questionable services

Technical writings about computing infrastructure, HTTP & security.

(by Matt Silverlock)

Admission Control: A helpful micro-framework for Kubernetes


Admission Control (GitHub) is a micro-framework written in Go for building and deploying dynamic admission controllers for your Kubernetes clusters. It reduces the boilerplate needed to inspect, validate and/or reject the admission of objects to your cluster, allowing you to focus on writing the specific business logic you want to enforce.

The framework was born out of the need to cover a major gap with most managed Kubernetes providers: namely, that a LoadBalancer is public-by-default. As I started to prototype an admission controller that could validate-and-reject public load balancer Services, I realized that I was writing a lot of boilerplate in order to satisfy Kubernetes’ admission API and (importantly) stand up a reliable controller.

What is an Admission Controller?: When you deploy, update or otherwise change the state of a Kubernetes (k8s) cluster, your change needs to be validated by the control plane. By default, Kubernetes has a number of built-in “admission controllers” that validate and (in some cases) enforce resource quotas, service account automation, and other cluster-critical tasks. Usefully, Kubernetes also supports dynamic admission controllers: that is, admission controllers you can write yourself.

For example, you can write admission controllers for:

The last example - a MutatingWebhookConfiguration - can be extremely powerful, but you should consider how mutating live objects might make troubleshooting more challenging down the road vs. rejecting admission outright.

Writing Your Own

Writing your own dynamic admission controller is fairly simple, and has three key parts:

  1. The admission controller itself: a service running somewhere (in-cluster or otherwise)
  2. An admissioncontrol.AdmitFunc that performs the validation. An AdmitFunc has a http.Handler compatible wrapper that allows you to BYO Go webserver library.
  3. A ValidatingWebhookConfiguration (or Mutating...) that defines what Kinds of objects are checked against the controller, what methods (create, update, etc) and how failure should be handled.

If you’re already familiar with Go, Kubernetes, and want to see the framework in action, here’s a simple example that requires any Service have a specific annotation (key, value).

Note that the README contains step-by-step instructions for creating, configuring and running an admission controller on your cluster, as well as sample configurations to help you get started.

// ServiceHasAnnotation is a simple validating AdmitFunc that inspects any kind:
// Service for a static annotation key & value. If the annotation does not
// match, or a non-Service object is sent to the AdmitFunc, admission will be
// rejected.
func ServiceHasAnnotation(requiredKey, requiredVal string) AdmitFunc {
    // Return a function of type AdmitFunc
    return func(admissionReview *admission.AdmissionReview) (*admission.AdmissionResponse, error) {
        kind := admissionReview.Request.Kind.Kind
        // Create an *admission.AdmissionResponse that denies by default.
        resp := &admission.AdmissionResponse{
          Allowed: false,
		      Result:  &metav1.Status{},

        // Create an object to deserialize our requests' object into.
        // If we get a type we can't decode - we will reject admission.
        // Our ValidatingWebhookConfiguration will be configured to only ...
        svc := core.Service{}
        deserializer := serializer.NewCodecFactory(runtime.NewScheme()).UniversalDeserializer()
        if _, _, err := deserializer.Decode(admissionReview.Request.Object.Raw, nil, &svc); err != nil {
          return nil, err

        for k, v := svc.ObjectMeta.Annotations {
          if k == requiredKey && v == requiredVal {
            // Set resp.Allowed to true before returning your AdmissionResponse
            resp.Allowed = true

        if !resp.Allowed {
          return resp, xerrors.Errorf("submitted %s is missing annotation (%s: %s)",
            kind, requiredKey, requiredVal)

        return resp, nil

We can now use the AdmissionHandler wrapper to translate HTTP request & responses for us. In this example, we’re using gorilla/mux as our routing library, but since we satisfy the http.Handler type, you could use net/http as well.

You would deploy this as Service to your cluster: an admission controller is ultimately just a webserver that knows how to handle an AdmissionRequest and return an AdmissionResponse.

r := mux.NewRouter().StrictSlash(true)
admissions := r.PathPrefix("/admission-control").Subrouter()
admissions.Handle("/enforce-static-annotation", &admissioncontrol.AdmissionHandler{
	AdmitFunc:  admissioncontrol.ServiceHasAnnotation("", "hello-world"),
	Logger:     logger,

You can hopefully see how powerful this is already.

