Developing in-cluster with ksync

Continuing on the theme of technologies used by Jenkins X under the covers, this post is going to take a look at ksync. In Jenkins X, this project is used to implement the ‘DevPods‘ capability. It’s a pretty thin veneer over the top of what is provided by ksync though. As the name suggests, the project performs synchronisation, in particular, bi-directional synchronisation between a directory on your laptop and a pod in a Kubernetes cluster. The aim is to allow you to code locally in your favourite editor but run that code in-cluster where you have access to a full Kubernetes environment, including any other services you might be running.

The workflow is simple: a <code>ksync init sets up your local environment and deploys a daemon set in the cluster to get access to the file system of containers. Next, a ksync watch runs a process locally to monitor your laptop. The last step is to issue a ksync create to form a mapping between a local directory and a directory in a container (or potentially multiple containers that match the selector). And that’s all there is to it: make a change locally and it’s reflected in the container; see files written by the container appear on your local disk.

ksync is, in turn, using syncthing to perform the actual file synchronisation. In addition, it provides the option to restart the application container following a sync (for example, if the application process is not dynamically reloading modified files).

In practise, it works well and certainly supports a much more iterative development experience than you would get if you relied upon a Docker build from something like <code>draft up</code>, even assuming you had optimised your Docker build so it just needed to copy in the application files. As when running an application locally, all of this works best for interpreted languages like PHP, Python or Node. For a language like Java, you need to get the compiled application (or classes) in to the synced directory and that is unlikely to give you the same experience that you can get using an IDE capable of hot-reloading. That’s something that Microclimate looked to address…


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