The Problem

As a developer when you are working on a Kubernetes application on your local machine, if you want to test or debug something, you have the following options:

  • A full environment running using docker-compose.
  • A full environment running in a local Kubernetes cluster (Minikube or Docker-for-Desktop)
  • Pushing instrumented code, building, testing, and deploying to a dev Kubernetes cluster through CI/CD pipeline.

The problem with the first two options is the environment you get is not close by any means to your actual final environment (staging and production). And, the last option is very time-consuming for developers to make a small change and go through the full CI/CD pipeline each time.

What is Telepresence?

Telepresence is a CNCF project created by Datawire. It is such a great tool for developers to debug and test their codes locally without going through the full deployment process to a Kubernetes cluster.

Telepresence creates a two-way network proxy between a Pod and a process running locally on your machine. TCP connections, environment variables, volumes, etc. are proxied from your pod to the local process. The networking for the local process is also transparently changed, so DNS calls and TCP connections from your local process will be proxied to the remote Kubernetes cluster.

After installing Telepresence, you can try out the following:

telepresence --swap-deployment <name> --run-shell

This will run a shell locally while all TCP connections, environment variables, volumes from the pod <name> are available.

What is konfig?

konfig is a minimal and unopinionated library for reading configuration values in Go applications. You can read more about it and how to use it here. Using konfig, reading and parsing configuration values is as easy as defining a struct! Here is an example:

package main

import (


var config = struct {
  Port        int
  LogLevel    string
  Timeout     time.Duration
  DatabaseURL []url.URL
} {
  Port:     3000,   // default port
  LogLevel: "info", // default logging level

func main() {
  // ...

How does konfig Help?

When working with Kubernetes Secrets, you want to access them as mounted volumes and files. This way you can set file permissions for mounted secrets and they are updated automatically when you make a change to your secrets.

In a Telepresence session, the file system of pod including all volumes is mounted from a path specified in TELEPRESENCE_ROOT environment variable. If you want to run your application in a Telepresence session the same way you run it in your pod, you need to build some logic in your application to take TELEPRESENCE_ROOT into account.

konfig is an out-of-the-box solution for transparently reading your configuration values either in a real Pod environment or in a Telepresence session.

An Example

You can find the source code for this example here.

Let’s build and push the Docker image and then deploy the resources to Kubernetes.

# current directory: examples/4-telepresence
make docker k8s-deploy

If we get the logs for our pod (kubectl logs <pod_name>), we should see something similar to the following line:

2019/07/14 23:45:54 making service-to-service calls using this token: super-strong-secret

Now, we are going to see how we can use Telepresence and konfig. First, let’s see how Telepresence works. Run the following commands:

go build -o app
telepresence --swap-deployment example --run ./app

If you run ls command, you would see your local files. If you run env command, you would see the AUTH_TOKEN_FILE environment variable is present. Next, try running echo $TELEPRESENCE_ROOT and then cd $TELEPRESENCE_ROOT. This is where the file system of your pod is mounted. In a Telepresence session, you need to prepend $TELEPRESENCE_ROOT to the paths of mounted volumes. We will see how konfig can automatically detect a Telepresence session and read your secrets the same way as they are in your pod.

Now, let’s make a change to our code as follows:

konfig.Pick(&Config, konfig.Telepresence(), konfig.Debug(5))
log.Printf("auth token: %s", Config.AuthToken)

Without building a new Docker image and pushing it, we just compile our application and run it using telepresence command.

go build -o app
telepresence --swap-deployment example --run ./app

You will see our app is running locally and the AuthToken is successfully read from the Telepresence environment.

2019/07/14 19:58:24 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019/07/14 19:58:24 Options: Debug<5> + Telepresence
2019/07/14 19:58:24 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] expecting flag name: auth.token
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] expecting environment variable name: AUTH_TOKEN
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] expecting file environment variable name: AUTH_TOKEN_FILE
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] expecting list separator: ,
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] value read from flag auth.token:
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] value read from environment variable AUTH_TOKEN:
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] value read from file environment variable AUTH_TOKEN_FILE: /secrets/myappsecret/auth-token
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] telepresence root path: /tmp/tel-deewv8wa/fs
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] value read from file /tmp/tel-deewv8wa/fs/secrets/myappsecret/auth-token: super-strong-secret
2019/07/14 19:58:24 [AuthToken] setting string value: super-strong-secret
2019/07/14 19:58:24 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2019/07/14 19:58:24 auth token: super-strong-secret


Telepresence is a great tool for developing applications for Kubernetes. konfig makes reading and parsing of configuration values for Go applications extremely easy. It can also read configuration values in a Telepresence session transparently.