Programming language: Go
License: MIT License
Tags: Proxy    
Latest version: v0.10.2

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Build Status License: MIT Go Report Card Documentation

Add public LoadBalancers to your local Kubernetes clusters.

In cloud-based Kubernetes solutions, Services can be exposed as type "LoadBalancer" and your cloud provider will provision a LoadBalancer and start routing traffic, in another words: you get "Ingress" to your services from the outside world.

inlets-operator brings that same experience to your local Kubernetes cluster. The operator automates the creation of an inlets exit-server on public cloud, and runs the client as a Pod inside your cluster. Your Kubernetes Service will be updated with the public IP of the exit-node and you can start receiving incoming traffic immediately.

Who is this for?

This solution is for users who want to gain incoming network access (ingress) to private Kubernetes clusters. These may be running on-premises, on your laptop, within a VM or a Docker container. It even works behind NAT, and through HTTP proxies, without the need to open firewall ports. The cost of the LoadBalancer with a IaaS like DigitalOcean is around 5 USD / mo, which is several times cheaper than AWS or GCP.

Built for developers by developers

Video demo

Watch a video walk-through where we deploy an IngressController (ingress-nginx) to KinD, and then obtain LetsEncrypt certificates using cert-manager.

Video demo

Try the step-by-step tutorial

inlets tunnel capabilities

The operator detects Services of type LoadBalancer, and then creates a Tunnel Custom Resource. Its next step is to provision a small VM with a public IP on the public cloud, where it will run the inlets tunnel server. Then an inlets client is deployed as a Pod within your local cluster, which connects to the server and acts like a gateway to your chosen local service.

Pick inlets PRO or OSS.

inlets PRO

  • Automatic end-to-end encryption of the control-plane using PKI and TLS
  • Tunnel any TCP traffic at L4 i.e. Mongo, Postgres, MariaDB, Redis, NATS, SSH and TLS itself.
  • Tunnel an IngressController including TLS termination and LetsEncrypt certs from cert-manager
  • Punch out multiple ports such as 80 and 443 over the same tunnel
  • Commercially licensed and supported. For cloud native operators and developers.

Heavily discounted pricing available for personal use.

inlets OSS

  • No encryption enabled for the control-plane.
  • Tunnel L7 HTTP traffic.
  • Punch out only one port per tunnel, port name must be: http
  • Free, OSS, built for community developers.

If you transfer any secrets, login info, business data, or confidential information then you should use inlets PRO for its built-in encryption using TLS and PKI.

inlets projects

Inlets is a Cloud Native Tunnel and is listed on the Cloud Native Landscape under Service Proxies.

  • inlets - Cloud Native Tunnel for L7 / HTTP traffic written in Go
  • inlets-pro - Cloud Native Tunnel for L4 TCP
  • inlets-operator - Public IPs for your private Kubernetes Services and CRD
  • inletsctl - Automate the cloud for fast HTTP (L7) and TCP (L4) tunnels

Status and backlog

Operator cloud host provisioning:

  • [x] Provision VMs/exit-nodes on public cloud
  • [x] Provision to Equinix-Metal
  • [x] Provision to DigitalOcean
  • [x] Provision to Scaleway
  • [x] Provision to GCP
  • [x] Provision to AWS EC2
  • [x] Provision to Linode
  • [x] Provision to Azure
  • [x] Publish stand-alone Go provisioning library/SDK

With inlets-pro configured, you get the following additional benefits:

  • [x] Automatic configuration of TLS and encryption using secured websocket wss:// for control-port
  • [x] Tunnel pure TCP traffic
  • [x] Separate data-plane (ports given by Kubernetes) and control-plane (port 8132)

Other features:

  • [x] Automatically update Service type LoadBalancer with a public IP
  • [x] Tunnel L7 http traffic
  • [x] In-cluster Role, Dockerfile and YAML files
  • [x] Raspberry Pi / armhf build and YAML file
  • [x] ARM64 (Graviton/Odroid/Equinix-Metal) Dockerfile/build and K8s YAML files
  • [x] Control which services get a LoadBalancer using annotations
  • [x] Garbage collect hosts when Service or CRD is deleted
  • [x] CI with Travis and automated release artifacts
  • [x] One-line installer arkade - arkade install inlets-operator --help

Backlog pending:

  • [x] Feel free to request features.

inlets-operator reference documentation for different cloud providers

Check out the reference documentation for inlets-operator to get exit-nodes provisioned on different cloud providers here.

Get an IP address for your IngressController and LetsEncrypt certificates

Unlike other solutions, this:

  • Integrates directly into Kubernetes
  • Gives you a TCP LoadBalancer, and updates its IP in kubectl get svc
  • Allows you to use any custom DNS you want
  • Works with LetsEncrypt

Example tutorials:

Expose a service with a LoadBalancer

The LoadBalancer type is usually provided by a cloud controller, but when that is not available, then you can use the inlets-operator to get a public IP and ingress.

The free OSS version of inlets provides a HTTP tunnel, inlets PRO can provide TCP and full functionality to an IngressController.

First create a deployment for Nginx.

