Development info

Known issues

  • Docs get updated off of master, so documentation on site may reference unreleased features if you're not careful. Until that's fixed, releases should happen as soon as new feature is merged to master. See issue #4.

Setting up a development environment

The following instructions will gets the Telepresence source and sets up some of its dependencies (torsocks, gcloud). It also creates a virtualenv and installs Telepresence's Python dependencies into it. The arguments required for are Google Cloud configuration items which identify a GKE cluster which can be used for testing, plus the operating system.

$ git clone
$ cd telepresence
$ ./ $PROJECT $CLUSTER $ZONE <linux|osx>
$ ./build --manage-virtualenv --no-tests --registry unused

You may want to activate the virtualenv (for the duration of your shell):

$ . virtualenv/bin/activate

This will give you access to the Telepresence executables:

  • telepresence
  • sshuttle-telepresence.

You can test your modifications to Telepresence with the build tool:

$ ./build --registry <Docker registry for tag and push> [-- <pytest args>]

You can run a subset of the tests using the pytest features for selecting tests (for example, -k and -m). End-to-end tests are marked with the method and operation they exercise. So, for example, you can run all of the tests in the vpn-tcp, swap-deployment configuration:

$ ./build --registry <Docker registry for tag and push> -- -m 'vpn_tcp and swap_deployment'

Note that - must be replaced with _ due to pytest limitations.

See ./build --help for details about how to run specific tests.

You can also build images and push them to a registry without running any tests:

$ ./build --registry <Docker registry for tag and push> --build-and-push --no-tests

Or if you want to build images using minikube (untested):

$ eval $(minikube docker-env --shell bash)
$ ./build --registry <Docker registry for tag and push> --build-and-push --no-tests

Or using minishift (untested):

$ eval $(minishift docker-env --shell bash)
$ ./build --registry <Docker registry for tag and push> --build-and-push --no-tests

End-to-End Testing

The Telepresence test suite includes a set of tests which run Telepresence as a real user would. These tests launch Telepresence and have it communicate with a real Kubernetes cluster, running real pods and observing the results. These tests are implemented in tests/ and tests/

While the test functions themselves are present in these test modules, there are several additional support modules also involved. tests/ is a Python program which the tests tell Telepresence to run. tests/ is a support module for writing tests. tests/ integrates the tests with pytest. At points during end-to-end test development you may find yourself working with any of these sources.

With the aim of making it clear how to write your own end-to-end test, here is one dissected.

Test Probe

from .conftest import (

def test_demonstration(probe):

The end-to-end tests are written using a number of pytest features. The first is parameterized fixtures to make it easy to apply a test to all Telepresence execution modes.

Notice that the test function is defined to take an argument probe. The argument must be named probe to select the correct pytest fixture. The with_probe decorator parameterizes the probe fixture with all of the Telepresence execution modes. This means that pytest will call this test function many times with different values for probe. For example, the test function will be called with a probe associated with a run of Telepresence given the --method=container --new-deployment arguments. The test function is called once for each combination of method arguments and operations (--new-deployment, --swap-deployment, etc).

Probe Result

    probe_environment = probe.result().result["environ"]

probe.result() will be used in every end-to-end test. This method returns an object - a ProbeResult - representing the Telepresence run. This may initiate a new run of Telepresence but it may also re-use the Telepresence launched by an earlier test with the same configuration (the same probe). This is the result of pytest fixture optimization and it allows the test suite to run Telepresence far fewer times than would otherwise be required (reducing the overall runtime of the test suite).

The Telepresence probe collects some information from the Telepresence execution context immediately upon starting. The result attribute of the ProbeResult provides access to this information. In this case, we retrieve the complete POSIX environment for inspection.

