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    Ongoing observations by End Point Dev people

    Kubernetes Volume definition defaults to EmptyDir type with wrong capitalization of hostPath

    Ron Phipps

    By Ron Phipps
    October 26, 2022

    Cow with light red-brown fur and an inventory ear tag standing in a dry field with scattered desert grass and brush, in front of a fench Photo by Garrett Skinner

    Kubernetes Host Path volume mounts allow accessing a host system directory inside of a pod, which is helpful when doing development, for example to access the frequently-changing source code of an application being actively developed. This allows a developer to edit the code with their normal set of tools without having to jump through a bunch of hoops to get the code into a pod.

    We use this setup at End Point in development where the host system is running MicroK8s and there is a single pod for an application on a single node. In most other cases, host path volume mounts are not recommended. But here it means the developer can edit code on the host machine and the changes are immediately reflected within the pod without having to deploy a new image. If the application server running within the pod is also running in development mode with dynamic reloading, the changes can be viewed with a refresh of the browser accessing the application.

    While working on a test environment to run EpiTrax within Kubernetes, the need arose to set up a Host Path volume mount so that the source code on the host machine would be available within the pod. I used this simple Deployment definition:

    apiVersion: apps/v1
    kind: Deployment
      name: epitrax
      namespace: app
        app: epitrax
            fsGroup: $USERID
          - name: shell
            image: epitrax/epitrax
            command: ["sh", "-c", "tail -f /dev/null"]
              runAsNonRoot: true
              runAsUser: $USERID
              runAsGroup: $USERID
          - mountPath: /opt/jboss/epitrax
              name: epitrax-source-directory
          - name: epitrax-source-directory
              type: Directory
              path: $PWD/projects/epitrax

    After applying this deployment and shelling into the pod I found that /opt/jboss/epitrax was an empty directory and not a host path volume. Describing the pod showed the following:

        Type:       EmptyDir (a temporary directory that shares a pod's lifetime)
        SizeLimit:  <unset>

    I tried changing many different things, viewed the various logs, and searched the Internet for reports of the same problem, but could not figure out what was wrong.

    Eventually I found a single GitHub issue on the Kubernetes project, which did not explain the trouble but did explain that the volume type always defaults to EmptyDir to match Docker’s behavior.

    That’s when I realized the problem: I had used hostpath (all lower case) instead of hostPath. Kubernetes could not find a valid volume type of hostpath so it defaulted to EmptyDir.

    Updating the volumes section to the following resolved the issue:

    # snip
          - name: epitrax-source-directory
              type: Directory
              path: $PWD/projects/epitrax

    Be aware that Kubernetes will not warn or error out if there is an invalid volume type referenced in the volumes section—it will quietly default to EmptyDir!

    kubernetes docker