When you deploy Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), by default the API server is publicly made available. That means it has a public IP address and an Azure-assigned name that’s resolvable by public DNS servers. To secure access, you can use authorized IP ranges.
As an alternative, you can deploy a private AKS cluster. That means the AKS API server gets an IP address in a private Azure virtual network. Most customers I work with use this option to comply with security policies. When you deploy a private AKS cluster, you still need a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) that resolves to the private IP address. There are several options you can use:
System (the default option): AKS creates a Private DNS Zone in the Node Resource Group; any virtual network that is linked to that Private DNS Zone can resolve the name; the virtual network used by AKS is automatically linked to the Private DNS Zone
None: default to public DNS; AKS creates a name for your cluster in a public DNS zone that resolves to the private IP address
Custom Private DNS Zone: AKS uses a Private DNS Zone that you or another team has created beforehand; this is mostly used in enterprise scenarios when the Private DNS Zones are integrated with custom DNS servers (e.g., on AD domain controllers, Infoblox, …)
The first two options, System and None, are discussed in the video below:
The third option, custom Private DNS Zone, is discussed in a separate video:
With the custom DNS option, you cannot use any name you like. The Private DNS Zone has to be like: privatelink.<region>.azmk8s.io. For instance, if you deploy your AKS cluster in West Europe, the Private DNS Zone’s name should be privatelink.westeurope.azmk8s.io. There is an option to use a subdomain as well.
When you use the custom DNS option, you also need to use a user-assigned Managed Identity for the AKS control plane. To make the registration of the A record in the Private DNS Zone work, in addition to linking the Private DNS Zone to the virtual network, the managed identity needs the following roles (at least):
Private DNS Zone Contributor role on the Private DNS Zone
Network Contributor role on the virtual network used by AKS
az aks create \
--resource-group RGNAME \
--name aks-private \
--network-plugin azure \
--vnet-subnet-id "resourceId of AKS subnet" \
--docker-bridge-address 172.17.0.1/16 \
--dns-service-ip 10.3.0.10 \
--service-cidr 10.3.0.0/24 \
--assign-identity "resourceId of user-assigned managed identity" \
--load-balancer-sku standard \
--private-dns-zone "resourceId of Private DNS Zone"
The option that is easiest to use is the None option. You do not have to worry about Private DNS Zones and it just works. That option, at the time of this writing (June 2021) is still in preview and needs to be enabled on your subscription. In most cases though, I see enterprises go for the third option where the Private DNS Zones are created beforehand and integrated with custom DNS.
A while ago, I blogged about an Azure YAML pipeline to deploy AKS together with Traefik. As a variation on that theme, this post talks about deploying AKS together with Nginx, External DNS, a Helm Operator and Flux CD. I blogged about Flux before if you want to know what it does.
Let’s break the pipeline down a little. In what follows, replace AzureMPN with a reference to your own subscription. The first two tasks, AKS deployment and IP address deployment are ARM templates that deploy these resources in Azure. Nothing too special there. Note that the AKS cluster is one with default networking, no Azure AD integration and without VMSS (so no multiple node pools either).
Note: I modified the pipeline to deploy a VMSS-based cluster with a standard load balancer, which is recommended instead of a cluster based on an availability set with a basic load balancer.
The third task takes the output of the IP address deployment and parses out the IP address using jq (last echo statement on one line):
For External DNS to work, I found I had to set controller.publishService.enabled=true. As you can see, the Nginx service is configured to use the IP we created earlier. Azure will create a load balancer with a front end IP configuration that uses this address. This all happens automatically.
