Exposing local services to Minikube using SSH

4 minute read

We already know we can port forward to reach services in Minikube, but what abot the other way around? What if a pod needs an external service on your laptop? There’s a pure Kubernetes way of doing it, but this is more of an interesting SSH trick that exposes how Kubernetes and Minikube work. Plus, it’s always fun to do tricks with SSH.

The setup

Consider the following diagram:

SSH forwarding 1

Vault is only accessible via the Elastic Load Balancer, which itself is only accessible to select security groups within our VPC. In order to issue Vault commands from my laptop, I have to use SSH local port forwarding. This sets up a tunnel over SSH that allows me to connect through my SSH destination (Bastion in this case) which can connect to Vault.

This is what the local forward looks like in my ~/.ssh/config:

Host Bastion
  Hostname mybastion.mysite.org
  LocalForward 55555 vault.mysite.org:443
  ControlMaster auto

And just connecting to the server sets up the forwarder: ssh Bastion

However, we have a problem: Minikube needs to connect to Vault as well but is on an isolated network on my laptop. How do I expose Vault to Kubernetes inside this onion of networks? Let’s do it the hard way.

The Solution

Answer: MORE SSH!

Since I’ve already forwarded the connection from somewhere off in Internetland, as far as Minikube is concerned, Vault may as well be living locally on my laptop at This works well for us, since the next step is just to cross that last gap between local laptop and kubernetes pod. After doing lots of digging around on Minikube port forwarding, I was disappointed that I couldn’t find much in the way of Github issues, StackOverflow questions, blog posts, etc. on Minikube reaching out. There was plenty on forwarding in to services on Minikube, however. Finally, I remembered that this SSH thing can go both ways: If I can forward my connection out to a destination, I can also invite a destination to connect inbound to me. In SSH parlance, that’s called a “remote forward.”

The idea was to make one giant SSH pipeline: A remote forward from my laptop to the Minikube VM would allow connections from the pods to the forwarded port on Minikube VM to reach my laptop. Since my laptop is already forwarding the port all the way over to AWS, that would complete the SSH tunnel over multiple hops and allow pods on Minikube to reach Vault as though it was local.

SSH forwarding 2

Spoiler alert: It didn’t work right away.

The normal syntax for an SSH remote forward looks like this: ssh -R remoteport:localaddress:localport host.

An actual example: ssh -R 9999: myserver would open a connection on port 9999 on the remote host, forwarding any traffic they send it to on your local machine. I’ll stop for a second to allow you to imagine the really dangerous possibilities of a tool like SSH. Better yet, go read these awesome blog posts on the topic:

How to lose your job with SSH, part 1

How to lose your job with SSH, part 2

Back? Was that cool or what? Let’s move on…

So we’re going to forward some port on Minikube VM over to our already-forwarded Vault connection. First, let’s figure out what the Minikube IP is: minikube ip

Okay, that was easy. How do we get in now? A lucky google search turned up this SSH string, actually: ssh -i ~/.minikube/machines/minikube/id_rsa [email protected]$(minikube ip) which Aaron Prindle (aprindle on the Kubernetes Slack) helpfully shortened to ssh -i $(minikube ssh-key) [email protected]$(minikube ip). That gets us into the Minikube container, but how do we forward the connection back out?

We start with this (bear in mind that vault is forwarded to on my laptop):

ssh -i $(minikube ssh-key) [email protected]$(minikube ip) -R 8200:

By default this will only bind to localhost on the remote machine, so we need to expand it a bit:

ssh -i $(minikube ssh-key) [email protected]$(minikube ip) -R

Here I have told SSH to bind to the eth0 interface of the minikube machine instead of localhost. Did it work?

$ ssh -i ~/.minikube/machines/minikube/id_rsa [email protected]$(minikube ip) -R
$ netstat -ant | grep 8200
tcp        0      0*               LISTEN
tcp        0      0 ::1:8200                :::*                    LISTEN

That’s a solid “no”. For some reason, even when explicitly told to use an IP other than localhost, it binds to localhost anyways. Turns out there was an issue opened on this: https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=228064 and the answer was to update /etc/ssh/sshd_config to have the following line:

GatewayPorts yes

This apparently allows remote forwarding to bind to interfaces other than localhost.

Now restart the ssh service:

sudo systemctl restart sshd

And reconnect:

ssh -i $(minikube ssh-key) [email protected]$(minikube ip) -R 8200:localhost:55555

Now observe our listening interfaces:

$ netstat -ant | grep 8200
tcp        0      0  *               LISTEN
tcp        0      0 :::8200                 :::*                    LISTEN

We are listening on all interfaces, ready to forward!

Now in any of your services, you can reach out to the minikube IP on port 8200 to forward your traffic!

Here’s what our service file looks like now:

# kubernetes-vault.yaml

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: kubernetes-vault
    run: kubernetes-vault
  clusterIP: None
    run: kubernetes-vault
  # Kubernetes-Vault does not need to expose any ports through a headless service.
  # However, there's a Kubernetes bug where the pods won't be registered in the API,
  # so we need to use this hack. See kubernetes/kubernetes#32796
    - name: port
      port: 80
apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
  name: kubernetes-vault
  kubernetes-vault.yml: |-
      addr:  # Notice the IP address?
      token: aaaa-bbbb-cccc

      watchNamespace: ${KUBERNETES_NAMESPACE}
      serviceNamespace: ${KUBERNETES_NAMESPACE}
      service: kubernetes-vault

        vaultCertBackend: intermediate-ca
        vaultCertRole: kubernetes-vault
apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
kind: Deployment
  name: kubernetes-vault
  replicas: 3
        run: kubernetes-vault
      - name: kubernetes-vault
        image: boostport/kubernetes-vault
              fieldPath: metadata.namespace
        - name: config-volume
          mountPath: /kubernetes-vault
        - name: config-volume
            name: kubernetes-vault