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Avinash Bendigeri Avinash is a developer-turned Technical writer skilled in core content creation. He has an excellent track record of blogging in areas like Docker, Kubernetes, IoT and AI.

What is Kubesphere and what problem does it solve

10 min read

As a Kubernetes engineer, you likely have little trouble navigating around a Kubernetes cluster. Setting up resources, observing pod logs, and troubleshooting root causes of errors, are all part of your daily work. However, what happens when someone who does not have a deep understanding of Kubernetes needs to do these things?

For example, a project manager or a QA engineer might very well want to check out the reason why a pod failed so they can create a report about it. Tools such as KubeLens exist to help with this observation without having to write any kubectl commands, but setting up KubeLens is itself a process that a non-Kubernetes user may find difficult. It is necessary to install tools such as kubectl, set up the kubeconfigs, etc… What if things could be simpler, where anyone could just log into a dashboard and have access to everything with a few clicks?

This is exactly what Kubesphere offers. A fully consolidated Kubernetes management system that anyone can log into and troubleshoot without any pre-existing Kubernetes knowledge.

But why stop there? If you have a team of network engineers or IT admins, they likely know a lot about infrastructure, but not so much about Kubernetes. If they wanted to quickly deploy a job, for instance, they would have to start at the beginning and learn everything about pods, clusters, and jobs before they can do that. While this is recommended, trying to learn Kubernetes, which has a huge learning curve might be impractical for someone who doesn’t use it regularly.

Therefore, a tool that allows you to create just about any type of resource with a few user-friendly clicks would be really helpful. Kubesphere can help you here and supports you in creating all sorts of resources from jobs to ingresses to config maps and storage classes.

For a non-Kubernetes person, explaining the concept of Helm charts and how they can be used might be a little tricky, and Kubesphere has a solution for that too. Kubesphere provides its own app store that allows you to select which service you wish to integrate into your Kubernetes cluster and allows you to deploy it with a single click of a button. So if you wanted to add sonarqube integration to your cluster, you only have to select the option in the App Store and deploy.

If this wasn’t enough features for you, you also have things such as an in-built istio service mesh and direct integration with KubeEdge, and additional features are being added all the time. So let’s get started with installing and setting up KubeSphere.

Getting Started


First off, you need a Kubernetes cluster.

Kubesphere supports deploying on a Linux VM (as well as their own managed Kubesphere cloud), but we will be doing this lab by deploying on a Kubernetes cluster. Since Kubesphere has so many features you will need a fair bit of resources. As such, it is best if the cluster has 4GB memory and at least 3 cores.

Minikube is a great way to get a single-node cluster up and running on your local machine. As of the time of writing, minikube supports Kubernetes version 1.26 by default, which is only partially supported by Kubesphere. You may use the latest version if you don’t intend to use feature such as setting up multiple host-member cluster, or using KubeEdge. Otherwise, when running minikube, use this command:

minikube start --kubernetes-version=v1.23.17 --cpus 3 --memory 4g

This sets the latest supported version of Kubernetes for Kubesphere while also setting the required memory and CPU for the cluster.


Now that you have a cluster, let’s install Kubesphere. This is a fairly straightforward process. Simply open up your terminal and paste in these kubectl commands:

kubectl apply -f

kubectl apply -f

Now, the installation will begin. After a minute or so, use this command to view the progress:

kubectl logs -n kubesphere-system $(kubectl get pod -n kubesphere-system -l 'app in (ks-install, ks-installer)' -o jsonpath='{.items[0]}') -f

You will see the installation happening. Note that installation will take a while (around 20 minutes) depending on the speed of your machine and cluster. In the end, you should see a message giving you the login details and providing the URL you can use.

Depending on the cluster you are using, the URL may or may not work. Run:

kubectl get svc -n kubesphere-system

To get the list of services. The service you should look for is ks-console. If you cannot connect to the KubeSphere dashboard from the provided URL, use port forwarding:

kubectl port-forward ks-console-xxxx 80:30880 

You should now be able to access the dashboard via

The Dashboard

Now that we have access to the dashboard, let’s take a look around. The dashboard itself takes some getting used to, as everything may not be clear from the outset. To start, let’s take a closer look at the different concepts of KubeSphere.

First off, you have clusters, which correspond to the clusters you have with Kubernetes. These clusters contain workspaces, which are described as "isolated logical unit used to organize projects". Projects in this case refer to namespaces. Each project would have everything a namespace typically has, from pods to deployments to PVCs. You can click into any of these items and access the individual Kubernetes resources. Since you are an admin, you also can create new resources from within KubeSphere itself using the interactive wizards that are provided. You also can look at logs, ssh into different pods, all from within the interface being used here.

You now have control over your entire cluster without leaving the dashboard at all. However, you could also push configurations using kubectl from your local machine. We will get into this later. For now, let’s move on to the case of access control.

Access control

The golden rule of access control is that the amount of authorization given to any user should be the minimum amount required to fulfill their role. So it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to hand over admin rights to a QA tester who is only interested in seeing the logs of a pod. Kubernetes has RBAC to handle these situations, and KubeSphere seamlessly integrates with this to provide fine-grained access control. You can specify the level of access each user has for each level, from each cluster to namespace.