We can decode our request into a native Kubernetes object (or a custom resource), parse an object, and match on any field we want to in order to enforce our business logic. We could easily make this more dynamic by feeding the admission controller itself a ConfigMap of values we want it to check for, instead of hard-coding the values into the service itself.

Writing Our ValidatingWebhookConfiguration

A ValidatingWebhookConfiguration is what determines which admissions are sent to your webhook.

Using our example above, we’ll create a simple configuration that validates all Service objects deployed in any Namespace across our cluster with an enforce-annotations: "true" label.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Namespace
  # Create a namespace that we'll match on
  name: enforce-annotations-example
    enforce-annotations: "true"
kind: ValidatingWebhookConfiguration
  name: enforce-static-annotations
  - name:
    sideEffects: None
    # "Equivalent" provides insurance against API version upgrades/changes - e.g.
    # extensions/v1beta1 Ingress -> Ingress
    # matchPolicy: Equivalent
      - apiGroups:
          - "*"
          - "*"
          - "CREATE"
          - "UPDATE"
          - "services"
        # Any Namespace with a label matching the below will have its
        # annotations validated by this admission controller
        - key: "enforce-annotations"
          operator: In
          values: ["true"]
    failurePolicy: Fail
        # This is the hostname our certificate needs in its Subject Alternative
        # Name array - name.namespace.svc
        # If the certificate does NOT have this name, TLS validation will fail.
        name: admission-control-service # the name of the Service when deployed in-cluster
        namespace: default
        path: "/admission-control/enforce-static-annotation"
      # This should be the CA certificate from your Kubernetes cluster
      # Use the below to generate the certificate in a valid format:
      # $ kubectl config view --raw --minify --flatten \
      #   -o jsonpath='{.clusters[].cluster.certificate-authority-data}'
      caBundle: "<snip>"
      # You can alternatively supply a URL to the service, as long as its reachable by the cluster.
      # url: """

A Service that would match this configuration and be successfully validated would look like the below:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: public-service
  namespace: enforce-annotations
    "": "hello-world"
  type: LoadBalancer
    app: hello-app
    - port: 8000
      protocol: TCP
      targetPort: 8080

Deploying a Service without the required annotation would return an error similar to the below:

Error from server: submitted Service is missing required annotation ( hello-world)

… and reject admission. Because we also have UPDATE in our .rules.operations list, removing or otherwise modifying a previously-admitted Service would also be rejected if the annotation did not match.

Things to Watch Out For

One important thing worth noting is that a “Pod” is not always a “Pod” - if you want to enforce (for example) that the value of containers.image in any created Pod references a specific registry URL, you’ll need to write logic that inspects the PodTemplate of a Deployment, StatefulSet, DaemonSet and other types that can indirectly create a Pod.

There is not currently (as of Kubernetes v1.17) a way to reference a type regardless of how it is embedded in other objects: in order to combat this, default deny objects that you don’t have explicit handling for.

Other best practices:

Note: a project with a similar goal is Open Policy Agent, which requires you to write policies in Rego, a query language/DSL. This can be useful for simpler policies, but I would argue that once you get into more complex policy matching, the ability to use k8s packages, types and a Turing-complete language (Go) is long-term beneficial to a large team.

What’s Next?

Take a look at the README for Admission Control, including some of the built-in AdmitFuncs, for how more complex enforcement and object handling can be done.

You can also create an AdmissionServer to simplify the creation of the webhook server, including handling interrupt & termination signals cleanly, startup errors, and timeouts. Good server lifecycle management is important when running applications on top of Kubernetes, let alone ‘control plane’ services like an admission controller.

Contributions to the framework are also welcome. Releases are versioned, and adding to the existing library of built-in AdmitFuncs is an ongoing effort.

© 2020 Matt Silverlock | His photo journal | Code snippets are MIT licensed | Built with Jekyll