Technical Appendix: 2 Operator Flows

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1 Introduction

This documentation provides an overview of how the Mendix for Private Cloud components interact, both with external services and with each other. It explains what happens when:

  • the Mendix Operator is installed and configured
  • an environment is created

2 Installation Prerequisites

For a full list of the Operator prerequisites, see Mendix for Private Cloud Supported Providers.

Mendix for Private Cloud is the officially supported Mendix solution for deploying Mendix apps into a Kubernetes cluster. To provide a better integration with an existing ecosystem, Mendix for Private Cloud relies on external services for compute, storage, and networking resources. For example, Mendix for Private Cloud in the AWS ecosystem can allow you to:

  • benefit from AWS hyperscaling features
  • use a managed database and file storage solution
  • integrate with other workloads already running in the same AWS account

Mendix for Private Cloud provides improved integration with some hyperscalers, but also supports self-hosted solutions. It is possible to run Mendix for Private Cloud on a local, self-contained Kubernetes VM such as microk8s, k3s/k3os, or minikube.

Before installing the Mendix for Private Cloud Operator, it is highly recommended that you confirm the environment is working. For example, you can try deploying a “hello world” test container app and testing that the database, file storage, and container registry can be reached from the Kubernetes cluster.

2.1 Kubernetes

The Mendix Operator uses the Kubernetes API to manage Kubernetes resources and store its state. The Mendix Operator includes Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs), which allow control of the Operator and query its status through the Kubernetes API. Any Kubernetes API client can be used to control the Operator, including kubectl, oc, the OpenShift Web Console, Lens, and many others. The Developer Portal can also be used to manage environments (using the Mendix Gateway Agent as the Kubernetes API client).

Mendix for Private Cloud doesn’t access the base operating system. Kubernetes service accounts are used to call the Kubernetes API, and Kubernetes RBAC ensures that each service account only gets the minimum required permissions. All container images provided by Mendix run as a non-root user/group and don’t require privilege escalation. Container images can be run in OpenShift with randomized UIDs without any configuration.

During installation with mxpc-cli, the current user’s Kubernetes authorization is used to create namespaces and install CRDs.

2.2 Database

Each Mendix environment needs a dedicated database – two different applications/environments cannot share a database. Mendix for Private Cloud has built-in features to create and delete tenants on a database server, which allows a single database server to be shared by multiple environments. This is called an “On-Demand” database; as soon as a new environment is created, the Operator can automatically create a database tenant for that environment.

You can also create a “Dedicated” database manually, and the Operator will just pass the database credentials directly to the Mendix Runtime. Dedicated databases cannot be shared between environments.

Mendix for Private Cloud will not install, create, or maintain the database server – you will need to provide the database server and maintain it. You can use any compatible database server, as long as the database server is officially supported by Mendix for Private Cloud (for example a geo-redundant AWS Aurora).

For apps that don’t need persistence (for example demo or frontend apps), an ephemeral database can be used. The Mendix Runtime will use an in-memory database which will not persist any data between restarts.

2.3 File storage

To store files, Mendix environments need access to a blob (object) storage server, such as AWS S3 or Minio. A specialized blob storage server is much easier to maintain and manage than block storage (CSI or mounted volumes). Unlike databases, a single blob storage bucket and account can be shared by multiple environments. Depending on the storage provider, Mendix for Private Cloud can either provision the bucket and IAM user automatically when a new environment is created, or let an environment use a pre-provisioned bucket and IAM account.

Mendix for Private Cloud will not install, create, or maintain the blob storage server (such as Minio) – you will need to install the blob storage server and maintain it. When using a managed storage solution such as AWS S3 or Azure Blob Storage, you will need to create the storage account and IAM role to be used by the Mendix Operator.

2.4 Network endpoint

To allow HTTP clients to communicate with the Mendix Runtime, you will need to set up the network infrastructure. This typically includes a DNS wildcard domain, a load balancer, and an ingress controller. The infrastructure will depend on how exactly your network is set up and how Mendix apps should be reachable. For example, you might have a requirement allow Mendix apps to only be reachable from a private intranet and use domains from a private DNS zone.

Some Kubernetes vendors such as OpenShift will install and configure the entire network out of the box. Other vendors such as AWS offer multiple types of Ingress controllers and Load Balancers.

Mendix for Private Cloud can create one of:

Mendix for Private Cloud allows you to customize some Ingress, Route, and Service properties either globally (for the entire namespace) or per environment.

