Minishift and the Enterprise: Installation

Posted: February 14th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Technology | 2 Comments »

SoftwareAs technology has continued to advance, the steps for developing and deploying applications has followed suit. What was once a fairly standard process that involved only a finite number of components has evolved dramatically in recent years with the introduction of new toolsets and frameworks. While adding a new software package on an individual’s local machine may seem like a trivial task, the concerns are multiplied within an enterprise setting. What is the origin of the component? Why is it needed? What is the update cycle? Who supports the tool? These are all valid questions and a common occurrence in any organization practicing diligent IT security and compliance methodologies.

While a full-blown installation of OpenShift is not practical on a typical developer machine, Minishift offers developers the opportunity to take advantage of managing advanced container workloads while accelerating developer productivity without all of the complexities of the operational support. As organizations embrace OpenShift, they see the benefits of giving their developers the freedom of running an entire containerized version platform within an individual machine. These advantages include eliminating the reliance on a shared OpenShift environment as well as reducing the overall resource utilization of said cluster. As a result, costs are reduced and the opportunity for adding additional services to the environment can be attained.

So you want to run OpenShift locally

Based on prior experience, these concerns are typically encountered before organizations can adopt Minishift:

  • Describe the system requirements
  • Provide a list of dependencies

This type of information gives IT administrators, desktop support personnel, and compliance teams the necessary knowledge to fully understand the items they may be ultimately responsible for managing.

The system requirements and dependencies directly correlate to the type of distributions that will be provided.

Given the context of this series is focused on an enterprise setting, the remainder of these discussions will focus on the Container Development Kit (CDK), the downstream, productized version of Minishift. While many of the same concerns are found in the upstream project, there are specific items that are only found in the CDK.

The Container Development Kit is available using two installation paths:

  • A standalone executable
  • As part of the Red Hat Development Suite: A packaged set of tools to support container development, which includes OpenJDK, Red Hat JBoss Developer Studio, VirtualBox, and the Container Development Kit.

In most organizations that I have worked with, they choose to adopt the standalone executable instead of the Red Hat Development Suite. This decision is a result of organizations wanting to manage a succinct number of tools instead of a full suite. The suite is great for developers working outside of an enterprise context, as it provides a guided installation of the CDK. Also, there may already be a comparable tool that is packaged with the suite already within the enterprise.

Regardless of the installation approach, the primary requirement to support the CDK is the presence of a supported hypervisor as it runs within a virtual machine.

Several popular options are available:

The choices are directly dependent on the target Operating System, which in most organizations is either Windows or OSX. Even though I do work for a Linux company, I fully acknowledge the fact that most developers will rarely use Linux as their primary host in an enterprise setting.

Some organizations do wince at the prospect of having to support virtualization tools as they typically do require an increased system resource profile, such as RAM and CPU. Security teams also are concerned about any implementations that may attempt to compromise existing security features implemented both within the network as well as on the machine itself. In addition, administrative rights are required for the installation and in some cases the operation of hypervisor tooling.

Fortunately, thanks to the advent of development approaches leveraging virtual machines along with tools to support automated environment configuration, such as Vagrant, some organizations already have hypervisors present on developer machines and can forgo working through this process. This greatly simplifies the potential hurdles for adoption within the enterprise.

Setup and configuration

Once all of the hurdles of installing the prerequisite software have been completed, the CDK itself can be installed and configured. Organizations typically block the individual downloading of executable files for security purposes, so other mechanisms must be utilized. In many cases, approved software is made available through a software catalog. Otherwise, the executable for the CDK can be hosted in an artifact repository, such as Sonatype Nexus or JFrog Artifactory, for users to download.

When using a manual installation process and not initiated by a corporate installation tool that may automate many of the installation and configuration processes, users can either reference the executable file directly or place the file on the PATH and make it available within any terminal session. In the case of a Windows system, users will typically not be able to modify the system PATH variable as it is shared among multiple users of the machine. Instead, they can modify the user PATH variable that only affects their own individual account.

The next step is to setup the CDK itself by using the setup-cdk minishift command as shown below:

minishift setup-cdk

Setting up the CDK extracts the ISO file used to boot the virtual machine and prepares the system for use. All of these files are copied to the .minishift folder inside the users’ HOME directory ($HOME/.minishift). The location of this folder can be changed either by passing the –minishift-home flag or setting the MINISHIFT_HOME environment variable to a suitable location. In many environments, a home directory is located on a network share so that files can easily be retrieved across multiple systems as a user traverses different machines in the organization. However, a performance loss will be incurred during the operation of the CDK as resources are retrieved from a remote location. In addition, if for some reason a user is not connected to the corporate network, they will not have access to the required files to operate the CDK. When selecting an alternate folder location, users must be cognizant of the folder they are intending to target and whether they have write permissions.

The final step prior to starting the CDK is to specify credentials for registering the included copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to the Red Hat Network (RHN). Registration is required in order for containers running within OpenShift to take advantage of yum packages, as yum utilizes the subscriptions of the underlying host. A developer subscription can be obtained for free at or may be available through an existing enterprise license. While a properly subscribed machine is not required for normal operation, it will result in reduced functionality.

Credentials can be stored persistently using the MINISHIFT_USERNAME and MINISHIFT_PASSWORD environment variables, specified using the –username and –password flags during startup, or specified as a configuration item managed by the minishift config command. In addition to managing usernames and passwords, a wide range of options can be specified using the minishift config command, such as the hypervisor driver along with the amount of CPU or RAM allocated for the virtual machine. An example of how to set the virtual machine driver is shown below:

minishift config set vm-driver virtualbox

All that is left to do is to start the CDK along with any optional parameters:

minishift start

The Container Development Kit will provision a new virtual machine, register the machine, and complete a number of provisioning steps including the following:

  • Downloading the containerized version of OpenShift
  • Allocating a set of PersistentVolumes for making use of persistent storage
  • Applying several add-ons which extend the functionality of the base OpenShift configuration
  • Creating an admin and developer account for interacting with the platform

Once the CDK has started, it will present a URL to access the web console along with credentials for the developer account.

A baseline installation of the Container Development Kit in an enterprise environment is fairly straightforward once all of the prerequisites have been fulfilled. However, there are situations where access to external resources may not be readily available. In the next post in this series, we will illustrate how to use the Container Development Kit in an environment that requires the use of a proxy server to access external assets.

2 Comments on “Minishift and the Enterprise: Installation”

  1. 1 Minishift and the Enterprise: Installation – OpenShift Blog said at 10:14 am on February 16th, 2018:

    […] This post was originally published by Andrew Block on Block 87. […]

  2. 2 Minishift and the Enterprise: Proxies said at 12:21 pm on March 8th, 2018:

    […] part 1 of this series, an overview was provided on how to install and configure Minishift/Container […]

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