Virtualisation, Storage and various other ramblings.

Category: Microservices (Page 1 of 7)

Evaluating Harvester in vSphere

Disclaimer – The use of nested virtualisation is not a supported topology

Harvester is an open-source HCI solution aimed at managing Virtual Machines, similar to vSphere and Nutanix, with key differences including (but not limited to):

  • Fully Open Source
  • Leveraging Kubernetes-native technologies
  • Integration with Rancher

Testing/evaluating any hyperconverged solution can be difficult – It usually requires having dedicated hardware as these solutions are designed to work directly on bare metal. However, we can circumvent this by leveraging nested virtualisation – something which may be familiar with a lot of homelabbers (myself included) – which involves using an existing virtualisation solution provision workloads that also leverage virtualisation technology.

Step 1 – Planning

To mimic what a production-like system may look like, two NICs will be leveraged – one that facilitates management traffic, and the other for Virtual Machine traffic, as depicted below

MGMT network and VM Network will manifest as VDS Port groups.

Also, download and make available the latest ISO for harvester

Step 2 – Create vDS Port Groups

It is highly recommended to create new Distributed Port groups for this exercise, mainly because of the configuration we will be applying in the next step.

Create a new vDS Port Group:

Give the port group a name, such as harvester-mgmt

Adjust any configuration (ie VLAN ID) to match your environment (if required). Or accept the defaults:

Repeat this process to create the harvester-vm Port group. We should now have two port groups:

  • harvester-mgmt
  • harvester-vm

Step 3 – Enable MAC learning on Port groups [Critical]

William Lam has an excellent post on how to accomplish this. This is required for Harvester (or any hypervisor) to function correctly when operating in a nested environment.

Set-MacLearn -DVPortgroupName @("harvester-mgmt") -EnableMacLearn $true -EnablePromiscuous $false -EnableForgedTransmit $true -EnableMacChange $false

Set-MacLearn -DVPortgroupName @("harvester-vm") -EnableMacLearn $true -EnablePromiscuous $false -EnableForgedTransmit $true -EnableMacChange $false

Step 4 – Creating a Harvester VM

Our Harvester VM will operate like any other VM, with some important differences. In vSphere, go through the standard VM creation wizard to specify the Host/Datastore options. When presented with the OS type, select Other Linux (64 bit).

When customising the hardware, select Expose hardware assisted virtualization to the guest OS – This is crucial, as without this selected Harvester will not install.

Add an additional network card so that our VM leverages both previously created port groups:

And finally, mount the Harvester ISO image.

Step 4 – Install Harvester

Power on the VM and providing the ISO is mounted and connected, you should be presented with the install screen. As this is the first node, select create a new Harvester Cluster

Select the Install target and optional MBR partitioning

Configure the hostname, management nic and IP assignment options.

Configure the DNS config:

Configure the Harvester VIP. This is what we will use to access the Web UI. This can also be obtained via DHCP if desired.

Configure the cluster token, this is required if you want to add more nodes later on.

Configure the local Password:

Configure the NTP server Address:

If desired, the subsequent options facilitate importing SSH keys, reading a remote config, etc which are optional. A summary will be presented before the install begins:

Proceed with the install.

Note : After a reboot, it may take a few minutes before harvester reports as being in a ready state – Once it does, navigate to the reported management URL.

At which point you will be prompted to reset the admin password

Step 5 – Configure VM Network

Once logged in to Harvester navigate to Hosts > Edit Config

Configure the secondary NIC to the VLAN network (our VM network)

Navigate to Settings > VLAN > Edit

Click “Enable” and select the default interface to the secondary interface. This will be the default for any new nodes that join the cluster.

To create a network for our VM’s to reside in, select Network > Create:

Give this network a name and a VLAN ID. Note – you can supply VLAN ID 1 if you’re using the native/default VLAN.

Step 6 – Test VM Network

Firstly, create a new image:

For this example, we can use an ISO image. After supplying the URL Harvester will download and store the image:

After downloading, we can create a VM from it:

Specify the VM specs (CPU and Mem)

Under Volumes, add an additional volume to act as the installation target for the OS (Or leave if purely wanting to use a live ISO):

Under Networks, change the selection to the VM network that was previously created and click “Create”:

Once the VM is in running state, we can take a VNC console to it:

At which point we can interact with it as we would expect with any HCI solution:

Creating Kubernetes Clusters with Rancher and Pulumi

tldr; Here is the code repo


My Job at Suse (via Rancher) involves hosting a lot of demos, product walk-throughs and various other activities that necessitate spinning up tailored environments on-demand. To facilitate this, I previously leaned towards Terraform, and have since curated a list of individual scripts I have to manage on an individual basis as they address a specific use case.

