Zero-Touch Provisioning Of Edge Devices Using Microshift And RHEL For Edge

Shon Paz
10 min readApr 17, 2023
Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

As time goes by, Cloud-Native applications in the Edge Computing vertical are becoming more and more relevant. We want workloads to run as close as possible to the end user to improve the user experience while enjoying the flexibility, availability, scalability, and portability of what Cloud-Native applications offer today.

It all comes down to how we manage those edge devices (deployed at massive scale in different locations) as easily as we manage them today in our core data centers, with platforms such as Kubernetes, for example.

That is why today I’d like to share a way of using two of Red Hat’s products in order to achieve the requirements presented above.

For the sake of this demo, I’ve used Microshift, which is a small-footprint Kubernetes instance that can run your applications at the edge with that minimum of required resources.

Additionally, I’ve used RHEL For Edge, which is an operating system based on RHEL, that uses rpm-ostree which is a tool for managing operating system upgrades, rollbacks, and configuration easily.

Let’s dive in!

Prepare Yourself For Being Deployed

In order to prepare the needed installation media, we’ll have to have a server in place that will run RHEL Image Builder.

This utility will allow us to pre-build a bootable ISO image that includes all the needed dependencies and configuration for running Microshift.

In order to have this demo successful, make sure you have the following prerequisites:

  • An installed RHEL 8.7 server (preferred to have at least 8 GRAM and 4 cores)

Enabling The RHEL Image Builder

First, we have to prepare our deployment server to have all the needed dependencies that will help us build the needed OS images.

For that, make sure that you run the following commands and install all needed dependencies, we’ll start with installing cockpit and its osbuild utilities:

$ yum install osbuild-composer composer-cli cockpit-composer bash-completion firewalld createrepo_c podman -y

Make sure that cockpit can be accessed via web browser (if wanted), for the sake of this article we'll use composer-cli:

$ firewall-cmd --add-service=cockpit && firewall-cmd --add-service=cockpit --permanent

Enable the needed service sockets:

$ systemctl enable osbuild-composer.socket cockpit.socket --now

If needed, you can also enable the auto-completion for the composer-cli:

$ source /etc/bash_completion.d/composer-cl

Preparing Offline Repositories

In order for RHEL Image Builder to create the needed OS images, we'll have to enable a few repositories to our bastion server, these will later be used as package sources for our Image Builder:

$ sudo subscription-manager repos --enable rhocp-4.12-for-rhel-8-$(uname -i)-rpms --enable fast-datapath-for-rhel-8-$(uname -i)-rpms

Install the needed dependencies to create a local offline repository:

$ sudo yum install -y yum-utils

Mirror needed packages to a local directory path (This will mirror all needed rpm packages to a directory located on your local server):

$ sudo reposync --arch=$(uname -i) --arch=noarch --gpgcheck \
--download-path /var/repos/microshift-local \
--repo=rhocp-4.12-for-rhel-8-$(uname -i)-rpms \
--repo=fast-datapath-for-rhel-8-$(uname -i)-rpms

Integrate Image Builder With Your Offline Repository

Create a TOML file that describes your repository, for the Image Builder to use (This file includes the repository reference, quite similar to having a repo file in /etc/yum.repos.d would):

$ sudo tee /var/repos/microshift-local/microshift.toml > /dev/null <<EOF
id = "microshift-local"
name = "MicroShift local repo"
type = "yum-baseurl"
url = "file:////var/repos/microshift-local/"
check_gpg = false
check_ssl = false
system = false

Turn all mirrored files to a real offline repository using the createrepo command:

$ sudo createrepo /var/repos/microshift-local/

Directory walk started
Directory walk done - 1524 packages
Temporary output repo path: /var/repos/microshift-local/.repodata/
Preparing sqlite DBs
Pool started (with 5 workers)
Pool finished

Add the created repository as a source for our RHEL Image Builder (This configuration points Image Builder to the local repository created in earlier steps):

$ sudo composer-cli sources add /var/repos/microshift-local/microshift.toml

Validate that our source was added properly by getting its info:

$ sudo composer-cli sources info microshift-local
check_gpg = false
check_ssl = false
id = "microshift-local"
name = "MicroShift local repo"
rhsm = false
system = false
type = "yum-baseurl"
url = "file:////var/repos/microshift-local/"

Creating A RHEL For Edge rpm-ostree Commit Repository

Now that we have the prerequisites ready, we can deploy our first commit image.

This committed image will act as a repository that will be served for further OS upgrades and holds all the initial configuration and dependencies for deploying Microshift.

