Webinar Series: Deploying Stateful Services in Kubernetes

Published on April 11, 2018
Webinar Series: Deploying Stateful Services in Kubernetes

This article supplements a webinar series on deploying and managing containerized workloads in the cloud. The series covers the essentials of containers, including managing container lifecycles, deploying multi-container applications, scaling workloads, and working with Kubernetes. It also highlights best practices for running stateful applications.

This tutorial includes the concepts and commands in the fifth session of the series, Deploying Stateful Services in Kubernetes.


Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration tool for managing containerized applications. In the previous parts of this series, you learned the building blocks of Kubernetes and packaged containers as Kubernetes ReplicaSets. While ReplicaSets ensure the availability of stateless Pods, they cannot be used with stateful workloads such as database clusters.

While it may be easy to package, deploy, manage, and scale contemporary cloud-native applications in Kubernetes, deploying and managing traditional workloads such as databases and content management systems in a containerized environment calls for a different approach. StatefulSets bring the flexibility of Kubernetes ReplicaSet to stateful workloads.

In the final installment of this tutorial series, you will deploy a highly available MongoDB ReplicaSet in Kubernetes as a StatefulSet using Helm, a popular open source package manager for Kubernetes.


To complete this tutorial, you will need:

Step 1 – Installing the Helm Client on the Development Machine

With Helm, administrators can deploy complex Kubernetes applications with a single command. Applications are packaged as Charts that define, install, and upgrade Kubernetes applications. Charts provide an abstraction over Kubernetes objects such as Pods, Deployments, and Services.

Helm has two components–the server and the client. The server-side of Helm runs in Kubernetes as a Service called Tiller. The client is a command line tool that interacts with Tiller.

Since you are going to deploy a MongoDB ReplicaSet Helm Chart, you need the CLI that talks to Tiller, the server-side component of Helm. StackPointCloud, which you have used to set up Kubernetes on DigitalOcean, comes with Tiller preinstalled.

Note: These instructions are for macOS. If you are using other operating systems, please refer to the Helm installation guide.

Assuming you have Homebrew installed and configured on your Mac, run the following command to install Helm:

  1. brew install kubernetes-helm
==> Downloading https://homebrew.bintray.com/bottles/kubernetes-helm-2.8.2.high_sierra.bottle.tar.gz ... ==> Summary 🍺 /usr/local/Cellar/kubernetes-helm/2.8.2: 50 files, 121.7MB

Once Helm is installed, verify that you can run it by checking its current version.

  1. helm version
Client: &version.Version{SemVer:"v2.7.2", GitCommit:"8478fb4fc723885b155c924d1c8c410b7a9444e6", GitTreeState:"clean"} Server: &version.Version{SemVer:"v2.8.2", GitCommit:"a80231648a1473929271764b920a8e346f6de844", GitTreeState:"clean"}

This confirms that the client is installed properly and is able to talk to Tiller.

In the next step, we will use Helm to deploy the MongoDB ReplicaSet in Kubernetes.

Step 2 – Deploying the MongoDB ReplicaSet in Kubernetes

A StorageClass in Kubernetes provides a way for administrators to describe the “classes” of storage they offer. For example, when users request a storage volume, the StorageClass will determine what class of storage backend is provisioned from them. The classes may include standard HDD and a faster SSD. Behind the scenes, the StorageClass interacts with the underlying infrastructure such as a cloud provider’s API, to provision storage.

Since you need persistent storage to store MongoDB data, you may want to attach a DigitalOcean Block Storage volume to a worker node, and point the MongoDB Pod to use the storage volume for persistence.

In this case, the StorageClass acts as the interface between the Pod and the DigitalOcean block storage service. When you request a volume of block storage, the StorageClass talks to the preconfigured driver that knows how to allocate a block storage volume.

StackPointCloud installs the DigitalOcean storage driver and registers the StorageClass with Kubernetes during the setup. This saves us from the steps involved in installing and configuring the driver and the StorageClass.

Before we deploy the MongoDB cluster, let’s ensure that the StorageClass for DigitalOcean volumes is configured:

  1. kubectl get storageclass

The output confirms that StorageClass is configured and ready.

