Checking Out Rancher 2.0 with Kops AWS Clusters

Gray Calendar Icon Published: October 27, 2017
Gray Calendar Icon Updated: January 26, 2021

One of the hallmark features of Rancher 2.0 is its ability to consume Kubernetes clusters from anywhere. In this post, I’m going to walk you through using the popular kops tool to create and manage Kubernetes clusters on AWS and then bring them under Rancher 2.0 management. This walkthrough will help you create a non-HA Kubernetes cluster, though kops does support HA configurations. With this new cluster, we will run the Rancher 2.0 tech preview in a pod with a persistent volume claim.


To follow along, you will need a properly configured kops setup, as outlined in the kops AWS Getting Started Guide. The AWS guide will walk you through setting up:

  • AWS CLI configuration
  • Working DNS managed by Route 53
  • IAM roles configured for EC2 resources
  • The S3 kops State Store
  • Installation of the kops tool
  • Installation of the kubectl CLI

Creating Your Rancher-Kubernetes Cluster

First, we will set some environment variables to make typing less painful on the CLI. Set a NAME for your cluster:


If you do not already have one, create a state store bucket:

aws s3 mb s3://cloudnautique-s3-bucket-for-cluster-state

Then, set an environment variable:

export KOPS_STATE_STORE=s3://cloudnautique-s3-bucket-for-cluster-state

Of note, for this post, I’m going to use real DNS managed by Route53. The domain above is a managed Route53 zone. Let’s create the cluster:

kops create cluster --zones us-west-1b --node-count 1 ${NAME}

This command generates a cluster in a single zone, us-west-1b, with a single worker node. Next, actually deploy the cluster:

kops update cluster ${NAME} --yes

It will take 10-15 minutes to provision. Now would be a good time to take a walk or get a cup of coffee. You can check the status of the cluster using the command:

kops validate cluster

Here’s an example for this cluster:

> kops validate cluster
Using cluster from kubectl context:

Validating cluster

master-us-west-1b   Master  m3.medium   1   1   us-west-1b
nodes           Node    t2.medium   1   1   us-west-1b

NAME                        ROLE    READY master  True node    True

Your cluster is ready

Once the cluster is up and running, we can start interacting with it via kubectl.

kubectl get nodes

To see the pods currently running, enter this command:

kubectl -n kube-system get pods

Now, let’s deploy our Rancher 2.0 server container. First, create a namespace for our app.

kubectl create ns rancher-server

You can deploy the Rancher server stack below after you replace the ###YOUR DNSNAME### variable with the domain name you want to use for the Rancher UI.

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
  name: rancher-db-claim
  storageClassName: default
    - ReadWriteOnce
      storage: 10Gi
apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
kind: Deployment
    run: rancher-server
  name: rancher-server
  replicas: 1
      run: rancher-server
  strategy: {}
        run: rancher-server
      - image: rancher/server:v2.0.0-alpha7
        name: rancher-server
          - mountPath: "/var/lib/mysql"
            name: rancher-db
            subPath: mysql
        - name: rancher-db
            claimName: rancher-db-claim
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: rancher
  annotations: ###YOUR DNS NAME### '*'
    run: rancher-server
    - protocol: TCP
      port: 80
      targetPort: 8080
  type: LoadBalancer

After a few minutes, you should be able to visit http://##YOURDNSNAME### and load up the UI. A future improvement would be to add TLS termination at the ELB, which kops supports. You can optionally register your management cluster into Rancher. This will deploy the Kubernetes Dashboard, giving you access to kubectl from the Rancher UI. To do so, when you visit the Rancher UI, select Use existing Kubernetes. Then, copy and paste the kubectl command that displays, and run it from your CLI.

Adding a User Cluster

Now that we have a Kubernetes cluster to manage our Rancher server cluster, let’s add an additional cluster for our user workload and to checkout Rancher 2.0’s multi-cluster management. In this case, we are going to deploy into the same VPC as the Rancher management cluster to save on resources. Going this route is not a hard requirement for Rancher. We will need the VPC ID. Assuming you have Jq installed, you can use the following command:

export VPC=$(aws ec2 describe-vpcs --region us-west-1 --filters Name=tag:Name,Values="${NAME}" |grep -v ^kops|jq -r .Vpcs[].VpcId)

Then, let’s set our development cluster name environment variable:


Now it’s time to create our cluster:

kops create cluster --zones us-west-1b --node-count 3 --vpc ${VPC} ${DEV_NAME}

This time we still deploy to the same availability zone, but we will deploy three worker nodes instead of just a single node. Also, we need to edit out cluster configuration to ensure that our subnets do not overlap.

kops edit cluster --name ${DEV_NAME}

You should see your VPCID and CIDR configured properly under the following keys:

networkID: ${VPC}

If the networkCIDR is incorrect, now is the time to set it to the VPC CIDR. You can find this setting by editing your management cluster kops edit cluster. You also need to edit the subnets CIDR so that it’s non-overlapping with the management cluster. For this, we set it to Now, let’s deploy our cluster:

kops update cluster ${DEV_NAME} --yes

It will take a few minutes to provision. While that is happening, you can go to the Rancher UI and click Manage Clusters from the Environment menu in the right-hand corner. Manage
Clusters On the Clusters & Environments page, click Add Cluster. Add a
Cluster Provide the cluster a name. Name the
Cluster Select Use existing Kubernetes to import your existing cluster. Import
K8s Copy the command. Copy the
Command Before running the registration command, verify your kubectl command is using the correct context:

kubectl config current-context

This should show the development cluster we created above. If it doesn’t, go ahead and set it to the second cluster’s context.

kubectl config set-context ${DEV_NAME}

Replace NAME with the development cluster defined above. In the case of this example, it is On your command line, paste the command copied from above and register your development cluster. Now, when you click the Hosts tab, you see the three hosts registered into the environment. View the
Hosts You are now ready to use your Rancher environment to deploy apps from the Catalog, or from your compose files. Once you are done playing, you can clean up all of your resources with this command:

kops delete cluster ${DEV_NAME} --yes

Then, switch to the management cluster and do the same:

kops delete cluster ${NAME} --yes


Now you can see how easy it is to bring in multiple Kubernetes clusters within Rancher 2.0. Kubernetes clusters from kops are just one type of cluster you can use; you can consume Kubernetes from Google’s GKE, DigitalOcean, or Azure. Rancher 2.0 continues to forge ahead with the cross-cloud container story by allowing users flexibility to run to where they need. We hope you’ll give Rancher 2.0 a try!

About the Author

MaxwellBill Maxwell is a senior software engineer at Rancher Labs. He has extensive experience in software engineering and operations, and he has led continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) initiatives. Prior to Rancher Labs, Bill worked at GoDaddy in engineering, development, and managing various cloud services product deployments. He holds a Masters in Information Management degree from Arizona State University and has a BSEE in Electrical Engineering from California State Polytechnic University.

Get started with Rancher