This section describes how to install a Kubernetes cluster. This cluster should be dedicated to run only the Rancher server.
For Rancher before v2.4, Rancher should be installed on an RKE Kubernetes cluster. RKE is a CNCF-certified Kubernetes distribution that runs entirely within Docker containers.
As of Rancher v2.4, the Rancher management server can be installed on either an RKE cluster or a K3s Kubernetes cluster. K3s is also a fully certified Kubernetes distribution released by Rancher, but is newer than RKE. We recommend installing Rancher on K3s because K3s is easier to use, and more lightweight, with a binary size of less than 100 MB. Note: After Rancher is installed on an RKE cluster, there is no migration path to a K3s setup at this time.
The Rancher management server can only be run on Kubernetes cluster in an infrastructure provider where Kubernetes is installed using RKE or K3s. Use of Rancher on hosted Kubernetes providers, such as EKS, is not supported.
For systems without direct internet access, refer to Air Gap: Kubernetes install.
Single-node Installation Tip: In a single-node Kubernetes cluster, the Rancher server does not have high availability, which is important for running Rancher in production. However, installing Rancher on a single-node cluster can be useful if you want to save resources by using a single node in the short term, while preserving a high-availability migration path.
To set up a single-node RKE cluster, configure only one node in the
cluster.yml. The single node should have all three roles:
In both single-node setups, Rancher can be installed with Helm on the Kubernetes cluster in the same way that it would be installed on any other cluster.
Required CLI Tools
Install kubectl, a Kubernetes command-line tool.
Also install RKE, the Rancher Kubernetes Engine, a Kubernetes distribution and command-line tool.
1. Create the cluster configuration file
In this section, you will create a Kubernetes cluster configuration file called
rancher-cluster.yml. In a later step, when you set up the cluster with an RKE command, it will use this file to install Kubernetes on your nodes.
Using the sample below as a guide, create the
rancher-cluster.yml file. Replace the IP addresses in the
nodes list with the IP address or DNS names of the 3 nodes you created.
If your node has public and internal addresses, it is recommended to set the
internal_address: so Kubernetes will use it for intra-cluster communication. Some services like AWS EC2 require setting the
internal_address: if you want to use self-referencing security groups or firewalls.
RKE will need to connect to each node over SSH, and it will look for a private key in the default location of
~/.ssh/id_rsa. If your private key for a certain node is in a different location than the default, you will also need to configure the
ssh_key_path option for that node.
nodes: - address: 126.96.36.199 internal_address: 172.16.22.12 user: ubuntu role: [controlplane, worker, etcd] - address: 188.8.131.52 internal_address: 172.16.32.37 user: ubuntu role: [controlplane, worker, etcd] - address: 184.108.40.206 internal_address: 172.16.42.73 user: ubuntu role: [controlplane, worker, etcd] services: etcd: snapshot: true creation: 6h retention: 24h # Required for external TLS termination with # ingress-nginx v0.22+ ingress: provider: nginx options: use-forwarded-headers: "true"
||yes||The public DNS or IP address|
||yes||A user that can run docker commands|
||yes||List of Kubernetes roles assigned to the node|
||no||The private DNS or IP address for internal cluster traffic|
||no||Path to SSH private key used to authenticate to the node (defaults to
Advanced Configurations: RKE has many configuration options for customizing the install to suit your specific environment.
Please see the RKE Documentation for the full list of options and capabilities.
For tuning your etcd cluster for larger Rancher installations, see the etcd settings guide.
2. Run RKE
rke up --config ./rancher-cluster.yml
When finished, it should end with the line:
Finished building Kubernetes cluster successfully.
3. Test Your Cluster
This section describes how to set up your workspace so that you can interact with this cluster using the
kubectl command-line tool.
Assuming you have installed
kubectl, you need to place the
kubeconfig file in a location where
kubectl can reach it. The
kubeconfig file contains the credentials necessary to access your cluster with
When you ran
rke up, RKE should have created a
kubeconfig file named
kube_config_rancher-cluster.yml. This file has the credentials for
Note: If you have used a different file name from
rancher-cluster.yml, then the kube config file will be named
Move this file to
$HOME/.kube/config, or if you are working with multiple Kubernetes clusters, set the
KUBECONFIG environmental variable to the path of
Test your connectivity with
kubectl and see if all your nodes are in
kubectl get nodes NAME STATUS ROLES AGE VERSION 220.127.116.11 Ready controlplane,etcd,worker 11m v1.13.5 18.104.22.168 Ready controlplane,etcd,worker 11m v1.13.5 22.214.171.124 Ready controlplane,etcd,worker 11m v1.13.5
4. Check the Health of Your Cluster Pods
Check that all the required pods and containers are healthy are ready to continue.
- Pods are in
READYcolumn shows all the containers are running (i.e.
3/3) for pods with
- Pods with
Completedare run-once Jobs. For these pods
kubectl get pods --all-namespaces NAMESPACE NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGE ingress-nginx nginx-ingress-controller-tnsn4 1/1 Running 0 30s ingress-nginx nginx-ingress-controller-tw2ht 1/1 Running 0 30s ingress-nginx nginx-ingress-controller-v874b 1/1 Running 0 30s kube-system canal-jp4hz 3/3 Running 0 30s kube-system canal-z2hg8 3/3 Running 0 30s kube-system canal-z6kpw 3/3 Running 0 30s kube-system kube-dns-7588d5b5f5-sf4vh 3/3 Running 0 30s kube-system kube-dns-autoscaler-5db9bbb766-jz2k6 1/1 Running 0 30s kube-system metrics-server-97bc649d5-4rl2q 1/1 Running 0 30s kube-system rke-ingress-controller-deploy-job-bhzgm 0/1 Completed 0 30s kube-system rke-kubedns-addon-deploy-job-gl7t4 0/1 Completed 0 30s kube-system rke-metrics-addon-deploy-job-7ljkc 0/1 Completed 0 30s kube-system rke-network-plugin-deploy-job-6pbgj 0/1 Completed 0 30s
This confirms that you have successfully installed a Kubernetes cluster that the Rancher server will run on.
5. Save Your Files
Important The files mentioned below are needed to maintain, troubleshoot and upgrade your cluster.
Save a copy of the following files in a secure location:
rancher-cluster.yml: The RKE cluster configuration file.
kube_config_rancher-cluster.yml: The Kubeconfig file for the cluster, this file contains credentials for full access to the cluster.
rancher-cluster.rkestate: The Kubernetes Cluster State file, this file contains credentials for full access to the cluster.
The Kubernetes Cluster State file is only created when using RKE v0.2.0 or higher.
Note: The “rancher-cluster” parts of the two latter file names are dependent on how you name the RKE cluster configuration file.
Issues or errors?
See the Troubleshooting page.