Note: controller.metrics.enabled enables a Prometheus scraping endpoint; that is not discussed further in this blog
External DNS can automatically add DNS records for ingresses and services you add to Kubernetes. For instance, if I create an ingress for test.baeke.info, External DNS can create this record in the baeke.info zone and use the IP address of the Ingress Controller (nginx here). Installation is pretty straightforward but you need to provide credentials to your DNS provider. In my case, I use CloudFlare. Many others are available. Here is the task:
On CloudFlare, I created a token that has the required access rights to my zone (read, edit). I provide that token to the chart via the CFAPIToken variable defined as a secret on the pipeline. The valueFile looks like this:
In the beginning, it’s best to set the logLevel to debug in case things go wrong. With interval 1m, External DNS checks for ingresses and services every minute and syncs with your DNS zone. Note that External DNS only touches the records it created. It does so by creating TXT records that provide a record that External DNS is indeed the owner.
With External DNS in place, you just need to create an ingress like below to have the A record real.baeke.info created:
This installs the latest version of the operator at the time of this writing (image.repository and image.tag) and also sets Helm to v3. With this installed, you can install a Helm chart by submitting files like below:
The gitURL variable should be set to a git repo that contains your cluster configuration. For instance: gbaeke/demo-clu-flux. Flux will check the repo for changes every minute. Note that we are using a public repo here. Private repos and systems other than GitHub are supported.
Add a simple app that uses a Go socket.io implementation to provide realtime updates based on Redis channel content; this app is published via nginx and real.baeke.info is created in DNS (by External DNS)
Adds a ConfigMap that is used to configure Azure Monitor to enable Prometheus endpoint scraping (to show this can be used for any object you need to add to Kubernetes)
Note that the ingress of the Go app has an annotation (in realtime.yaml, in the git repo) to issue a certificate via cert-manager. If you want to make that work, add an extra task to the pipeline that installs cert-manager:
You will also need to create another namespace, cert-manager, just like we created the fluxcd namespace.
In order to make the above work, you will need Issuers or ClusterIssuers. The repo used by Flux CD contains two ClusterIssuers, one for Let’s Encrypt staging and one for production. The ingress resource uses the production issuer due to the following annotation:
With that knowledge in your bag, it would seem that a CNAME record is the way to map inity.io to somedomain.netlify.com. Sadly, that is not the case because CNAMEs cannot coexist with other records for the domain. In the case of the root or apex domain, there are existing records for the root domain such as the NS records.
If your DNS provider supports ALIAS records, you are in luck. From a high level, an ALIAS record works like a CNAME record although there are several lower level differences we won’t all go into.
Since I use namecheap.com and they support ALIAS records, it was easy to map inity.io to somedomain.netlify.com:
The ALIAS record only supports a 1 or 5 minute TTL. The host is @ which represents the root domain. Notice I also redirect http://www.inity.io to the Netlify domain with a regular CNAME.
What does dig say?
Let’s look at what dig returns for both the ALIAS and CNAME record. Here’s the dig output for ALIAS (with some lines removed):
λ geba:~ dig inity.io
;; ANSWER SECTION:
inity.io. 300 IN A 126.96.36.199
The authoritative server does all the work here and returns the IP address directly to you. That does not happen for the CNAME:
λ geba:~ dig www.inity.io
;; ANSWER SECTION:
www.inity.io. 1799 IN CNAME optimistic-panini-9caddc.netlify.com.
optimistic-panini-9caddc.netlify.com. 20 IN A 188.8.131.52
Some more work needs to be done here since you get back the CNAME record which then needs to be resolved to the IP address.
What about Azure and Front Door?
If you work with Front Door and want to map the root or apex domain to a Front Door frontend such as my.azurefd.net, the same issue arises. The Microsoft docs contain a good article explaining the concepts: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/frontdoor/front-door-how-to-onboard-apex-domain. From that document, you will learn that Azure DNS also supports “aliases” with an easy dropdown list to select your Front Door frontend host. If you want to use SSL for the frontend host, you will need to bring your own certificate because automatic certificates are not supported with APEX domains.
Note that you do not have to use Azure DNS. An ALIAS record at NameCheap or other providers would work equally well. CloudFlare also supports APEX domains via CNAME Flattening. Just don’t use GoDaddy. 😲