Deploying Rust with Docker and Kubernetes.


Posted by Chris Allen - 17 July, 2018

deploying rust with docker and kubernetes

Hello! My name is Chris Allen and I'm going to use a tiny Rust app to demonstrate deploying Rust with Docker and Kubernetes. Rust and Haskell apps are deployed in similar ways. Much of this is because the compilers for both languages generate native binary executables.

Here are the technologies we'll be using and why:

  • The programming language will be Rust. Partly just for a change of pace, partly because it's similar to but not exactly like deploying Haskell, something FP Complete has a lot of experience with. Rust is a high performance and safety oriented systems programming language.

  • For continuous integration we'll be using GitLab CI. GitLab CI is GitLab's continuous integration and continuous deployment platform. You don't have to use GitLab's source repositories or other functionality to take advantage of GitLab CI! We've found GitLab CI to be a sweet spot for most of our clients. In addition to natively supporting using Docker images as the build environments, GitLab makes it easy to use your own dedicated servers as build runners. This can dramatically improve build times over hosted offerings like TravisCI or CircleCI. Additionally, it follows an approach we like of keeping the CI build process in the code repository.

  • We'll be using Docker for our runtime deployment environment. Deploying the application as Docker images will make the application more reproducible and enable reuse of existing Docker oriented infrastructure.

  • Orchestration of the containers and services will be done with Kubernetes. Kubernetes automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Among other things, it enables thin-slicing resources for your applications without resorting to shared application environments. Kubernetes also provides self-healing, automated rollouts and rollbacks, horizontal scaling, service discovery and load balancing. Best of all, your Kubernetes service specifications are ordinary text files that can be version controlled alongside your application. Self-healing means that if a server or EC2 instance disappears, the Kubernetes cluster can restart the services that were running on that server on a different machine without human intervention.

Totto the bot-o

First, here's our Rust application:

extern crate futures;
extern crate telegram_bot;
extern crate tokio_core;

use std::env;

use futures::Stream;
use tokio_core::reactor::Core;
use telegram_bot::*;

fn main() {
    let mut core = Core::new().unwrap();

    let token = env::var("TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN").unwrap();
    let api = Api::configure(token).build(core.handle()).unwrap();

    // Fetch new updates via long poll method
    let future =|update| {

        // If the received update contains a new message...
        if let UpdateKind::Message(message) = update.kind {

            if let MessageKind::Text {ref data, ..} = message.kind {
                // Print received text message to stdout.
                println!("<{}>: {}", &message.from.first_name, data);

                // Answer message with "Hi".
                    format!("Hi, {}! You just wrote '{}'", &message.from.first_name, data)


This is identical to the lovely example provided by the telegram-bot library. All it does is run a Telegram bot which repeats back what you said.

To build this locally for development purposes, you would run:

cargo build

in your terminal. You'll also need the Cargo.toml file which specifies the project dependencies. The source code above (the main module) needs to be placed in a file located at src/ You can see how these are setup at:

To run this application and see if it works locally, you will first need to have a Telegram account. Once you're on Telegram, you'll want to talk to the botfather to get an API token for your instance of Totto. From there, you could run the application on MacOS or Linux by doing the following:

export TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN=my_token_I_got_from_botfather
cargo run totto

The name of the application after cargo run should match the name specified in the Cargo.toml:

If you direct message the bot the word “ping”, it'll reply with:

Hi, #{your_name}! You just wrote 'ping'

as a Telegram reply to your message, where your_name is whatever your first name on Telegram is.


One thing I wanted to demonstrate was building a conventional runtime container environment for a Rust application as well as a minimal one that could be as small as possible.

For a more conventional Docker environment, you could look at this Dockerfile:

FROM rust@sha256:1cdce1c7208150f065dac04b580ab8363a03cff7ddb745ddc2659d58dbc12ea8 as build

COPY ./ ./

RUN cargo build --release

RUN mkdir -p /build-out

RUN cp target/release/totto /build-out/

# Ubuntu 18.04
FROM ubuntu@sha256:5f4bdc3467537cbbe563e80db2c3ec95d548a9145d64453b06939c4592d67b6d

ENV DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive
RUN apt-get update && apt-get -y install ca-certificates libssl-dev && rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*

COPY --from=build /build-out/totto /

CMD /totto

We're pinning the SHA256 hash of the rust and ubuntu images to improve the reproducibility of the Docker build. You can find the Rust image here. We're also taking advantage of intermediate containers to separate the needs of the build environment from that of the runtime environment. We don't want to carry around the compiler and the build artifacts in our deployment image! To learn more about this approach, please see Deni Bertovic's post on building Haskell apps with Docker.

