Building a minimal web server for testing Kubernetes

Sun 04 January 2015 by Lars Kellogg-Stedman Tags docker kubernetes

I have recently been doing some work with Kubernetes, and wanted to put together a minimal image with which I could test service and pod deployment. Size in this case was critical: I wanted something that would download quickly when initially deployed, because I am often setting up and tearing down Kubernetes as part of my testing (and some of my test environments have poor external bandwidth).

Building thttpd

My go-to minimal webserver is thttpd. For the normal case, building the software is a simple matter of ./configure followed by make. This gets you a dynamically linked binary; using ldd you could build a Docker image containing only the necessary shared libraries:

$ mkdir thttpd-root thttpd-root/lib64
$ cp thttpd thttpd-root/
$ cd thttpd-root
$ cp $(ldd thttpd | awk '$3 ~ "/" {print $3}') lib64/
$ cp /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 lib64/

Which gets us:

$ find * -type f
lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2
lib64/libdl.so.2
lib64/libc.so.6
lib64/libcrypt.so.1
lib64/libfreebl3.so
thttpd

However, if we try to run thttpd via a chroot into this directory, it will fail:

$ sudo chroot $PWD /thttpd -D
/thttpd: unknown user - 'nobody'

A little strace will show us what's going on:

$ sudo strace chroot $PWD /thttpd -D
[...]
open("/etc/nsswitch.conf", O_RDONLY|O_CLOEXEC) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
open("/lib64/libnss_compat.so.2", O_RDONLY|O_CLOEXEC) = -1 ENOENT (No such file or directory)
[...]

It's looking for an NSS configuration and related libraries. So let's give it what it wants:

$ mkdir etc
$ cat > etc/nsswitch.conf <<EOF
passwd: files
group: files
EOF
$ grep nobody /etc/passwd > etc/passwd
$ grep nobody /etc/group > etc/group
$ cp /lib64/libnss_files.so.2 lib64/

And now:

$ sudo chroot $PWD /thttpd -D

...and it keeps running. This gives a filesystem that is almost exactly 3MB in size. Can we do better?

Building a static binary

In theory, building a static binary should be as simple as:

$ make CCOPT='-O2 -static'

But on my Fedora 21 system, this gets me several warnings:

thttpd.c:(.text.startup+0xf81): warning: Using 'initgroups' in statically linked applications requires at runtime the shared libraries from the glibc version used for linking
thttpd.c:(.text.startup+0x146d): warning: Using 'getpwnam' in statically linked applications requires at runtime the shared libraries from the glibc version used for linking
thttpd.c:(.text.startup+0x65d): warning: Using 'getaddrinfo' in statically linked applications requires at runtime the shared libraries from the glibc version used for linking

And then a bunch of errors:

/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-redhat-linux/4.9.2/../../../../lib64/libcrypt.a(md5-crypt.o): In function `__md5_crypt_r':
(.text+0x11c): undefined reference to `NSSLOW_Init'
/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-redhat-linux/4.9.2/../../../../lib64/libcrypt.a(md5-crypt.o): In function `__md5_crypt_r':
(.text+0x136): undefined reference to `NSSLOWHASH_NewContext'
/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-redhat-linux/4.9.2/../../../../lib64/libcrypt.a(md5-crypt.o): In function `__md5_crypt_r':
(.text+0x14a): undefined reference to `NSSLOWHASH_Begin'
/usr/lib/gcc/x86_64-redhat-linux/4.9.2/../../../../lib64/libcrypt.a(md5-crypt.o): In function `__md5_crypt_r':
[...]

Fortunately (?), this is a distribution-specific problem. Building thttpd inside an Ubuntu Docker container seems to work fine:

$ docker run -it --rm -v $PWD:/src ubuntu
root@1e126269241c:/# apt-get update; apt-get -y install make gcc
root@1e126269241c:/# make -C /src CCOPT='-O2 -static'
root@1e126269241c:/# exit

Now we have a statically built binary:

$ file thttpd
thttpd: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, x86-64, version 1 (GNU/Linux), statically linked, for GNU/Linux 2.6.24, BuildID[sha1]=bb211a88e9e1d51fa2e937b2b7ea892d87a287d5, not stripped

Let's rebuild our chroot environment:

$ rm -rf thttpd-root
$ mkdir thttpd-root thttpd-root/lib64
$ cp thttpd thttpd-root/
$ cd thttpd-root

And try running thttpd again:

