CKA Study notes - Pod Service Account


This post is part of my Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam preparations. In this post we'll take a quick look at how to specify which service account a Pod should use when communicating with the API server. I think for the CKA (and CKAD) exam the most important thing to know is how to specify a service account, but I'm covering a bit more.

Update January 2024: This post was written in 2021 preparing for the CKA on version 1.19. An updated post for version 1.28 can be found here

Service accounts can be used for giving a Pod access to specific resources through the API server just as a user working through the kubectl can. They can also be assigned imagePullSecrets which gives them access to pull container images from private repositories.

Note #1: I'm using documentation for version 1.19 in my references below as this is the version used in the current (jan 2021) CKA exam. Please check the version applicable to your usecase and/or environment

Note #2: This is a post covering my study notes preparing for the CKA exam and reflects my understanding of the topic, and what I have focused on during my preparations.

Service accounts for Pods

Kubernetes Documentation reference

By default every pod uses the Default service account (for the namespace) when it's communicating with the api-server. We can verify this by checking this in my namespace here

1kubectl get serviceccount
2kubectl describe serviceaccount default
4kubectl get pod -o=custom-columns='','ServiceAccount:.spec.serviceAccount'

Default service account

Create service account

Let's create a simple service account

1kubectl create serviceaccount <sa-name>
2kubectl get sa

Create service account

Assign service account to pod

Now let's create a yaml manifest for a Pod and specify the serviceaccount

 1apiVersion: v1
 2kind: Pod
 4  labels:
 5    key: value
 6  name: <name>
 8  serviceAccount: <sa-name>
 9  containers:
10  - image: <image>
11    name: <name>
12  restartPolicy: Never

Run pod with new service account

Assign imagePullSecrets

Now let's try to run a Pod with an image on my private Docker hub account.

Pod failing to pull image

Let's add some Docker hub credentials to the service account and try again. The Kubernetes documentation has a reference to how you can add a secret with your Docker hub credentials

With this I've created a secret with my personal credentials for accessing my private Docker hub registry

Create docker key secret

Now, I'll add this to the imagePullSecrets of my new service account (reference)

1kubectl patch serviceaccount <sa-name> -p '{"imagePullSecrets": [{"name": "<key>"}]}'

Add docker key to service account

After this I'll delete and recreate my Pod and then the image can be pulled successfully

Image pulled successfully

Note that imagePullSecrets can be assigned directly to a Pod as well, but then you'd have to add that to each Pod spec

Service account permissions

Kubernetes Documentation reference

Service accounts can be assigned permissions in the cluster and in other namespaces which let's you be pretty specific in what your service accounts are allowed to and not.

Normally this is done by creating a Role binding which binds a role to a service account

1kubectl create rolebinding <role-bind-name> --role=<role-name> --serviceaccount=<namespace>:<sa-name> --namespace=<namespace>

Create role binding


This has been a short intro to service accounts in Kubernetes and how to assign it to a Pod. There's much more to service accounts, but for the CKA exam this should be enough. For more details on service accounts and pods, refer to the documentation

This page was modified on January 14, 2024: cka sa post