There are two main things we need in the runtime environment for our Rust application to function:

  • The Secure Sockets Layer library for linking at runtime (dynamically linked)
  • The CA certificate chain for validating the Telegram API server authenticity. This will come up and be addressed later in this post.

To furnish these requirements, we have:

RUN apt-get update && apt-get -y install ca-certificates libssl-dev && rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*

We install libssl-dev because the default Rust build for this application will dynamically link OpenSSL. The HTTP client's TLS support requires OpenSSL. Because this dependency is dynamically linked, we have to ensure libssl-dev is installed in the runtime environment. Many developers will eschew using a Docker image like ubuntu:18.04 in favor of using alpine or scratch. I recommend starting with ubuntu unless you have a demonstrable need for leaner Docker images. Ubuntu's Docker images provide a fairly conventional Linux environment and it can be much quicker to get the environment configured correctly for production use. However, since I know people will want the lean version, I also have…

Dockerization with scratch, musl, and a statically linked Rust application

For the fun of it, we'll use scratch instead of Alpine even though Alpine is more common for minimal applications.

Alpine is a very minimal Linux distribution designed for maximally-small Docker images. If you want to see what's included in Alpine, here's an example Dockerfile. If you're curious what comes with the image, you can decompress rootfs.tar.xz on your computer.

scratch is a baseline Docker image that contains nothing. It's the basis of Docker distributions like Alpine. If you're willing to sort out all of your dependencies yourself, you can use scratch for your deployments.

Here's our Dockerfile for the static binary:

FROM yasuyuky/rust-ssl-static@sha256:3df2c8949e910452ee09a5bcb121fada9790251f4208c6fd97bb09d20542f188 as build

COPY ./ ./

ENV DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive
RUN apt-get update && apt-get -y install ca-certificates libssl-dev && rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*


RUN cargo build --target x86_64-unknown-linux-musl --release

RUN mkdir -p /build-out

RUN cp target/x86_64-unknown-linux-musl/release/totto /build-out/

RUN ls /build-out/

FROM scratch

COPY --from=build /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt

COPY --from=build /build-out/totto /

ENV SSL_CERT_FILE=/etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
ENV SSL_CERT_DIR=/etc/ssl/certs

CMD ["/totto"]

This is similar structurally to our dynamically linked Docker build and runtime environment. Some differences are that we're using yasuyuky's rust-ssl-static image for the build image and scratch for the most minimal possible runtime environment. The TLS/SSL support gets linked into the binary at compile time, so we no longer need it to exist as a separate library in the runtime environment.

ENV PKG_CONFIG_ALLOW_CROSS=1 sets the environment variable for the cargo build command that follows.

Possible error when attempting to run the static image

If you get an error like this:

$ docker run -e TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN
docker: Error response from daemon: OCI runtime create failed: container_linux.go:348: starting container process caused "exec: \"/bin/sh\": stat /bin/sh: no such file or directory": unknown.
ERRO[0000] error waiting for container: context canceled

You might be invoking the command or entrypoint incorrectly. scratch, unlike alpine, doesn't have anything inside of it. Including /bin/sh! Accordingly, your command must be exec based:

CMD ["/totto"]

and not shell based:

CMD /totto

because there is no shell in scratch unless you copy one into the environment. To handle setting environment variables you can use the Dockerfile ENV command as we did above.

Deploying our Docker image with Kubernetes

For this section I'll assume you're using kubectl and that you've already set your KUBECONFIG environment variable to one pointed at a cluster you have access to. Our Kubernetes deployment specification for this app looks like this:

apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
kind: Deployment
  name: totto
  replicas: 1
  minReadySeconds: 5
    type: Recreate
        app: totto
        - name: totto
          imagePullPolicy: Always
            - name: TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN
                  name: totto-telegram-token
                  key: totto-token
              cpu: 10m
              memory: 10M
              cpu: 20m
              memory: 20M

Make sure image: points to a registry accessible to your Kubernetes cluster. I used GitLab's registry for my public repository because it requires no authentication. If you'd like to set up pulling images from a private registry please see the Kubernetes documentation on this:

Always set your resources: for your applications deployed on Kubernetes! Kubernetes can't do a good job of managing resource allocations without this. Often your nodes will get over-subscribed if you have applications deployed with resource limits.

The resource limits are set fairly low because our Rust application won't need much. This isn't too unusual as many odd-and-end task worker apps in a production environment will have similar resource utilization. Being able to thin-slice and right-size resource allocation for your applications is where much of the operational expense savings come from when you use Kubernetes, even if you're already operating in a cloud environment like AWS. AWS doesn't offer EC2 instances w/ 20 thousandths of a CPU and 20 megabytes of RAM!

