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Last active January 5, 2021 14:57
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Running Kata Containers in Minikube for Kubernetes 1.14+

minikube is an easy way to try out a kubernetes (k8s) cluster locally. It utilises running a single node k8s stack in a local VM.

Kata Containers is an OCI compatible container runtime that runs container workloads inside VMs.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could use kata under minikube to get an easy out of the box experience to try out Kata? Well, turns out with a little bit of config and setup that is already supported, you can!

Here is how I got this running, using kvm on my local machine to get minikube up, and then utilise nested virtualisation to get kata VMs to run under minikube.


You need to have a machine that can support nested virtualisation. I used an i7 laptop that had virtualisation enabled in the BIOS and was running Fedora 29.

To check if you have virtualisation enabled on the host, try:

$ egrep --color 'vmx|svm' /proc/cpuinfo

and look for vmx or svm coloured red in the output.

Setting up minikube

To enable kata under minikube, we need to add a few configuration options to the default minikube setup. This is nice and easy, as minikube supports them on the setup commandline.

Here are the features, and why we need them:

what why
--vm-driver kvm2 The host VM driver I tested with
--memory 6144 Allocate more memory, as Kata containers default to 1 or 2Gb
--network-plugin=cni As recommended for minikube CRI-o
--enable-default-cni As recommended for minikube CRI-o
--container-runtime=cri-o Using CRI-O for Kata
--bootstrapper=kubeadm As recommended for minikube CRI-o

for minikube specific installation instructions see the docs, which will also help locate the information needed to get the kvm2 driver installed etc.

Here then is the command I ran to get my basic minikube set up ready to add kata:

minikube start \
 --vm-driver kvm2 \
 --memory 6144 \
 --network-plugin=cni \
 --enable-default-cni \
 --container-runtime=cri-o \

That command will take a little while to pull down and install items, but ultimately should complete successfully.

Checking for nested virtualisation

Your minikube should now be up. Let's try a quick check:

$ kubectl get nodes
minikube   Ready    master   78m   v1.13.4

Now let's check if you have nested virtualisation enabled inside the minikube node:

minikube ssh
                         _             _            
            _         _ ( )           ( )           
  ___ ___  (_)  ___  (_)| |/')  _   _ | |_      __  
/' _ ` _ `\| |/' _ `\| || , <  ( ) ( )| '_`\  /'__`\
| ( ) ( ) || || ( ) || || |\`\ | (_) || |_) )(  ___/
(_) (_) (_)(_)(_) (_)(_)(_) (_)`\___/'(_,__/'`\____)

# No color option, as minikube is running busybox
$ egrep 'vmx|svm' /proc/cpuinfo
# if you get a long line of output here, you have it enabled!

$ exit

Installing kata

Now we need to install the kata runtime components. You will need a local copy of some kata components to help with this, and then use the host kubectl (that minikube has already configured for you) to deploy them:

$ git clone
$ cd packaging/kata-deploy
$ kubectl apply -f kata-rbac.yaml
$ kubectl apply -f kata-deploy.yaml

This should have installed the kata components into /opt/kata inside the minikube node. Let's check:

$ minikube ssh
$ cd /opt/kata
$ ls bin
containerd-shim-kata-v2  kata-qemu     qemu-ga	     qemu-system-x86_64
firecracker		 kata-fc	       kata-runtime  qemu-pr-helper  virtfs-proxy-helper
$ exit

And there we can see the kata components, including a qemu, and the kata-runtime for instance.

Enabling kata

Now we need to register the kata qemu runtime with that class:

# A temporary workaround until the scripts land in the packaging/kata-deploy repo
$ git clone
$ cd cloud-native-setup/clr-k8s-examples
$ kubectl apply -f 8-kata/kata-qemu-runtimeClass.yaml
# Note, there is also a kata-fc-runtimeClass.yaml that will enable 'firecracker with kata' support
# enabling and testing that is left as 'an exercise for the user'

kata should now be installed and enabled in the minikube cluster. Time to test it...

Testing kata

OK, time to see if all that worked. First, let's launch a container that is defined to run on Kata. For reference, the magic lines in the yaml are:

      runtimeClassName: kata-qemu
$ cd packaging/kata-deploy/examples
$ kubectl apply -f test-deploy-kata-qemu.yaml

This deploys an apache php container run with the kata runtime. Wait a few moments to check it is running:

$ kubectl get pods
NAME                                   READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
php-apache-kata-qemu-bc4c55994-p6f6k   1/1     Running   0          1m

And then there are a couple of ways to verify it is running with Kata. Nominally, it should be hard to tell - the idea of kata is that your container will run inside a VM, but look and feel just like it would as a normal software container. In theory, if you can tell the difference then there are things still to improve ;-).

First, we'll have a look on the node:

$ minikube ssh
$ ps -ef | fgrep qemu-system
# VERY long line of qemu here - showing that we are indeed running a qemu VM on the minikube node - that is the VM that contains
# your pod.
# And for refernce in a moment, let's see what kernel is running on the node itself
$ uname -a
Linux minikube 4.15.0 #1 SMP Wed Mar 6 23:18:58 UTC 2019 x86_64 GNU/Linux
$ exit

OK, so hopefully we saw a qemu process running, indicating that we did have a kata container up. Now, another way to verify that is to hop into the container itself and have a look at what kernel is running there. For a normal software container you will be running the same kernel as the node, but for a kata container you will be running a kata kernel inside the kata VM.

$ kubectl get pods
NAME                                   READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
php-apache-kata-qemu-bc4c55994-p6f6k   1/1     Running   0          2m
$ kubectl exec -ti php-apache-kata-qemu-bc4c55994-p6f6k bash
# Am now in the container...
root@php-apache-kata-qemu-bc4c55994-p6f6k:/var/www/html# uname -a
Linux php-apache-kata-qemu-bc4c55994-p6f6k 4.19.24 #1 SMP Mon Mar 4 13:40:48 CST 2019 x86_64 GNU/Linux
# exit

And, there we can see, the node is running kernel 4.15, but the container running under kata is running a 4.19 kernel.

Wrapping up

So, there we have it. A relatively easy way to get a minikube up with kata containers installed. Be aware, this is only a small single node k8s cluster running under a nested virtualisation setup, so it will have limitaions - but, as a first introduction to kata, and how to install it under kubernetes, it does its job.

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