2.5 Container registry

Kubernetes uses container images to distribute software. Before deploying a Mendix app (.mda) file, Mendix for Private Cloud will repack the .mda file into a container image and push this image into a container image registry such as ECR, quay.io, or Nexus. Using a centralized container registry simplifies cluster scaling and provides insights into what is running in a cluster. For example, it is possible to use Trivy scanner to scan all images deployed in a cluster for CVEs.

You will need to create the container registry and provide credentials to the Mendix Operator so that it can push images to the registry. In addition, your Kubernetes cluster needs to be authorized to pull images from the registry.

2.6 Network connectivity

Your cluster needs network connectivity to the database and file (blob) storage.

For Connected clusters, Mendix for Private Cloud needs to be able to connect to Mendix Services. If necessary, communication can be done through an HTTPS proxy. The Mendix Operator doesn’t require any internet-facing open ports (port forwarding) to communicate with Mendix services. All communication with the Developer Portal is over HTTPS and is initiated from the Kubernetes cluster. It is even possible to run Mendix for Private Cloud behind Network Address Translation (NAT) devices or even a series of NAT devices.

3 Installation

The diagram below shows the steps which you need to take to install Mendix for Private Cloud in a namespace. It assumes that the Cluster Administrator has already set up the cluster so that the Developer Portal knows about it. See Creating a Private Cloud Cluster for more information.

First, you create the namespace in the Mendix Developer Portal.

You can then download mxpc-cli, the configuration tool, which is used to install and configure Mendix for Private Cloud components and is customized for your Kubernetes namespace.

The configuration tool provides an interactive, terminal-based GUI to prepare and apply Kubernetes configuration objects (such as deployments, pods, secrets, and Mendix Operator CRs). To communicate and authenticate with the Kubernetes API, the default KUBECONFIG is used. If your KUBECONFIG has multiple contexts, clusters, or users, you must switch to the correct target context before running the mxpc-cli tool.

In Connected Mode, the mxpc-cli tool will call the Developer Portal to create a label for the storageplan CR which is successfully created or updated in Kubernetes. Cluster members with the appropriate roles can then select this plan from a dropdown when creating a new environment. The mxpc-cli tool will not interact with the Developer Portal when the cluster is installed in Standalone mode.

4 App Deployment

When you want to create a new environment you need to create a MendixApp CR in Kubernetes.

In connected mode, this is initiated in the Developer Portal, which sends the MendixApp CR to the Mendix Gateway Agent. The Agent will then create the MendixApp CR in Kubernetes.

In standalone mode, you need to create the MendixApp CR directly in your Kubernetes namespace, using the mxpc-cli tool.

When it finds the MendixApp CR, the Operator will initiate processing of all the MendixApp dependencies, as shown in the diagram below.

These dependency CRs include StorageInstance, Build, and Endpoint CRs. Each dependency CR is handled by its own controller.

Once all dependencies are processed (report their status as Ready), the Operator will process the Runtime CR.

Any time a CR’s status is changed, the Operator will propagate it to the MendixApp CR. The Agent will receive events any time the MendixApp CR changes its status.

In connected mode, this status will be reported back to the Developer Portal. To ensure you see the latest status reported by the Mendix Gateway Agent in the Developer Portal, press the Refresh button.

4.1 Storage Provisioning

The diagram below provides a more detailed explanation how the Mendix Operator communicates with the StorageInstance controller when creating a new environment.

The Operator doesn’t communicate with the database or file storage directly, instead, the StorageInstance controller runs a provisioner pod (a “task” pod) to create a new storage tenant in the database or file server. The StoragePlan CR (created earlier when the Operator was configured with the mxpc-cli configuration tool) contains blueprints for the provisioner pod, such as:

  • The provisioner image name
  • The name of the Kubernetes secret containing management credentials – such as the PostgreSQL admin username/password or AWS credentials
  • Command-line arguments
  • Memory and CPU requests and limits

To the Operator, all provisioner pods look identical, and work as plugins. The StorageInstance controller will create a provisioner pod and wait for it to successfully complete. If the provisioner terminates without an error and creates a secret, the StorageInstance controller assumes that the storage was successfully provisioned and ready for use.

Each storage type (PostgreSQL, JDBC, S3, Minio, and others) typically has its own provisioner image. For example, the PostgreSQL provisioner image will connect to a PostgreSQL server and create a new database and role that can only be used by one app.