Applying the deployment spec to the Kubernetes cluster and triggering deployment of the image:

$ kubectl apply -f etc/kubernetes/totto.yaml
deployment "totto" configured
$ kubectl rollout status -f etc/kubernetes/totto.yaml
Waiting for rollout to finish: 0 of 1 updated replicas are available...
deployment "totto" successfully rolled out

Okay, the application is probably deployed and running now if you see this, but I will talk about configuration and some errors I ran into now.

Configuring the application

Fortunately, configuring this Telegram bot application is pretty simple! Our application relies on being able to get the Telegram bot API token from the environment variables in this line of code:

let token = env::var("TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN").unwrap();

Accordingly, we'll need to ensure the TELEGRAM_BOT_TOKEN environment variable is set for our Docker containers in production. You may recall this section from the pod spec:

        name: totto-telegram-token
        key: totto-token

To make this work, I used the following kubectl command to create the secret:

kubectl create secret generic totto-telegram-token --from-file=/home/callen/Secrets/totto-token

Here name: was the secret name and key: was the filename provided in from-file=. The contents of the totto-token were simply the Telegram API token and nothing extra. With this, the environment should be set correctly for the Docker container when it runs in the Kubernetes cluster.

Re-deploying Kubernetes pods from a single image tag

The developers of Kubernetes do not currently support automatically re-pulling the same image and tag, and are unlikely to add such support in the future.

You'll want to make a more dynamic image tagging setup for a real project. Kubernetes won't assume a particular image identified by an image name and tag has “mutated” since it last pulled. One way to solve this problem is to have your Makefile append a build identifier onto the image name:

export CI_PIPELINE_ID ?= $(shell date +"%Y-%m-%d-%s")

For convenience and to keep this demonstration simple, I used a single image tag:


These image names are stable and do not change from build to build. To make deployment rollbacks possible, you really want varying image names or tags so that you can bump :latest back to the last known-good deployment. You're missing much of the benefit of Docker if you don't hold onto the images you've deployed.

To work around this for my very simple and temporary app I was trying to deploy, I would fiddle with a variable in my pod spec before each kubectl apply. An option for dealing with this is to use helm for templating your pod specs. Another hacky solution for when you're just testing a deployment is to kubectl delete your deployment and then re-apply.

SSL certificate problems

I ran into some problems while I was figuring out how to deploy this Telegram bot as a static binary under the Docker scratch environment. To interrogate the pod after I applied the pod spec I used kubectl rollout status -f etc/kubernetes/totto.yaml to monitor the deployment in one terminal. When I noticed it didn't wrap up after about 15 seconds, I did the following in another terminal:

$ kubectl get pods
[... listing of the pods and their status, I noticed there was a crash loop for Totto ...]

$ kubectl describe pod totto-2950502675-3x2nk
[... some more detailed information ...]

$ kubectl logs totto-2950502675-3x2nk
thread 'main' panicked at 'called `Result::unwrap()` on an `Err` value: Error(Hyper(Io(Custom { kind: Other, error: Ssl(ErrorStack([Error { code: 336134278, library: "SSL routines", function: "ssl3_get_server_certificate", reason: "certificate verify failed", file: "s3_clnt.c", line: 1264 }])) })), State { next_error: None, backtrace: None })', libcore/
note: Run with `RUST_BACKTRACE=1` for a backtrace.

Okay so the problem was that the scratch image really is empty out of the box. This means it doesn't have any trusted CA certificates pre-installed in the environment.


In order for our bot to work, the HTTP client underlying the Rust telegram bot library needs to be able to trust To solve this, I took advantage of the fact that we had a larger intermediate image based on Ubuntu Xenial and copied over the CA certificates into our scratch based runtime image:

COPY --from=build /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt

Note that I used the ENV directives and the exec form of CMD:

ENV SSL_CERT_FILE=/etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
ENV SSL_CERT_DIR=/etc/ssl/certs

CMD ["/totto"]

The exec form expects solely a path to a binary:

# Ok
CMD ["/totto"]

# Not ok
CMD ["SSL_CERT_FILE=/etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt SSL_CERT_DIR=/etc/ssl/certs /totto"]

After it's all said and done

Final image size for the statically linked binary with the CA certificates was 10.3 MB according to docker images on my Linux desktop. This isn't much larger than the binary was. If you were feeling cheeky, you could run strip on the binary before deploying it to make it even smaller but that could stymie debugging later.

The final source can be found at:

$ kubectl get pods | grep totto
totto-2950502675-zsw3n      1/1     Running     0   42m


Screenshot from 2018-07-17 17-31-16

Please reach out if you have any questions about Rust, Docker, or Kubernetes. I can be reached at

Topics: rust, Kubernetes, Docker, continuous integration, continuous integration; continuous delivery, continuous delivery

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