[secondary_label Output
NAME                     PROVISIONER                            AGE
digitalocean (default)   digitalocean/flex-volume-provisioner   1d

Next, you will configure and deploy the MongoDB ReplicaSet based on the DigitalOcean StorageClass.

Create a new directory for your project and switch to the new directory:

  1. mkdir ~/mongo-rs
  2. cd ~/mongo-rs

Clone the Helm Chart repository from GitHub:

  1. git clone https://github.com/kubernetes/charts.git

Navigate to the MongoDB ReplicaSet directory (charts/stable/mongodb-replicaset/) and verify that the file values.yaml exists.

  1. cd charts/stable/mongodb-replicaset/
  2. ls values.yaml

This file contains the parameters and configuration for the chart. You need to modify this file to configure the MongoDB ReplicaSet to use the DigitalOcean StorageClass.

Edit values.yaml:

  1. nano values.yaml

Find and uncomment the following section:

# storageClass: "-" 

Replace "-" with "digitalocean", like this:

storageClass: "digitalocean"

Save the file and exit your editor.

Now navigate to the ~/mongo-rs folder.

  1. cd ~/mongo-rs

You’re now ready to deploy the MongoDB ReplicaSet to your Kubernetes cluster, powered by DigitalOcean’s block storage. Run the following command to launch the database cluster.

  1. helm install --name=todo -f charts/stable/mongodb-replicaset/values.yaml stable/mongodb-replicaset

In the preceding command, --name refers to the name of the Helm chart. The switch -f points to the configuration settings stored in values.yaml.

You will immediately see the output confirming that the chart creation has started.

NAME: todo LAST DEPLOYED: Sat Mar 31 10:37:06 2018 NAMESPACE: default STATUS: DEPLOYED RESOURCES: ==> v1/Service NAME TYPE CLUSTER-IP EXTERNAL-IP PORT(S) AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset ClusterIP None <none> 27017/TCP 1s ==> v1beta1/StatefulSet NAME DESIRED CURRENT AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset 3 1 0s ==> v1/Pod(related) NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset-0 0/1 Init:0/2 0 0s ==> v1/ConfigMap NAME DATA AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset 1 1s todo-mongodb-replicaset-tests 1 1s NOTES: 1. After the statefulset is created completely, one can check which instance is primary by running: $ for ((i = 0; i < 3; ++i)); do kubectl exec --namespace default todo-mongodb-replicaset-$i -- sh -c 'mongo --eval="printjson(rs.isMaster())"'; done 2. One can insert a key into the primary instance of the mongodb replica set by running the following: MASTER_POD_NAME must be replaced with the name of the master found from the previous step. $ kubectl exec --namespace default MASTER_POD_NAME -- mongo --eval="printjson(db.test.insert({key1: 'value1'}))" 3. One can fetch the keys stored in the primary or any of the slave nodes in the following manner. POD_NAME must be replaced by the name of the pod being queried. $ kubectl exec --namespace default POD_NAME -- mongo --eval="rs.slaveOk(); db.test.find().forEach(printjson)"

Let’s now run a series of commands to track the status of the cluster.

First, look at the StatefulSet:

  1. kubectl get statefulset

This command confirms that the MongoDB ReplicaSet was created as a Kubernetes StatefulSet.

NAME DESIRED CURRENT AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset 3 2 2m

Now explore the Pods:

  1. kubectl get pods

The number of Pods and their naming convention indicates that the MongoDB ReplicaSet is successfully configured:

NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset-0 1/1 Running 0 3m todo-mongodb-replicaset-1 1/1 Running 0 1m todo-mongodb-replicaset-2 1/1 Running 0 54s

Notice that each Pod has a suffix that ends with a sequential number, which is a distinctive feature of a StatefulSet.

Let’s now check if the MongoDB instances are communicating with each other. We will do this by running a command in the MongoDB shell within one of the Pods.

Use kubectl to launch the mongo console on one of the hosts:

  1. kubectl exec -it todo-mongodb-replicaset-0 mongo

After connecting, you’ll find yourself in the MongoDB shell:

MongoDB shell version v3.6.3 connecting to: mongodb:// MongoDB server version: 3.6.3 Welcome to the MongoDB shell. For interactive help, type "help". ... 2018-03-31T05:08:20.239+0000 I CONTROL [initandlisten]

Check the ReplicaSet’s configuration with the following command:

  1. rs.conf()

The output confirms that there are three instances of MongoDB running as a ReplicaSet.