This approach reached a point where it became difficult to manage. Ideally, I wanted an IaC environment that catered for:

  • Easy, in-code looping (ie for and range)
  • “Proper” condition handling, ie if monitoring == true, install monitoring vs the slightly awkward HCL equivalent of repurposing count as a sudo-replacement for condition handling.
  • Influence what’s installed by config options/vars.
  • Complete end-to end creation of cluster objects, in my example, create:
    • AWS EC2 VPC
    • AWS Subnets
    • AWS AZ’s
    • AWS IGW
    • AWS Security Group
    • 1x Rancher provisioned EC2 cluster
    • 3x single node K3S clusters used for Fleet
Architectural Overview

Pulumi addresses these requirements pretty comprehensively. Additionally, I can re-use existing logic from my Terraform code as the Rancher2 Pulumi provider is based on the Terraform implementation, but I can leverage Go tools/features to build my environment.

Code Tour – Core

The core objects are created directly, using types from the Pulumi packages:


// Create AWS VPC
vpc, err := ec2.NewVpc(ctx, "david-pulumi-vpc", &ec2.VpcArgs{
	CidrBlock:          pulumi.String(""),
	Tags:               pulumi.StringMap{"Name": pulumi.String("david-pulumi-vpc")},
	EnableDnsHostnames: pulumi.Bool(true),
	EnableDnsSupport:   pulumi.Bool(true),

You will notice some interesting types in the above – such as pulumi.Bool and pulumi.String. The reason for this is, we need to treat cloud deployments as asynchronous operations. Some values we will know at runtime (expose port 80), some will only be known at runtime (the ID of a VPC, as below). These Pulumi types are a facilitator of this asynchronous paradigm.


// Create IGW
igw, err := ec2.NewInternetGateway(ctx, "david-pulumi-gw", &ec2.InternetGatewayArgs{
	VpcId: vpc.ID(),

Moving to something slightly more complex, such as looping around regions and assigning a subnet to each:

// Get the list of AZ's for the defined region
azState := "available"
zoneList, err := aws.GetAvailabilityZones(ctx, &aws.GetAvailabilityZonesArgs{
	State: &azState,

if err != nil {
	return err

//How many AZ's to spread nodes across. Default to 3.
zoneNumber := 3
zones := []string{"a", "b", "c"}

var subnets []*ec2.Subnet

// Iterate through the AZ's for the VPC and create a subnet in each
for i := 0; i < zoneNumber; i++ {
	subnet, err := ec2.NewSubnet(ctx, "david-pulumi-subnet-"+strconv.Itoa(i), &ec2.SubnetArgs{
		AvailabilityZone:    pulumi.String(zoneList.Names[i]),
		Tags:                pulumi.StringMap{"Name": pulumi.String("david-pulumi-subnet-" + strconv.Itoa(i))},
		VpcId:               vpc.ID(),
		CidrBlock:           pulumi.String("10.0." + strconv.Itoa(i) + ".0/24"),
		MapPublicIpOnLaunch: pulumi.Bool(true),

This is repeated for each type

Code Tour – Config

The config file allows us to store information required by providers (unless using env variables or something externally) and values that we can use to influence the resources that are created. In particular, I added the following boolean values:

  Rancher-Demo-Env:installCIS: false
  Rancher-Demo-Env:installIstio: false
  Rancher-Demo-Env:installLogging: false
  Rancher-Demo-Env:installLonghorn: false
  Rancher-Demo-Env:installMonitoring: false
  Rancher-Demo-Env:installOPA: false
  Rancher-Demo-Env:installFleetClusters: false

This directly influence what will be created in my main demo cluster, as well as individual “Fleet” clusters. Within the main Pulumi code, these values are extracted:

conf := config.New(ctx, "")
InstallIstio := conf.GetBool("installIstio")
installOPA := conf.GetBool("installOPA")
installCIS := conf.GetBool("installCIS")
installLogging := conf.GetBool("installLogging")
installLonghorn := conf.GetBool("installLonghorn")
installMonitoring := conf.GetBool("installMonitoring")
installFleetClusters := conf.GetBool("installFleetClusters")

Because of this, native condition handling can be leveraged to influence what’s created:

if installIstio {
	_, err := rancher2.NewAppV2(ctx, "istio", &rancher2.AppV2Args{
		ChartName:    pulumi.String("rancher-istio"),
		ClusterId:    cluster.ID(),
		Namespace:    pulumi.String("istio-system"),
		RepoName:     pulumi.String("rancher-charts"),
		ChartVersion: pulumi.String("1.8.300"),
	}, pulumi.DependsOn([]pulumi.Resource{clusterSync}))

	if err != nil {
		return err

As there’s a much more dynamic nature to this project, I have a single template which I can tailor to address a number of use-cases with a huge amount of customisation. One could argue the same could be done in Terraform with using count, but I find this method cleaner. In addition, my next step is to implement some testing using go’s native features to further enhance this project.

