Using the OpenShift Machine Config Operator

In a recent post I discussed how OpenShift and Kubernetes do not have user namespace isolation. An upcoming CRI-O enhancement should allow pods to be run in separate user namespaces. This feature is controlled via annotations; no explicit Kubernetes support is required.

To experiment with this feature I deployed an OpenShift nightly (4.7) cluster, which uses a CRI-O v1.20 prerelease build. But having CRI-O v1.20 is not enough. The feature must be explicitly enabled in the CRI-O configuration. This leads to the question, what is the proper way to manage machine configuration in an OpenShift cluster? The answer is the Machine Config Operator (MCO).

The official OpenShift documentation does a good job of introducing and explaining the MCO, so there’s no need to regurgitate it all here. Instead I’ll review the configuration, object definitions and procedure from my CRI-O use case.

Configuring CRI-O via the Machine Config Operator §

CRI-O is configured via /etc/crio/crio.conf and additional files in the /etc/crio/crio.conf.d/ directory. Directives from crio.conf.d files have higher precedence and files are processed in lexicographic order.

The follow configuration enables the user namespaces feature:


I used MCO to drop that configuration snippet into the file /etc/crio/crio.conf.d/99-crio-userns.conf. First I needed the base64 encoding of the configuration content:

$ base64 --wrap=0 <<EOF

Next I created machineconfig-crio-userns.yaml. This defines a MachineConfig, the primary resource type handled by the MCO. The base64 output from above is used in this file.

apiVersion: machineconfiguration.openshift.io/v1
kind: MachineConfig
    machineconfiguration.openshift.io/role: worker
  name: crio-userns
      version: 3.1.0
      - path: /etc/crio/crio.conf.d/99-crio-userns.conf
        overwrite: true
          source: data:text/plain;charset=utf-8;base64,W2NyaW8ucnVudGltZS5ydW50aW1lcy5ydW5jXQphbGxvd2VkX2Fubm90YXRpb25zPVsiaW8ua3ViZXJuZXRlcy5jcmktby51c2VybnMtbW9kZSJdCg==

Note that the examples in the official documentation contain a lot of extraneous fields that can be omitted. MachineConfig objects use the Ignition configuration format. Read the Ignition Configuration Specification to see what fields are available or required (or not) for your use case.

There are just a few things about this MachineConfig that I’d like to highlight.

Next I created the MachineConfig object:

$ oc create -f machineconfig-crio-userns.yaml
machineconfig.machineconfiguration.openshift.io/crio-userns created

Over the next several minutes, the Machine Config Operator applied the configuration change to all the worker nodes and restarted them.

Closing thoughts §

Everything went smoothly and my impressions of MCO, from this first “hands on” experience, are very positive. It was a simple use case, I admit. But I am still very pleased that it was so easy and everything Just Worked. Hopefully other people have as good an experience with MCO as I did, even for more complex configuration changes.

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