Mounting NFS to a container running on Kubernetes

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In this post I'll take a look at how to set up a simple NFS server on Ubuntu and make use of it in a nginx container running on a Kubernetes cluster

NFS is a file system protocol that allows for sharing files and directories over a network. It has been around for a long time and for many purposes it has been replaced by other more modern storage solutions, but still there are use-cases for it and organizations using it.

NFS is pretty straightforward to set up, you install the server, export a share and away you go. However it seems that there's a lot of struggles around permissions and I have had some issues my self so I thought I'd create a short write up, mostly for my own reference.

Let's start with the server setup

If you already have a NFS server and just want to see how to mount NFS to a container jump to this section

Install and configure the NFS server

I'm using a freshly installed Ubuntu 20.04 server in this setup

The server has two (virtual) disks, the first one holds the OS installation and the second will be used for the data served by nfs. Note that this is completely optional

Set up new disk

First I'll set up the second disk

1sudo fdisk -l
2sudo gdisk /dev/sdb

Set up a new primary partition by following the defaults

Create partition

Let's list the partitions to verify that our partition has been created

1sudo fdisk -l

New partition created

Now we'll create a filesystem on the partition

1sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdb1

We'll create a directory on root that we'll mount our disk to

1sudo mkdir /nfs

And to make this persist reboots we'll edit the /etc/fstab file to include the mount. First we'll retrive the UUID of the disk with the blkid command

1sudo blkid

UUID of the partition

1sudo vi /etc/fstab

FSTab file

Now, let's finally mount the disk to the mount point and verify with the df command

1sudo mount -a
2sudo df -h

Mount disk and verify

Install NFS server

1sudo apt-get update
2sudo apt-get install nfs-kernel-server

Configure exports

We'll add our directory to the exports of the server in the /etc/exports file. For an explanation of the different options take a look at this article


Now we need to actually tell the server to export the directory

1sudo exportfs -ar

We can verify that the directory has been shared with the -v parameter

1sudo exportfs -v

Verify exports

On a client I can verify with the showmounts command

Show mount from client

Configure firewall

If the firewall is active we need to tell it to allow NFS traffic

1sudo ufw allow from to any port nfs

Test mount from container

To test the mounting of this directory from a container let's first create a file in the directory.

Text file created in directory

Now let's try to mount the nfs share from a container/pod.

I have a TCE Kubernetes cluster which I've written about here, and we're using the nginx image for deploying a pod with a container that mounts the nfs directory. Note that we've added a volume and a volumeMount to our yaml spec

 1apiVersion: v1
 2kind: Pod
 4  labels:
 5    run: nginx
 6  name: nginx
 8  containers:
 9  - image: nginx
10    name: nginx
11    volumeMounts:
12    - name: nfs-vol
13      mountPath: /var/nfs # The mountpoint inside the container
14  volumes:
15  - name: nfs-vol
16    nfs:
17      server: # IP to our NFS server
18      path: /nfs # The exported directory

Mount directory in container

Great, it works!

Permissions and user mapping

A big note with NFS, and what's creating issues for users are the permission and user mappings. Normally an NFS share will not be shared with root access (root_squash) and the user that needs access to the share will need to exist on the NFS server.

Refer to this NFS how-to for more information

Use NFS for the static content

Now that we know that we can mount a NFS share in the container let's see if we can use it to host our static html files

By default nginx serves files from the /usr/share/nginx/html directory which we can verify from our running container

nginx default

With this knowledge, let's create a new directory for NFS to export, add a static html file to the directory and mount this directory to the directory inside of the container

Static file on NFS

Recreate pod with mountpoint to correct directory

Mount directory to nginx default html directory

As we can see our container sees the html file, now let's try to see if we can get it to work through http as well.

First we'll expose our pod so that it we can access it from outside the cluster, and then let's open it up in a browser

Expose pod externally

HTML served from NFS

And if we edit the page on the nfs server, let's see if it updates the page

Added content to the html file on the NFS server

And refresh the browser

Refresh content in browser

Persistent volumes

Finally, let's try to bring in Persistent Volumes and Persistent Volume Claims to the mix which are Kubernetes objects for working with files and directories.

We'll create a Persistent Volume that points to our NFS share

 1apiVersion: v1
 2kind: PersistentVolume
 4  name: nfs-www
 6  storageClassName: ""
 7  capacity:
 8    storage: 1Gi
 9  accessModes:
10    - ReadWriteMany
11  persistentVolumeReclaimPolicy:
12  mountOptions:
13    - hard
14    - nfsvers=4.1
15  nfs:
16    path: /nfs/www
17    server:
18    readOnly: false

Create Persistent volume

And we'll create a Persistent Volume claim to bind to the PV we just created

 1apiVersion: v1
 2kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
 4  name: nfs-www-pvc
 6  storageClassName: ""
 7  volumeName: nfs-www
 8  accessModes:
 9    - ReadWriteMany
10  volumeMode: Filesystem
11  resources:
12    requests:
13      storage: 1G

Create Persistent volume claim

Verify PV and PVC

Now, let's change our pod to use the PVC instead

 1apiVersion: v1
 2kind: Pod
 4  labels:
 5    run: nginx
 6  name: nginx
 8  containers:
 9  - image: nginx
10    name: nginx
11    ports:
12    - containerPort: 80
13    volumeMounts:
14    - name: nfs-vol
15      mountPath: /usr/share/nginx/html
16  volumes:
17  - name: nfs-vol
18    persistentVolumeClaim:
19      claimName: nfs-www-pvc

Edit pod spec to use PVC

As we can see the only thing we need to change is the volumes part and replace the nfs stanza with this persistentVolumeClaim stanza

With this we can reuse the pod spec if we wanted, for instance if we have multiple environments with different NFS servers. The only thing to change then is the PV that points to the NFS server

This page was modified on January 5, 2022: Publish nfs post