Kubernetes integration - development guidelines

This document provides various guidelines when developing for GitLab’s Kubernetes integration.



Some Kubernetes operations, such as creating restricted project namespaces are performed on the GitLab Rails application. These operations are performed using a client library. These operations will carry an element of risk as the operations will be run as the same user running the GitLab Rails application, see the security section below.

Some Kubernetes operations, such as installing cluster applications are performed on one-off pods on the Kubernetes cluster itself. These installation pods are currently named install-<application_name> and are created within the gitlab-managed-apps namespace.

In terms of code organization, we generally add objects that represent Kubernetes resources in lib/gitlab/kubernetes.

Client library

We use the kubeclient gem to perform Kubernetes API calls. As the kubeclient gem does not support different API Groups (e.g. apis/rbac.authorization.k8s.io) from a single client, we have created a wrapper class, Gitlab::Kubernetes::KubeClient that will enable you to achieve this.

Selected Kubernetes API groups are currently supported. Do add support for new API groups or methods to Gitlab::Kubernetes::KubeClient if you need to use them. New API groups or API group versions can be added to SUPPORTED_API_GROUPS - internally, this will create an internal client for that group. New methods can be added as a delegation to the relevant internal client.

Performance considerations

All calls to the Kubernetes API must be in a background process. Do not perform Kubernetes API calls within a web request as this will block unicorn and can easily lead to a Denial Of Service (DoS) attack in GitLab as the Kubernetes cluster response times are outside of our control.

The easiest way to ensure your calls happen a background process is to delegate any such work to happen in a sidekiq worker.

There are instances where you would like to make calls to Kubernetes and return the response and as such a background worker does not seem to be a good fit. For such cases you should make use of reactive caching. For example:

  def calculate_reactive_cache!
    { pods: cluster.platform_kubernetes.kubeclient.get_pods }

  def pods
    with_reactive_cache do |data|


We have some Webmock stubs in KubernetesHelpers which can help with mocking out calls to Kubernetes API in your tests.



As URLs for Kubernetes clusters are user controlled it is easily susceptible to Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF) attacks. You should understand the mitigation strategies if you are adding more API calls to a cluster.

Mitigation strategies include:

  1. Not allowing redirects to attacker controller resources: Kubeclient::KubeClient can be configured to disallow any redirects by passing in http_max_redirects: 0 as an option.
  2. Not exposing error messages: by doing so, we prevent attackers from triggering errors to expose results from attacker controlled requests. For example, we do not expose (or store) raw error messages:

    rescue Kubernetes::HttpError => e
      # bad
      # app.make_errored!("Kubernetes error: #{e.message}")
      # good
      app.make_errored!("Kubernetes error: #{e.error_code}")


Logs related to the Kubernetes integration can be found in kubernetes.log. On a local GDK install, this will be present in log/kubernetes.log.

Some services such as Clusters::Applications::InstallService rescues StandardError which can make it harder to debug issues in an development environment. The current workaround is to temporarily comment out the rescue in your local development source.

You can also follow the installation pod logs to debug issues related to installation. Once the installation/upgrade is underway, wait for the pod to be created. Then run the following to obtain the pods logs as they are written:

kubectl logs <pod_name> --follow -n gitlab-managed-apps