Click on the platform icon in the top left corner, and select access control. This will show you a list of workspaces. On the left pane, you will see the options "Users" and "Platform Roles". These two will allow you to define access across the entire cluster. If you were to head to the "Platform Roles", you would see a set of predefined roles with varying levels of access that can be assigned to users. If you can’t find a fine-tuned role that matches the user you want to create, you can create one yourself using the interactive wizard. Creating users is also a breeze with the users’ tab which allows you to create a user and set the role that the user needs to have.

Since you are setting the users and roles at a platform level, the users created will have access across the entire platform. However, if you need to drill down to a deeper level, you can head into your workspace and either set roles at a workspace level or go down into each workspace and set roles for each project (namespace).

Now that we have established how KubeSphere has an extensive access control methodology in place, let’s look at authentication. If you are setting KubeSphere up for your organization, they likely have some method of single sign-on enabled. So instead of getting your users to individually create new accounts themselves, why not use the AD accounts they already have to give them cluster access?

KubeSphere supports multiple types of external authentication out of the box. A full list of these types can be found in the docs. Of these, we will be looking at LDAP and OIDC since they are the most widely used. To set up either of the authentication systems, you only need to edit a file in the KuberSphere system:

kubectl -n kubesphere-system edit cc ks-installer

Navigate to the authentication section of the file:

  jwtSecret: "" 

The jwtSecret is not needed for LDAP. Instead, we will be adding several new keys. This will include authentication retry limits, login history retention periods, etc…

authenticateRateLimiterMaxTries: 10
authenticateRateLimiterDuration: 10m0s
loginHistoryRetentionPeriod: 168h
maximumClockSkew: 10s
multipleLogin: true

The above options manage the configurations for both LDAP and OIDC. Next, we need to specify the actual oauth options:

  accessTokenMaxAge: 1h
  accessTokenInactivityTimeout: 30m
  - name: LDAP
    type: LDAPIdentityProvider
    mappingMethod: auto
      managerDN: uid=root,cn=users,dc=nas
      managerPassword: ********
      userSearchBase: cn=users,dc=nas
      loginAttribute: uid
      mailAttribute: mail

Since LDAP deals with tokens, you need to set the times that the token should remain valid. The identity provider should be set to LDAP and the information for the provider must be supplied. The setup for OIDC is largely the same, except you provide the OIDC providers’ name, which is Google in this instance. You also have to set up the clientID and clientSecret which you can get from your Google project that holds the AD.

- name: google
  type: OIDCIdentityProvider
  mappingMethod: auto
    clientID: '********'
    clientSecret: '********'
    redirectURL:  'https://ks-console/oauth/redirect/google'

You can also use GitHub as an identity provider using the same method. If the options available are insufficient and you require a different authentication method to authorize your application with you account system, you can also expand the kubesphere OAuth2 authentication plug-in. This is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but there is extensive documentation on how to do this here.


Now that we’ve covered the dashboard and access control, let’s take a look at another powerful feature KubeSphere provides: add-ons. With an ordinary Kubernetes cluster, you would have to manually set up each different config that you want. However, with KubeSphere, you can get everything up and running with a few lines in YAML. Let’s first start by taking a look at this YAML. It is already present in your KubeSphere instance, and you can access it by going to the dashboard > CRDs and searching for "Config". Open up the config that shows up.

A better view of the config can be found here. This version also has line-by-line comments that good for reference.

The first property we will look at is elastic search since it is required by several other options. Go to:

  enabled: true # Change this value
  logMaxAge: 7
  elkPrefix: logstash
    enabled: false

Now, ElasticSearch will be running. This allows any other services that require data logging to work. The first of such services is auditing. Auditing allows you to continuously collect security log information that gets logged in elastic search.

    enabled: true # Change this value

Another equally important feature is alerting. This allows you to get alerted when certain things such as resource usage, pod availability, etc… reach a certain threshold.

    enabled: true # Change this value

In addition to the above option, if you want custom alerting rules, you need to introduce Thanos ruler, so your alerting block needs to look like this:

    enabled: true # Change this value
       replicas: 1
       resources: {}

At this point, it is important to mention that the KubeSphere version at the time of writing (v3.3.2) has a bug with alerting and Thanos ruler. It has already been fixed, and this issue will not persist from v3.3.3 onwards. However, if you get an error when running the kubesphere installer saying that the monitoring module has failed, there are a couple of extra steps you need to take to get it up and running.

First, use:

kubectl get po -n kubesphere-system

to get the list of pods, and look for a pod that starts with "ks-installer". Grab the full name of the pod, and exec into it:

kubectl exec -it -n kubesphere-system ks-installer-xxxx sh

Now, head over to the prometheus folder within the pod:

cd  /kubesphere/kubesphere/prometheus

Three files need changing:

/kubesphere/kubesphere/prometheus $ vi alertmanager/alertmanager-podDisruptionBudget.yaml
/kubesphere/kubesphere/prometheus $ vi prometheus/prometheus-podDisruptionBudget.yaml
/kubesphere/kubesphere/prometheus $ vi thanos-ruler/thanos-ruler-podDisruptionBudget.yaml

The error comes from the very first line of these 3 files where the apiVersion is set to policy/v1beta1. This needs to be changed to apiVersion: policy/v1. Once all the files have been changed, run:

kubectl apply -f kubernetes/ --force
kubectl apply -f prometheus/
kubectl apply -f alertmanager/
kubectl apply -f thanos-ruler/

This will fix issues across the alerting and monitoring systems.