When a provisioner pod successfully creates a new tenant for an environment, it will store the credentials for that environment in a new Kubernetes secret that can be used by that environment. The provisioner pod doesn’t have permissions to read or modify secrets, only to create new secrets.

Some provisioners (“basic” provisioners) don’t communicate with a storage server at all and only generate a Kubernetes secret. This approach is used, for example, by the Dedicated JDBC database option and the S3 (existing bucket and account) file storage option.

If the provisioner pod fails with an error, it is likely to be because of a configuration issue, and the StorageInstance controller will not try to run the provisioner pod again. You will need to review the logs from the failed pod, resolve the underlying issue, and delete the provisioner pod. Only then will the StorageInstance controller attempt to provision storage again.

4.2 App Image Build

When a new deployment package (MDA) is deployed from the Developer Portal to an environment, the Developer Portal will generate a new sourceURL (the URL where the MDA can be downloaded) and send it to the Mendix Gateway Agent. The Mendix Gateway Agent will then update the MendixApp CR’s spec.sourceURL attribute.

For a standalone environment, you need to create the MendixApp CR yourself and apply it to the namespace where it should be deployed. You can find further instructions in Using Command Line to Deploy a Mendix App to a Private Cloud Cluster.

The processing of the MendixApp CR is shown in the diagram below.

When the Build controller detects that the source URL (spec.sourceURL) in the Build CR has changed, it will run the build pod. The build pod will then do the following:

  • download the MDA from the specified spec.sourceURL
  • convert the MDA into a OCI image layer (app layer)
  • append the app layer to a runtime-base image
  • push the resulting image to the image registry

When the build pod successfully completes without errors, the container registry will contain an updated version of the app’s image. The Build controller signals to the MendixApp CR that there is a new version of the app, and this change triggers the Runtime controller to restart the environment.

If the build pod fails with an error, it is likely to be because of a configuration issue, and the Build controller will not try to run the build pod again. You will need to review the logs from the failed pod, resolve the underlying issue, and delete the build pod. Only then will the Build controller attempt to provision storage again.

4.3 Endpoint Allocation

Mendix for Private Cloud offers three ways to route traffic from an HTTP listener to a Mendix runtime:

  • Kubernetes Ingress
  • OpenShift Routes
  • Service only

The Ingress and Route options allow you to quickly start using an existing Ingress controller or OpenShift router to route traffic to a Kubernetes service. With both these options the Kubernetes service is created automatically. The Kubernetes service performs load balancing – routing traffic to the individual replicas (pods) of your Mendix app.

If you choose the service only option, you can route traffic to the service directly from a load balancer such as AWS CLB or NLB, or manually create and manage Ingress resources.

4.3.1 Using Kubernetes Ingress

To use an Ingress controller, you need to install it first:

  1. Install your chosen ingress controller. Most ingress controllers will also create a Kubernetes load balancer service on installation
  2. Set up DNS in one of two ways:
    • ensure that your app domain(s) (or wildcard domain) resolve to the load balancer’s external IP address – see, for example, the article Routing traffic to an ELB load balancer, which explains how to set up Route 53
    • install and set up Kubernetes External DNS to automatically manage your DNS server
  3. Create a test ingress object and deploy a test app to verify that the network setup is working.

4.3.2 Using OpenShift Routes

If you are using OpenShift Routes, the OpenShift router is already configured and doesn’t need additional configuration.

4.3.3 The Endpoint Controller

When a new environment is created in the Mendix Operator, the Operator will create a service object (for all endpoint types: service only, ingress, or route) together with the ingress or route object, if required. After the Endpoint controller successfully creates all required objects, the MendixApp controller will automatically set the Runtime’s ApplicationRootUrl so that a Mendix app can always know its URL. Some marketplace modules, for example SAML, need this information to work correctly.

When accessing an app from a web browser through an ingress or route, the path would look like this:

When accessing an app from a web browser through a load balancer service, the path would look like this:

4.4 Logging and Metering

For logging and metering, Mendix for Private Cloud relies on open industry standards:

  • Prometheus metrics
  • Standard output for container logs

If your cluster doesn’t already have a logging and monitoring solution, you can follow Monitoring Environments in Mendix for Private Cloud for information on how to install Grafana and start collecting logs and metrics from Mendix apps.