Erlang cluster on Kubernetes: Non-root user

22 Dec 2022 18:08

The Erlang daemon that I’ve been using to demonstrate Erlang distribution on K8s is running as the root user. I’m going to fix that.

Creating the user

In the Dockerfile, I made the following changes:

COPY --from=build /build/_build/prod/rel/erlclu /erlclu

RUN addgroup -g 10000 erlclu && adduser -u 10000 -D -G erlclu -h /erlclu erlclu
USER erlclu

This runs the alpine addgroup and adduser commands to create a non-root user. I used uid and gid 10000.

The USER erlclu command is:

  • after the COPY, since we want the files owned by root (it prevents the application from overwriting its own files).
  • before the ENTRYPOINT, since we want to run as the new user.


I updated the deployment file to specify a securityContext:

    runAsNonRoot: true
    runAsUser: 10000
    runAsGroup: 10000
  serviceAccountName: erlclu

Fixing ownership

After making the previous changes, the daemon would no longer start. As part of the startup script, the environment variables in vm.args.src are expanded to create vm.args. That fails, because it no longer has permission to create the new file.

To fix that, I tweaked the Dockerfile as follows:

RUN addgroup -g 10000 erlclu && adduser -u 10000 -D -G erlclu -h /erlclu erlclu
# Allow the startup script to write to ../releases/<vsn>/vm.args, etc.
RUN chown -R erlclu.erlclu /erlclu/releases/${RELEASE_VSN}
USER erlclu

That requires passing the RELEASE_VSN argument when building the container:

       podman build -f Dockerfile --build-arg RELEASE_VSN=$(RELEASE_VSN) -t erlclu

There are probably other things that could be tweaked. Let me know if I’ve missed anything serious. This’ll do for now.