$ sudo chroot $PWD /thttpd -D
/thttpd: unknown user - 'nobody'

Bummer. It looks like the NSS libraries are still biting us, and it looks as if statically compiling code that uses NSS may be tricky. Fortunately, it's relatively simple to patch out the parts of the thttpd code that are trying to switch to another uid/gid. The following patch will do the trick:

diff --git a/thttpd.c b/thttpd.c
index fe21b44..397feb1 100644
--- a/thttpd.c
+++ b/thttpd.c
@@ -400,22 +400,6 @@ main( int argc, char** argv )
     if ( throttlefile != (char*) 0 )
  read_throttlefile( throttlefile );

-    /* If we're root and we're going to become another user, get the uid/gid
-    ** now.
-    */
-    if ( getuid() == 0 )
-   {
-   pwd = getpwnam( user );
-   if ( pwd == (struct passwd*) 0 )
-       {
-       syslog( LOG_CRIT, "unknown user - '%.80s'", user );
-       (void) fprintf( stderr, "%s: unknown user - '%s'\n", argv0, user );
-       exit( 1 );
-       }
-   uid = pwd->pw_uid;
-   gid = pwd->pw_gid;
-   }
-
     /* Log file. */
     if ( logfile != (char*) 0 )
  {
@@ -441,17 +425,6 @@ main( int argc, char** argv )
    (void) fprintf( stderr, "%s: logfile is not an absolute path, you may not be able to re-open it\n", argv0 );
    }
      (void) fcntl( fileno( logfp ), F_SETFD, 1 );
-       if ( getuid() == 0 )
-       {
-       /* If we are root then we chown the log file to the user we'll
-       ** be switching to.
-       */
-       if ( fchown( fileno( logfp ), uid, gid ) < 0 )
-           {
-           syslog( LOG_WARNING, "fchown logfile - %m" );
-           perror( "fchown logfile" );
-           }
-       }
      }
  }
     else
@@ -680,41 +653,6 @@ main( int argc, char** argv )
     stats_bytes = 0;
     stats_simultaneous = 0;

-    /* If we're root, try to become someone else. */
-    if ( getuid() == 0 )
-   {
-   /* Set aux groups to null. */
-   if ( setgroups( 0, (const gid_t*) 0 ) < 0 )
-       {
-       syslog( LOG_CRIT, "setgroups - %m" );
-       exit( 1 );
-       }
-   /* Set primary group. */
-   if ( setgid( gid ) < 0 )
-       {
-       syslog( LOG_CRIT, "setgid - %m" );
-       exit( 1 );
-       }
-   /* Try setting aux groups correctly - not critical if this fails. */
-   if ( initgroups( user, gid ) < 0 )
-       syslog( LOG_WARNING, "initgroups - %m" );
-#ifdef HAVE_SETLOGIN
-   /* Set login name. */
-        (void) setlogin( user );
-#endif /* HAVE_SETLOGIN */
-   /* Set uid. */
-   if ( setuid( uid ) < 0 )
-       {
-       syslog( LOG_CRIT, "setuid - %m" );
-       exit( 1 );
-       }
-   /* Check for unnecessary security exposure. */
-   if ( ! do_chroot )
-       syslog(
-       LOG_WARNING,
-       "started as root without requesting chroot(), warning only" );
-   }
-
     /* Initialize our connections table. */
     connects = NEW( connecttab, max_connects );
     if ( connects == (connecttab*) 0 )

After patching this and re-building thttpd in the Ubuntu container, we have a functioning statically linked binary:

$ ./thttpd -D -l /dev/stderr -p 8080
127.0.0.1 - - [04/Jan/2015:16:44:26 -0500] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 1351 "" "curl/7.37.0"

That line of output represents me running curl in another window.

Automating the process

I have put together an environment to perform the above steps and build a minimal Docker image with the resulting binary. You can find the code at https://github.com/larsks/docker-image-thttpd.

If you check out the code:

$ git clone https://github.com/larsks/docker-image-thttpd
$ cd docker-image-thttpd

And run make, this will:

  1. build an Ubuntu-based image with scripts in place to produce a statically-linked thttpd,
  2. Boot a container from that image and drop the static thttpd binary into a local directory, and
  3. Produce a minimal Docker image containing just thttpd and a simple index.html.

The final image is just over 1MB in size, and downloads to a new Kubernetes environment in seconds. You can grab the finished image via:

docker pull larsks/thttpd

(Or you can grab the above repository from GitHub and build it yourself locally).


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