Bootstrapping K3s

One challenge I encountered was being able to create and import K3s clusters. Currently, only RKE clusters can be directly created from Rancher. To address this, I created the cluster object in Rancher, extract the join command, and passed it together with the K3s install script so after K3s has stood up, it will run the join command:

if installFleetClusters {
	// create some EC2 instances to install K3s on:
	for i := 0; i < 3; i++ {
		cluster, _ := rancher2.NewCluster(ctx, "david-pulumi-fleet-"+strconv.Itoa(i), &rancher2.ClusterArgs{
			Name: pulumi.String("david-pulumi-fleet-" + strconv.Itoa(i)),

		joincommand := cluster.ClusterRegistrationToken.Command().ApplyString(func(command *string) string {
			getPublicIP := "IP=$(curl -H \"X-aws-ec2-metadata-token: $TOKEN\" -v"
			installK3s := "curl -sfL | INSTALL_K3S_VERSION=v1.19.5+k3s2 INSTALL_K3S_EXEC=\"--node-external-ip $IP\" sh -"
			nodecommand := fmt.Sprintf("#!/bin/bash\n%s\n%s\n%s", getPublicIP, installK3s, *command)
			return nodecommand

		_, err = ec2.NewInstance(ctx, "david-pulumi-fleet-node-"+strconv.Itoa(i), &ec2.InstanceArgs{
			Ami:                 pulumi.String("ami-0ff4c8fb495a5a50d"),
			InstanceType:        pulumi.String("t2.medium"),
			KeyName:             pulumi.String("davidh-keypair"),
			VpcSecurityGroupIds: pulumi.StringArray{sg.ID()},
			UserData:            joincommand,
			SubnetId:            subnets[i].ID(),

		if err != nil {
			return err


End result:

     Type                               Name                                  Status       
 +   pulumi:pulumi:Stack                Rancher-Demo-Env-dev                  creating...  
 +   pulumi:pulumi:Stack                Rancher-Demo-Env-dev                  creating..   
 +   pulumi:pulumi:Stack                Rancher-Demo-Env-dev                  creating..   
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:Cluster          david-pulumi-fleet-1                  created      
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:Cluster          david-pulumi-fleet-2                  created      
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:CloudCredential  david-pulumi-cloudcredential          created      
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:Subnet                  david-pulumi-subnet-1                 created      
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:Subnet                  david-pulumi-subnet-0                 created      
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:InternetGateway         david-pulumi-gw                       created     
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:Subnet                  david-pulumi-subnet-2                 created     
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:SecurityGroup           david-pulumi-sg                       created     
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:DefaultRouteTable       david-pulumi-routetable               created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:NodeTemplate     david-pulumi-nodetemplate-eu-west-2b  created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:NodeTemplate     david-pulumi-nodetemplate-eu-west-2a  created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:NodeTemplate     david-pulumi-nodetemplate-eu-west-2c  created     
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:Instance                david-pulumi-fleet-node-0             created     
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:Instance                david-pulumi-fleet-node-2             created     
 +   ├─ aws:ec2:Instance                david-pulumi-fleet-node-1             created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:Cluster          david-pulumi-cluster                  created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:NodePool         david-pulumi-nodepool-2               created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:NodePool         david-pulumi-nodepool-1               created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:NodePool         david-pulumi-nodepool-0               created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:ClusterSync      david-clustersync                     created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:AppV2            opa                                   created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:AppV2            monitoring                            created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:AppV2            istio                                 created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:AppV2            cis                                   created     
 +   ├─ rancher2:index:AppV2            logging                               created     
 +   └─ rancher2:index:AppV2            longhorn                              created     
    + 29 created

Duration: 19m18s

20mins for a to create all of these resources fully automated is pretty handy. This example also includes all the addons – opa, monitoring, istio, cis, logging and longhorn.

K3s, Rancher and Pulumi

TLDR; Repo can be found here (Be warned, I’m at best, a hobbyist programmer and certainly not a software engineer in my day job)

I’ve been recently getting acquainted with Pulumi as an alternative to Terraform for managing my infrastructure. I decided to create a repo that would do a number of activities to stand up Rancher in a new K3s cluster, all managed by Pulumi in my vSphere Homelab, consisting of the following activities:

  • Provision three nodes from a VM Template.
  • Use cloud-init as a bootstrapping utility:
    • Install K3s on the first node, elected to initialise the cluster.
    • Leverage K3s’s Auto-Deploying Manifests feature to install Cert-Manager, Rancher and Metallb.
  • Join two additional nodes to the cluster to form a HA, embedded etcd cluster.

The Ingress Controller is exposed via a loadbalancer service type, leveraging Metallb.

After completion, Pulumi will output the IP address (needed to create a DNS record) and the specified URL:

    Rancher IP (Set DNS): ""
    Rancher url:        : ""

Why cloud-init ?

For this example, I wanted to have a zero-touch deployment model relative to the VM’s themselves – IE no SSH’ing directly to the nodes to remotely execute commands. cloud-init addresses these requirements by having a way to seed an instance with configuration data. This Pulumi script leverages this in two ways:

  1. To set the instance (and therefore host) name as part of metadata.yaml (which is subject to string replacement)
  2. To execute a command on boot that initialises the K3s cluster (Or join an existing cluster for subsequent nodes) as part of userdata.yaml
  3. To install cert-manager, rancher and metallb, also as part of userdata.yaml

Reflecting on Using Pulumi

Some of my observations thus far:

  • I really, really like having “proper” condition handling and looping. I never really liked repurposing count in Terraform as awkward condition handling.
  • Being able to leverage standard libraries from your everyday programming language makes it hugely flexible. An example of this was taking the cloud-init user and metadata and encoding it in base64 by using the encoding/base64 package.

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