Probe Operation

    if probe.operation.inherits_deployment_environment():

This test now prepares to make its first assertion. This first assertion is guarded by a check against the result of a method of probe.operation. probe.operation is a reference to an object representing the operation which the probe used. Remember that a test decorated with with_probe will be run multiple times with different probe arguments. Many of those probes will be configured with a different operation. This attribute lets a test vary its behavior based on that operation. This is useful because different operations may have different desired behavior and require different assertions in their tests. For more details about what can be done with the operation object, see tests/ where operations are implemented.

In this case, inherits_deployment_environment is a method of the operation which returns a boolean. The result indicates whether it is expired and desired that the Telepresence execution context's POSIX environment inherits environment variables that were set in a pre-existing Kubernetes Deployment resource. Not all Telepresence configurations interact with a pre-existing Deployment - hence the need for this check.

Supposing we are running with a probe where this check succeeds:

    desired = probe.DESIRED_ENVIRONMENT
    expected = {
        k: probe_environment.get(k, None)
        for k in probe.DESIRED_ENVIRONMENT
    assert desired == expected

Here the test makes an assertion about the observed POSIX environment. It looks up the value of the environment which ought to have been inherited - probe.DESIRED_ENVIRONMENT - and makes sure the items all appear in the observed environment.

For the else case of this branch, we might assert that desired does not appear in the observed environment.

Probe Method

Test can also inspect the method in use.

    if probe.method.inherits_client_environment():
        assert probe.CLIENT_ENV_VAR in probe_environment

The idea here is similar. Different behavior may be desired from different methods. Inspection of probe.method provides a way to vary the test behavior based on this. Methods are implemented in tests/

Probe Interaction

The Telepresence process associated with the probe continues to run while the tests run. This means interactions with it are possible. Simple messages can easily be exchanged with the probe.

    probe_result.write("probe-also-proxy {}".format(hostname))
    success, request_ip = loads(

This uses a command supported by the probe which makes it issue an HTTP request to a particular URL and return the response. These commands are implemented in In this case, the result is a two-tuple. The first element indicates whether the HTTP request succeeded or not. The second element gives some data from the HTTP response (if it succeeded).

Probe commands are useful for observing any state or behavior which is only visible in the Telepresence execution context. They allow the test to retrieve the information so assertions can be made.

Final Thoughts

When writing end-to-end tests keep a few things in mind:

Shared Telepresence

The probe fixture re-uses Probe instances. Tests should not modify the Probe passed in for the probe argument. Doing so will invalidate the results of subsequent tests.

Likewise, the Probe instance has an associated Telepresence process. Tests should not modify that process, either, or subsequent tests will be invalidated. This should be fairly easy since there's not much that can be done to "modify" a running Telepresence process. One very obvious example, though, is that the process can be killed. Don't do that.

End-to-end Debugging

When such a test fails, the default is for it to present a low-information failure in the test suite result. This may be the test suite hanging and being killed by a pytest timeout. Or it may be Telepresence crashing and the full Telepresence log being dumped. These kind of test failures are challenging to debug. Be sure to examine all of the information available. If not enough information is available, add logging to Telepresence or the test suite. Do write your tests first, observe them fail, and improve their failure behavior before making them pass.

Unit Tests

End-to-end tests provide a highly realistic model of real-world Telepresence behavior. However, they are not the only option and not always the best option. For subtle logic (particularly involving many possible outcomes), unit tests may provide a lower-cost option. A single end-to-end test to verify a gross code path combined with many unit tests to exercise all of the subtleties can provide the best of both worlds.

Coding standard

Formatting is enforced by the installed yapf tool; to reformat the code, you can do:

$ virtualenv/bin/yapf -r -i telepresence

Releasing Telepresence


Every commit to the master branch results in CI building a set of deployable artifacts: Docker images, Linux packages, a JSON blob for Scout, and a markdown blob for announcing a release on Gitter et al. The artifacts are available for download as a tarball telepresence-dist.tbz from the CircleCI artifacts tab on the deploy job page. The release process pushes a set of those artifacts into production.

At the moment, the Linux packages are not tested, other than a minor smoke test. Package repositories are not tested at all.