Next, there’s monitoring. Note that Prometheus gets automatically installed with KubeSphere so you will immediately get cluster monitoring. However, you can get additional monitoring (such as GPU monitoring):

      # type: external   # Whether to specify the external Prometheus stack and need to modify the endpoint at the next line.
      endpoint: http://prometheus-operated.kubesphere-monitoring-system.svc:9090
        enabled: true # Change this value

Remember we spoke about being easily able to install Helm charts with a couple of clicks? Let’s look at that next. An add-on that adds the KubeSphere app store to your KubeSphere installation can be enabled:

      enabled: true # Enable the KubeSphere App Store.

Now that you have enabled the store, a new option would show up in the top left corner that allows you to go into the store. From here, you have access to a number of Helm charts in the same way you would in the Artifact Hub. Except in this case, you can install the chart into your cluster in addition to viewing it.

So far, we have covered the smaller features KubeSphere has to offer, so let’s move on to the other areas with Jenkins:

    enabled: true         # Enable KubeSphere DevOps System.
    jenkinsCpuReq: 0.5
    jenkinsCpuLim: 1
    jenkinsMemoryReq: 4Gi
    jenkinsMemoryLim: 4Gi  # Recommend keep same as requests.memory.
    jenkinsVolumeSize: 16Gi

The above code snippet can be used to install Jenkins into your Kubernetes cluster so that you may access it from within KubeSphere. Enabling the above option will introduce a new section in your KubeSphere dashboard that allows you to create and run jobs in the same way you would with Jenkins. Boilerplate code is provided for different types of builds, and you can create your build from scratch. The user interface you get when you run the job is better than the original Jenkins UI and arguably more modern than Blueocean. We will not be covering this option in depth here since it is more related to Jenkins than Kubernetes.

The next option is service meshes. If you need a quick refresher on what services meshes are and what they can do for your cluster, head over to the service mesh section. KubeSphere allows you to efficiently install an Istio service mesh by configuring a few lines of the installer.yaml. If you want a better understanding of Istio, we have covered that in the Istio section.

    enabled: true # Enable this option
        - name: istio-ingressgateway
          enabled: false
          enabled: false

The above code block will enable the Istio service mesh on your Kubernetes cluster. If you were to head to the monitoring section of your KuberSphere cluster, you would see that Istio has been added as an option in addition to the other monitoring services you have enabled.

Next, let’s move on to logging. You might be asking why there is another logging option if we have the ELK stack running. This is because while many different logging systems can run with KubeSphere, it might be a hassle to handle each and every one of them manually. Instead with this option, you could have all logs present in a single unified console. In addition to Elasticsearch, other log connectors can also be applied, as well as an inbuilt logging system.

    enabled: true # Enable this option
      enabled: true
      replicas: 2

If you are hosting your cluster in AWS, it is easier to work with opensearch instead of elasticsearch. KubeSphere gives you access to opensearch. and allows you to configure it within your cluster using the yaml file:

  enabled: true # Enable this option
  logMaxAge: 7
  opensearchPrefix: <prefix>
    enabled: true
    username: "admin"
    password: "admin"
  externalOpensearchHost: ""
  externalOpensearchPort: ""
    enabled: true

The above block will enable opensearch with a max log retention period of 7 days. Replace the opensearchPrefix value with the value you would like the logs to be indexed with. The basicAuth section has the username and password in the same way elasticsearch does, and you can specify an external opensearch host and port if necessary.

Next, let’s move to network policies. If you need a refresher on what network policies are, refer to the network policy section. What they essentially do is allow or prevent access to and from pods. This is important for Kubernetes security since there can be a number of different security threats that arise if you just allow any external IP to reach your pod. With that being said, if you were to assign ingresses and egress on a pod-by-pod basis, getting a cluster set up would be a long and arduous process. Therefore, it is possible to assign pods to pod pools and assign network policies to each pool. This is also supported by KubeSphere:

      enabled: true # Enabe this option
      type: none 
      type: none

Next, we have redis, which is easily enabled and requires little explanation:

      enabled: true # Enable this option
      enableHA: false
      volumeSize: 2Gi

You can enable a high availability option right from here and set the size of the Redis instance, and that instance will be deployed to your cluster.


With that, we have now covered almost all the options KubeSphere provides to you. The only area that was not covered in this tutorial is Edge Nodes, which allows you to utilize the power of Edge computing with you Kubernetes nodes. Make sure you regularly check the KubeSphere page to see if there are any updates since it is regularly maintained.

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Avinash Bendigeri Avinash is a developer-turned Technical writer skilled in core content creation. He has an excellent track record of blogging in areas like Docker, Kubernetes, IoT and AI.

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