{ "_id" : "rs0", "version" : 3, "protocolVersion" : NumberLong(1), "members" : [ { "_id" : 0, "host" : "todo-mongodb-replicaset-0.todo-mongodb-replicaset.default.svc.cluster.local:27017", "arbiterOnly" : false, "buildIndexes" : true, "hidden" : false, "priority" : 1, "tags" : { }, "slaveDelay" : NumberLong(0), "votes" : 1 }, { "_id" : 1, "host" : "todo-mongodb-replicaset-1.todo-mongodb-replicaset.default.svc.cluster.local:27017", "arbiterOnly" : false, "buildIndexes" : true, "hidden" : false, "priority" : 1, "tags" : { }, "slaveDelay" : NumberLong(0), "votes" : 1 }, { "_id" : 2, "host" : "todo-mongodb-replicaset-2.todo-mongodb-replicaset.default.svc.cluster.local:27017", "arbiterOnly" : false, "buildIndexes" : true, "hidden" : false, "priority" : 1, "tags" : { }, "slaveDelay" : NumberLong(0), "votes" : 1 } ], "settings" : { "chainingAllowed" : true, "heartbeatIntervalMillis" : 2000, "heartbeatTimeoutSecs" : 10, "electionTimeoutMillis" : 10000, "catchUpTimeoutMillis" : -1, "catchUpTakeoverDelayMillis" : 30000, "getLastErrorModes" : { }, "getLastErrorDefaults" : { "w" : 1, "wtimeout" : 0 }, "replicaSetId" : ObjectId("5abdb4f61d952afc4b0b8218") } }

Exit the MongoDB console:

  1. exit

This will disconnect you from your remote host as well.

Let’s switch gears and check the DigitalOcean control panel for the block storage volumes associated with the cluster. Log in to your DigitalOcean account and select the Volumes tab:

Dashboard showing volumes

You can see that three volumes of 10GB each are attached to Kubernetes worker nodes. Each Pod of the MongoDB StatefulSet is storing the data in one of the block storage volumes. The size of 10GB is defined in values.yaml under the persistentVolume section.

  enabled: true
  ## mongodb-replicaset data Persistent Volume Storage Class
  ## If defined, storageClassName: <storageClass>
  ## If set to "-", storageClassName: "", which disables dynamic provisioning
  ## If undefined (the default) or set to null, no storageClassName spec is
  ##   set, choosing the default provisioner.  (gp2 on AWS, standard on
  ##   GKE, AWS & OpenStack)
  storageClass: digitalocean
    - ReadWriteOnce
  size: 10Gi
  annotations: {}

You have successfully configured a highly available MongoDB ReplicaSet running in Kubernetes.

Now let’s deploy the web application that talks to the MongoDB cluster.

Step 3 – Deploying and Scaling the Web Application in Kubernetes

Let’s extend the ToDo Node.js application we used in previous parts of this tutorial series to take advantage of the MongoDB cluster.

Note: You can also build the container image from the source code or use the YAML files in the Kubernetes files directly. Refer to the tutorial Deploying and Scaling Microservices in Kubernetes for steps on building the image and deploying the application to Kubernetes.

Start by creating a new working directory:

  1. mkdir ~/web-app
  2. cd ~/web-app

Then clone the ToDo application’s repository that contains the code and Kubernetes artifacts.

  1. git clone https://github.com/janakiramm/todo.git

Switch to the todo-app/kubernetes directory which contains the Kubernetes configuration files.

  1. cd todo-app/kubernetes

Open the file web-rs-ss.yaml in your editor.

  1. nano web-rs-ss.yaml

Notice the env section on the YAML file.

      - name: web 
        image: janakiramm/todo
          - name: "DBHOST"
            value: "mongodb://todo-mongodb-replicaset-0.todo-mongodb-replicaset,todo-mongodb-replicaset-1.todo-mongodb-replicaset,todo-mongodb-replicaset-2.todo-mongodb-replicaset:27017"
        - containerPort: 3000

This passes the database connection string to the application at runtime as an environment variable. Instead of pointing the application to a simple MongoDB Pod, this version of the app uses the StatefulSet you created. Each entry in the value section refers to one of the Pods of the MongoDB StatefulSet.