Theory of operation

  1. Recreate your Python virtual environment from scratch and re-run the linters. This avoids the frustration of having your release fail in the lint stage in CI, which rebuilds its virtualenv every time.
    rm -r virtualenv && ./build --manage-virtualenv --lint --no-tests
  2. Make sure docs/reference/ has changelog entries for the next release, and today's release date. If changelog entries are in the newsfragments directory, use towncrier to construct the changelog update. towncrier's version management is incompatible with the rest of the universe; specify the new version explicitly. Make sure to commit your changes.
    virtualenv/bin/towncrier --version 0.xx
    # Edit the change log
    git commit docs/reference/
  3. Mark the new version number for Telepresence by tagging in Git.
    git tag 0.xx
  4. Push the new commit and tag to GitHub.
    git push origin master --tags
  5. Wait for CircleCI to finish. Make sure all the test pass.
  6. Download the tarball of deployable artifacts and unarchive into container in your project directory. It will populate the dist subdirectory.
    curl -s https://.../telepresence-dist.tbz | tar xf -
  7. Set up release credentials in the environment:
    • HOMEBREW_KEY to push to GitHub
    • PACKAGECLOUD_TOKEN to push Linux packages
  8. Run the release script.
  9. Post the release announcement on Slack et al. The release script outputs the announcement, or you can find it in dist/

What the release script does

  1. Build and launch a Docker container with required tools.
  2. Upload Linux packages to PackageCloud using the script that's generated by the deployment script.
  3. Update the Homebrew formula in homebrew-blackbird. The Homebrew formula refers to the tarball GitHub generates for each release.
  4. Push the scout blobs to Datawire's S3 bucket. In the future, Telepresence will be able to inform users that a new version is available using this data.

Running tests

Full test suites

In order to run all possible code paths in Telepresence, you need to do the following:

Test environment How to run
Minikube make minikube-test
Remote K8s cluster Runs on Circle
Minishift make openshift-tests with minishift kube context
Remote OS cluster make openshift-tests with remote OpenShift context
Docker on Mac make minikube-test on Mac with Docker
Other Mac Runs on Circle

In practice running on remote OpenShift cluster usually doesn't happen.

CircleCI on Mac does not yet support Docker, which is why that needs to be done manually.

Running individual tests

When doing local development you will typically run all tests by doing:

make minikube-test

If you want to only run some tests you can pass arguments to the underlying py.test run using TELEPRESENCE_TESTS. For example, to run all tests containing the string "fromcluster" and to exit immediately after first failed test:

TELEPRESENCE_TESTS="-x -k fromcluster" make minikube-test

See py.test --help for other options you might want to set in TELEPRESENCE_TESTS.

Running a local copy of telepresence

FIXME: This is out-of-date. The above section of setting up a development environment has the correct info, but lacks a clear example like this section has.

During local development, typically against minikube, you will want to manually run telepresence you are working on. You need to:

  1. Make sure minikube has latest server-side Docker image: make build-k8s-proxy-minikube will do this. It has issues on Mac, however, due to old version of make maybe? Read the Makefile to see what it does. If you forget this step you will have problems with Minikube not finding the Docker image for telepresence-k8s.
  2. If you're using --docker-run, your local Docker needs to have the latest Docker image: make build-local.
  3. You need to run cli/telepresence with env variable telling it the version number it should be using; this will be used as the tag for Docker images you created in steps 1 and 2. You do this by setting TELEPRESENCE_VERSION to the output of make version. You also need to set PATH so sshuttle-telepresence is found.

For example:

$ cli/telepresence --version

$ make version

$ make build-k8s-proxy-minikube

$ env PATH=$PATH:$PWD/virtualenv/bin/ TELEPRESENCE_VERSION=$(make version) \
  cli/telepresence --version

$ env PATH=$PATH:$PWD/virtualenv/bin/ TELEPRESENCE_VERSION=$(make version) \
  cli/telepresence --run-shell
@minikube|$ ...

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