For Kubernetes 1.17 and lower:

kubectl run nginx-1 --image=nginx --port=80 --restart=Always

For 1.18 and higher:

kubectl apply -f https://raw.githubusercontent.com/inlets/inlets-operator/master/contrib/nginx-sample-deployment.yaml

Now create a service of type LoadBalancer via kubectl expose:

kubectl expose deployment nginx-1 --port=80 --type=LoadBalancer
kubectl get svc

kubectl get tunnel/nginx-1-tunnel -o yaml

kubectl logs deploy/nginx-1-tunnel-client

Check the IP of the LoadBalancer and then access it via the Internet.

Notes on OSS inlets

inlets PRO can tunnel multiple ports, but inlets OSS is set to take the first port named "http" for your service. With the OSS version of inlets (see example with OpenFaaS), make sure you give the port a name of http, otherwise a default of 80 will be used incorrectly.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: gateway
  namespace: openfaas
    app: gateway
    - name: http
      port: 8080
      protocol: TCP
      targetPort: 8080
      nodePort: 31112
    app: gateway
  type: LoadBalancer

Annotations, ignoring services and running with other LoadBalancers controllers

By default the operator will create a tunnel for every LoadBalancer service.

There are three ways to override the behaviour:

1) Create LoadBalancers for every service, unless annotated

To ignore a service such as traefik type in: kubectl annotate svc/traefik -n kube-system dev.inlets.manage=false

2) Create LoadBalancers for only annotated services

You can also set the operator to ignore the services by default and only manage them when the annotation is true with the flag -annotated-only To create a service such as traefik type in: kubectl annotate svc/traefik -n kube-system dev.inlets.manage=true

3) Create a Tunnel resource for ClusterIP services

Running multiple LoadBalancers controllers together, e.g. inlets-operator and MetalLB, can have some issue as both will compete against each other when processing the service.

Although the inlets-operator has the flag -annotated-only to filter the services, not all other LoadBalancer controller have a similar feature.

In this case, the inlets-operator is still able to expose services by using a ClusterIP service with a Tunnel resource instead of a LoadBalancer service.


apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: nginx
  type: ClusterIP
  - name: http
    port: 80
    targetPort: 80
    app: nginx
apiVersion: inlets.inlets.dev/v1alpha1
kind: Tunnel
  name: nginx
  serviceName: nginx
  auth_token: <token>

The public IP address of the tunnel is available in the service resource:

$ kubectl get services,tunnel
NAME            TYPE        CLUSTER-IP        EXTERNAL-IP       PORT(S)   AGE
service/nginx   ClusterIP   80/TCP    78s

NAME                             SERVICE   TUNNEL         HOSTSTATUS   HOSTIP            HOSTID
tunnel.inlets.inlets.dev/nginx   nginx     nginx-client   active   214795742

or use a jsonpath to get the value:

kubectl get service nginx --output jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].ip}'

Monitor/view logs

The operator deployment is in the kube-system namespace.

kubectl logs deploy/inlets-operator -n kube-system -f

Running on a Raspberry Pi

Use the same commands as described in the section above.

There used to be separate deployment files in artifacts folder called operator-amd64.yaml and operator-armhf.yaml. Since version 0.2.7 Docker images get built for multiple architectures with the same tag which means that there is now just one deployment file called operator.yaml that can be used on all supported architecures.

Provider Pricing

The host provisioning code used by the inlets-operator is shared with inletsctl, both tools use the configuration in the grid below.

These costs need to be treated as an estimate and will depend on your bandwidth usage and how many hosts you decide to create. You can at all times check your cloud provider's dashboard, API, or CLI to view your exit-nodes. The hosts provided have been chosen because they are the absolute lowest-cost option that the maintainers could find.

Provider Price per month Price per hour OS image CPU Memory Boot time
Google Compute Engine * ~\$4.28 ~\$0.006 Debian GNU Linux 9 (stretch) 1 614MB ~3-15s
Equinix-Metal ~\$51 \$0.07 Ubuntu 16.04 4 8GB ~45-60s
Digital Ocean \$5 ~\$0.0068 Ubuntu 16.04 1 1GB ~20-30s
Scaleway 2.99€ 0.006€ Ubuntu 18.04 2 2GB 3-5m
  • The first f1-micro instance in a GCP Project (the default instance type for inlets-operator) is free for 720hrs(30 days) a month


Contributions are welcome, see the [CONTRIBUTING.md](CONTRIBUTING.md) guide.

Similar projects / products and alternatives

  • inlets pro - L4 TCP tunnel, which can tunnel any TCP traffic with automatic, built-in encryption. Kubernetes-ready with Docker images and YAML manifests.
  • inlets - inlets provides an L7 HTTP tunnel for applications through the use of an exit node, it is used by the inlets operator. Encryption can be configured separately.
  • metallb - open source LoadBalancer for private Kubernetes clusters, no tunnelling.
  • Cloudflare Argo - paid SaaS product from Cloudflare for Cloudflare customers and domains - K8s integration available through Ingress
  • ngrok - a popular tunnelling tool, restarts every 7 hours, limits connections per minute, paid SaaS product with no K8s integration available

Author / vendor

inlets and the inlets-operator are brought to you by OpenFaaS Ltd and Alex Ellis.

*Note that all licence references and agreements mentioned in the inlets README section above are relevant to that project's source code only.