Use kubectl to deploy the web ReplicaSet along with the web Service

  1. kubectl create -f web-rs-ss.yaml -f web-service.yaml

You’ll see that both are created:

replicaset "web" created service "web" created

List the pods again:

  1. kubectl get pods

You now see all the Pods belonging to MongoDB and the web app.

NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset-0 1/1 Running 0 26m todo-mongodb-replicaset-1 1/1 Running 0 24m todo-mongodb-replicaset-2 1/1 Running 0 23m web-t5zzk 1/1 Running 0 17s web-x6dh8 1/1 Running 0 17s Let’s check out the Kubernetes services ​```command kubectl get svc
NAME TYPE CLUSTER-IP EXTERNAL-IP PORT(S) AGE kubernetes ClusterIP <none> 443/TCP 1d todo-mongodb-replicaset ClusterIP None <none> 27017/TCP 27m web NodePort <none> 3000:31201/TCP 14s

The web Pods talk to the MongoDB cluster through the todo-mongodb-replicaset Service. The web application is available through the web Service on NodePort 31201.

Accessing this port on any of the worker nodes shows the web application.

The live Todo list app

You can scale the web application by increasing the number of Pods in the ReplicaSet.

  1. kubectl scale rs/web --replicas=10
replicaset "web" scaled

You can then scale the application back to two Pods.

  1. kubectl scale rs/web --replicas=2
replicaset "web" scaled

Now let’s run some tests for availability.

Step 4 – Testing the MongoDB ReplicaSet for High Availability

One of the advantages of running a StatefulSet is the high availability of workloads. Let’s test this by deleting one of the Pods in the MongoDB StatefulSet.

  1. kubectl delete pod todo-mongodb-replicaset-2
pod "todo-mongodb-replicaset-2" deleted

Check the number of Pods:

  1. kubectl get pods

You’ll see that todo-mongodb-replicaset-2 is terminating:

NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGE todo-mongodb-replicaset-0 1/1 Running 0 33m todo-mongodb-replicaset-1 1/1 Running 0 32m todo-mongodb-replicaset-2 0/1 Terminating 0 31m web-t5zzk 1/1 Running 0 8m web-x6dh8 1/1 Running 0 8m

Within a few minutes, you will see that Kubernetes initializes another Pod to replace the deleted one.

  1. kubectl get pods

You’ll see todo-mongodb-replicaset-2 is initializing:

NAME                        READY     STATUS     RESTARTS   AGE
todo-mongodb-replicaset-0   1/1       Running    0          34m
todo-mongodb-replicaset-1   1/1       Running    0          33m
todo-mongodb-replicaset-2   0/1       Init:0/2   0          29s
web-t5zzk                   1/1       Running    0          8m
web-x6dh8                   1/1       Running    0          8m

Now that you know everything works, you can clean things up.

Delete all the objects created during this tutorial with the following commands:

  1. helm delete --purge todo
  1. kubectl delete -f web-rs-ss.yaml -f web-service.yaml
replicaset "web" deleted service "web" deleted

To delete the Kubernetes cluster itself, visit StackPointCloud and do so through their control panel.


In this tutorial, you deployed a durable, persistent, highly available, MonogDB ReplicaSet as a Kubernetes StatefulSet. You also learned how to access the StatefulSet from other applications deployed in the same Kubernetes cluster.

Thanks for learning with the DigitalOcean Community. Check out our offerings for compute, storage, networking, and managed databases.

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Tutorial Series: Webinar Series: Deploying & Managing Containerized Workloads in the Cloud

This series covers the essentials of containers, including container lifecycle management, deploying multi-container applications, scaling workloads, and understanding Kubernetes, along with highlighting best practices for running stateful applications. These tutorials supplement the by the same name.

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The video tutorial can be seen here:


Instead of

digitalocean (default) digitalocean/flex-volume-provisioner

I have

do-block-storage (default) com.digitalocean.csi.dobs

This prevents the application to deploy. I get a warning that says:

Warning FailedScheduling 2m (x37 over 12m) default-scheduler pod has unbound PersistentVolumeClaims (repeated 2 times)

How to fix this?

i recommend using containership.io instead of stackpoint, since stackpoint is paid and containership is always free and comes already with DO storage class for block storage.

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