TL;DR: in this article, you will learn how
ClusterIP services and kube-proxy work in Kubernetes.
Have you ever tried to ping a Service IP address in Kubernetes?
You might have noticed that it doesn't work.
Unless it just works.
Confusing, I know — let me explain.
Kubernetes Services exist only in etcd.
There's no process listening on the IP address and port of the Service.
Try to execute
netstat -ntlp in a node — there's nothing.
How do they work, then?
Consider a cluster with three Nodes.
The red pod issues a request to the brown service using the IP
But Services don't exist, and their IP address is only virtual.
How does the traffic reach one of the pods?
Kubernetes uses a very clever trick.
Before the request exits from the node, it is intercepted by iptables rules.
The iptables rules know that the Service doesn't exist and proceed to replace the IP address of the Service with one of the IP addresses of the Pods belonging to that Service.
The destination is a pod IP address, and since Kubernetes guarantees that any pod can talk to any other pod in the cluster, the traffic can flow to the brown pod.
Who is configuring those iptables rules?
It's kube-proxy that collects endpoints from the control plane and maps service IP addresses to pod IPs (it also load balances the connections).
Kube-proxy is a DaemonSet that listens to changes to the Kubernetes API.
Let's have a look at how it works.
Let's observe what happens when you create a ClusterIP service.
A fixed virtual IP address is allocated in the control plane, and a companion Endpoint object is created.
The endpoint contains a list of IP addresses and ports where the traffic should be forwarded.
Kube-proxy subscribes to changes to the control plane.
For every endpoint addition, deletion or update, it is notified.
There's a new Service (and Endpoint object) in this case.
Kube-proxy updates its node with a new list of iptables rules.
Since there's a kube-proxy for every node in the cluster, each of them will go through the same process.
In the end, the service is "ready".
This explains how Service doesn't exist and how kube-proxy sets up load balancing rules on every node but doesn't answer why (sometimes) you can't ping a Service.
The answer is simple: there's no rule in iptables for ICMP traffic.
So iptables skips the packets.
But since the Service IP is virtual (it doesn't exist anywhere but etcd), the traffic is not intercepted and goes nowhere.
So why does it work on my cluster?
iptables is not the only mechanism to implement a ClusterIP service.
Other options include technologies such as IPVS and eBPF, which might behave differently (depending on which product you use).
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
You can find a more extensive explanation (that includes things like conntrack and Linux namespaces) here.
And finally, if you've enjoyed this thread, you might also like the Kubernetes workshops that we run at Learnk8s https://learnk8s.io/training or this collection of past Twitter threads https://twitter.com/danielepolencic/status/1298543151901155330
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