
vm_size = "${var.node_pool_vmsize}"
os_type = "${var.node_pool_os}"
os_disk_size_gb = 30

service_principal {
client_id = "${var.sp_client_id}"
client_secret = "${var.sp_client_secret}"

tags = {
environment = "${var.env_tag}"

# setup to output your kubeconfig from your terraform build
resource "local_file" "kubeconfig" {
content = "${azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s.kube_config_raw}"
filename = "./${ terraform.workspace }-kubeconfig"

why is this kubeconfig so important? this is the config file we feed to 'kubectl' so that it knows which cluster things are being applied to!

note: you can query for the client_id but you need to know the client_secret. If these don't already exist, you need to setup the service principals.

Output (

some debugging output to make sure we're seeing the kubeconfig details come back to us, and check the host name.

output "kube_config" {
value = "${azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s.kube_config_raw}"

output "host" {
value = "${}"

Variables (

Ok, we need to know what the "${var.}" values in our tf files resolve to, so here they all are in the files

# Variables

variable "dns_prefix" {
description = "DNS prefix"

variable "cluster_name" {
description = "name for your cluster"

variable "kubernetes_version" {
description = "version number."

variable "linux_login_user" {
description = "username to login with"
default = "ubuntu"

variable "ssh_public_key" {
description = "ssh key to be used for ssh connections"

variable "node_pool_name" {
description = "The name of the node pool"
default = "nodes"

variable "node_pool_size" {
description = "The amount of nodes in the cluster"

variable "node_pool_vmsize" {
description = "The vmsize for the nodes"

variable "node_pool_os" {
description = "The os for the nodes"
default = "Linux"

variable "tenant_id" {
description = "azure tenant id"

variable "sp_client_id" {
description = "service principal id"

variable "sp_client_secret" {
description = "service principal secret"

variable "resource_group_name" {
description = "name for your cluster resource group"

variable "location" {
description = "e.g. australiaeast"

variable "env_tag" {
description = "whatever you want here"


Right. your environment file where you declare your variables that will put in place or over-ride the values.

## AKS variables

# subscription details
subscription_id = "fill these in!"
tenant_id = "fill these in!"
sp_client_id = "fill these in!"

# resource details
resource_group_name = "fill these in!"
linux_login_user = "ubuntu"
ssh_public_key = "ssh-rsa past public key here!"
node_pool_size = "3"
node_pool_vmsize = "Standard_DS2_v2"

# network details
dns_prefix = "blog"

# cluster details (change these to what you want!)
kubernetes_version = "1.12.7"
cluster_name = "cbio-cluster"
location = "australiaeast"
env_tag = ""

Awesome. Now let's validate and build this puppy!

terraform validate

only started using this recently since upgrading to terraform v0.12.0 but its a good step to quickly sort your code out. think dev's call this a linter? lol.

 $ terraform validate --var sp_client_secret="your-sp-secret-here" -var-file=env.tfvars
Success! The configuration is valid.

terraform apply


terraform apply --var sp_client_secret="your sp secret goes here" -var-file=env.tfvars -auto-approve

you'll see a bunch of these...

azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Creating...
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [10s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [20s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [30s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [40s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [50s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [1m0s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [1m10s elapsed]
azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Still creating... [1m20s elapsed]

and then when you're finished you'll get your kubeconfig like this

Apply complete! Resources: 2 added, 0 changed, 0 destroyed.


host =
kube_config = apiVersion: v1
- cluster:
name: AKS-cloudbuilderio
- context:
cluster: AKS-cloudbuilderio
user: clusterUser_AKS-CLOUDRESOURCES_AKS-cloudbuilderio
name: AKS-cloudbuilderio
current-context: AKS-cloudbuilderio
kind: Config
preferences: {}
- name: clusterUser_AKS-CLOUDRESOURCES_AKS-cloudbuilderio
token: redacted-token-data

Success! now you have a file cloudbuilderio-kubeconfig in your current directory which you can now use kubectl to control your new cluster!


For the record, this cluster took 7m9s to create.

azurerm_kubernetes_cluster.k8s: Creation complete after 7m9s [id=/subscriptions/.../resourcegroups/AKS-CLOUDRESOURCES/providers/Microsoft.ContainerService/managedClusters/AKS-cloudbuilderio]

Verify with 'az' or 'kubectl'

Let's have a look at our new AKS cluster using kubectl and file=cloudbuilderio-kubeconfig

check it with 'kubectl'

14:53 $ kubectl --kubeconfig ./cloudbuilderio-kubeconfig get nodes
aks-nodes-28201024-0 Ready agent 41m v1.12.7
aks-nodes-28201024-1 Ready agent 41m v1.12.7
aks-nodes-28201024-2 Ready agent 41m v1.12.7

check it with 'az aks'

14:53 $ az aks list -o table
Name Location ResourceGroup KubernetesVersion ProvisioningState Fqdn
------------------ ------------- ------------------ ------------------- ------------------- ---------------------------------------------
AKS-cloudbuilderio australiaeast AKS-CLOUDRESOURCES 1.12.7 Succeeded

or just login to your azure portal and have a look at it in the GUI under "Kubernetes services".

In Part 2 we will create an Azure Container Registry using 2 different methods, in which to store our application images ready for deployment.