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How (not) to install WordPress on Kubernetes

Today we’re dragging LAMP into the 21st century in the worst possible way.

Combination of the WordPress and Kubernetes logos
Steer clear from unnecessary complexity by running everything in a single container

Much of the world wide web reportedly runs on PHP. This includes large online platforms, like Facebook, Flickr, and Wikipedia, but also a countless number of WordPress-based corporate websites and personal blogs.

This does not mean that PHP is a popular programming language. In fact, it’s probably . WordPress’s reputation isn’t exactly stellar among web developers either.

EvErYtHiNg WaS bEtTeR iN tHe PaSt

Now, there are a lot of reasons to hate on PHP (and WordPress). Some of those are perfectly justified. Most however are based on negative experiences that people once had with some version of the language or ecosystem that hasn’t existed for a very long time now.

The language, its interpreter, community, and ecosystem have all made huge leaps forward, to the point where everything about it is basically just a slightly different Java. Things are pretty okay nowadays.

But sometimes I do long for the “good old days”, when you could still get away with absolutely awful spaghetti code without tests, debug code by (repeatedly) adding var_dump()s to your PHP files on production, and deploy new code by just FTP’ing a bunch of files to the right directory.

Today, we’re going to use modern development and hosting tools to relive those good old days – or at least parts of it. We’ll do this by packaging WordPress and some other stuff into a Docker container and hosting it on a local Kubernetes cluster as if it is a virtual machine.

Packaging our app

The first thing we need is Docker, a tool that lets you run your code in containers. A container contains your code and an operating system, so it is kind of like a virtual machine, except that it is not a virtual machine.

Containers can be provisioned using a . A Dockerfile is sort of like a shell script, except that it is not a shell script.

One major difference between shell scripts and Dockerfiles, is that Dockerfiles also specify which operating system you’ll use. In our case, we’ll go with the latest LTS version of Ubuntu, for no reason other than that it is a popular choice among those who maintain actual virtual machines:

Almost everything after this line looks a lot like a shell script, albeit one with a slightly more convoluted syntax. For example, this is how we install the packages that we need in our container:

Note that we put everything into a single RUN instruction. This is something that you see often in Dockerfiles, .

Since we’re not particularly interested in following best (or even acceptable) practices in this guide we’ll just use individual instructions as much as possible, if only because I think it looks prettier.

Anyway, in the previous snippet we used apt to install two web applications: WordPress and phpMyAdmin. We still need to configure them so that they can be accessed via Apache and know how to connect to the database:

As you can see, I took the liberty of hardcoding some credentials that are easy to remember, so you’ll never have to worry about locking yourself out of the system!

Speaking of which, we’ll also pretend that we care about security by installing and configuring ufw so that it allows traffic for ports between 1 and 443 (which we do not actually use in this guide, but whatever):

There is one very important thing that we haven’t done yet: we still need to start the Apache web server using CMD, which is sort of like RUN, except that it’s the thing that is executed when the container is actually running.

There are also two other very important things.

Remember that MySQL server that we had started earlier so that we could create some database users? It’s no longer up at this point, so we’ll need to start it again as well.

Moreover, Docker containers stop when their main process stops. In our case, we want to start two perpetually running processes via service start. However, these commands exit once they have started the service in the background and thus so will our container.

Fortunately, we can easily keep our Docker container alive by keeping it comatose until the end of time by adding sleep infinity to our CMD instruction:

The resulting Dockerfile can be found in the accompanying GitHub repository, along with the various configuration files that were referenced in the snippets above.

We can build a container by executing the following command in the directory that contains the Dockerfile and configuration files for WordPress and phpMyAdmin:

The -t chunfeilung/kubernutty part is used to name the container, which you can also find on Docker Hub.

Run our app with Docker

Our container can be started by executing the following command:

This will take a few seconds. Not only because the container needs to start multiple services, but also because we have in our Dockerfile.

It’s worth the wait though; the end result looks glorious in docker ps! The formatted output below is reasonably close to what I’m seeing on my screen.

Article continues below big-ass code block

Things look pretty alright in the browser too:

Apache’s default welcome page that tells you that “It works!”
http://localhost tells you that everything is fine.
WordPress’s default home page that you see when you have completed
            the installation procedure.
http://localhost/blog after we went through the installation process
phpMyAdmin’s home screen, which still looks as if it was designed by
            a programmer.
http://localhost/phpmyadmin has a new theme nowadays, but somehow still looks as if it hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

Deploy our app to Kubernetes

Good, we’re almost done! Let’s deploy our app to Kubernetes so we can call it a day.

First, create a kubernutty namespace for our project:

Then, we’ll provide definitions for two types of Kubernetes objects that will help us deploy our WordPress container, a Deployment and a Service:

The Deployment tells us that we want to run a single instance of the chunfeilung/kubernutty image and give it access to 1 CPU and 2 gigabytes of memory. The Service makes the deployed application accessible within the Kubernetes cluster.

I saved the configuration in a file named kubernutty.yaml, which I’m going to apply to our kubernutty namespace:

This creates a single pod that runs our container:

The first thing you probably want to do now, is view the result in a browser. Unfortunately you can’t do that yet. Our configuration doesn’t tell Kubernetes how to do that!

What we can do though, is use kubectl port-forward to forward traffic on our host to the newly created pod:

We can now access our WordPress installation on localhost:8080:

WordPress’s setup screen
http://localhost:8080/blog shows the WordPress installation page.

What’s next

Hooray, you have committed your first crimes against humanity!

While we could definitely add more cool things, like a domain name or an FTP server, the best thing we can do for now is delete the kubernutty namespace by executing

and not talk about this ever again.

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