Introduction to Telepresence

Telepresence is an open source tool that lets you run a single service locally, while connecting that service to a remote Kubernetes cluster. This lets developers working on multi-service applications to:

  1. Do fast local development of a single service, even if that service depends on other services in your cluster. Make a change to your service, save, and you can immediately see the new service in action.

  2. Use any tool installed locally to test/debug/edit your service. For example, you can use a debugger!

  3. Make your local development machine operate as if it's part of your Kubernetes cluster. If you've got an application on your machine that you want to run against a service in the cluster -- it's easy to do.

Telepresence works on both Mac OS X and Linux, with OS-native packages.

How it works

Telepresence deploys a two-way network proxy in a pod running in your Kubernetes cluster. This pod proxies data from your Kubernetes environment (e.g., TCP connections, environment variables, volumes) to the local process. The local process has its networking transparently overridden so that DNS calls and TCP connections are routed over the proxy to the remote Kubernetes cluster.

This approach gives:

  • your local service full access to other services in the remote cluster
  • your local service full access to Kubernetes environment variables, secrets, and ConfigMap
  • your remote services full access to your local service

How Telepresence works is discussed in more detail here.

Alternatives to Telepresence

Typical alternatives to Telepresence include:

  • running your entire multi-service application locally via Docker Compose. This gives you a fast dev/debug cycle. However, it's less realistic since you're not running your services actually inside Kubernetes, and there are cloud services you might use (e.g., a database) that might not be easy to use locally.
  • minikube. You can't do live coding/debugging with minikube by itself, but you can with Telepresence. The two work well together.
  • run everything in a remote Kubernetes cluster. Again, you can't do live coding/debugging in a remote Kubernetes cluster ... but you can with Telepresence.

Getting started

There are a number of quick start tutorials on using Telepresence:

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