Create a TOML file that holds the needed configuration:

name = "microshift-rpmostree-commit"
description = ""
version = "0.0.1"
modules = []
groups = []
distro = ""

name = "microshift"
version = "*"
name = "microshift-networking"
version = "*"
name = "microshift-release-info"
version = "*"
name = "microshift-selinux"
version = "*"
hostname = "microshift"
ports = ["6443:tcp"]
enabled = ["http", "https", "ntp", "dhcp", "ssh"]
disabled = ["telnet"]
enabled = ["sshd", "microshift"]
name = "spaz"
password = "$6$m2YSOTwpT7rftgJZ$tps4BIkRAdNguFIjaTZlOk6EAHhQzMCWjPGSMfOHF4N8Q7N2OGT.l2KxhjAmOT6wGysPU0uE1VYTQLPd0O5oP."
groups = ["wheel"]

In this file, you’ll be able to find services and ports that we want to start automatically, creation of users, passwords and SSH keys, so as the needed package dependencies needed for running Microshift.

This is a great way to create a pre-built image for air-gapped environments.

Now, let’s push this configuration so that Image Builder will be aware of it:

$ composer-cli blueprints push microshift-rpmostree-commit.toml

Building The rpm-ostree Commit Image

Now we can start building the committed image. This image can be later on downloaded as at .tar file, which will be used to serve a local repository.

When needed, a new commit image can be published to the repository and the deployed instance will be able to pull new OS configs automatically.

To start the build phase, use the following command:

$ composer-cli compose start microshift-rpmostree-commit edge-commit

You can validate that everything has started properly using the following command:

$ composer-cli compose status

07dac143-f6f6-44f1-a866-e6cd6c710ed9 RUNNING Mon Apr 17 13:29:40 2023 microshift-rpmostree-commit 0.0.1 edge-commit

After the status is marked as FINISHED, you can download you repository file using the following command:

$ composer-cli compose image 2956e7da-e3aa-4add-b4c7-1846dd54680a


Now, untar the created repository file, in order to create the local repository (you should have a repo directory created after running this command):

$ tar xvf 2956e7da-e3aa-4add-b4c7-1846dd54680a-commit.tar

Serving The rpm-ostree Local Repository

An important thing to understand is that the committed image that we’ve created in earlier steps, acts as a repository server for both packages and configuration for our RHEL For Edge instance that is running Microshift.

Basically, we'll point our instance to that repository and it can pull data and upgrade itself automatically/manually.

In the next steps, we’ll build a container image that is based on nginx, and contains all the needed dependencies.


The extraction of the previous command will output a directory called repo, make sure that it's created as we need it for the following steps.

Create the nginx configuration file that will represent your local repository web server:

cat > nginx << EOF
events {


http {
listen 8080;
root /usr/share/nginx/html;

pid /run/;
daemon off;

Create a Containerfile that will help you build the local repository's container image:

cat > Containerfile << EOF
RUN yum -y install nginx && yum clean all
COPY repo /usr/share/nginx/html/
COPY nginx /etc/nginx.conf
CMD ["/usr/sbin/nginx", "-c", "/etc/nginx.conf"]
ARG commit
ADD ${commit} /usr/share/nginx/html/

Now, we can build the container image, using the files that we have created previously (make sure to use the .tar file name that we've downloaded before):

$ podman build -t microshift-image-0.0.1 --build-arg commit=2956e7da-e3aa-4add-b4c7-1846dd54680a-commit.tar .

Run the container in order to serve the rpm-ostree local repository:

$ podman run --name rpm-ostree-repository --rm -d -p 8080:8080 localhost/microshift-commit-image-0.0.1:latest

Create A Bootable ISO Image

Now, in order to create the bootable ISO file to deploy our server, we’ll create another blueprint that will point to our previously created commit image:

$ cat > microshift-rpmostree-installer.toml << EOF
name = "microshift-rpmostree-installer"
description = ""
version = "0.0.1"
modules = []
groups = []

Let’s push this configuration so that Image Builder will be aware of it:

$ composer-cli blueprints push microshift-rpmostree-installer.toml

Now, we can start and build the bootable ISO image that will be used by our server (notice that here we chose edge-installer image type, where in the previous command we've used edge-commit).

This command will request and bootable ISO creation request from Image Builder that can be downloaded later on:

$ composer-cli compose start-ostree --ref rhel/8/x86_64/edge --url microshift-rpmostree-installer edge-installer

Verify that your new build request had turned into FINISHED state:

$ composer-cli compose status

2956e7da-e3aa-4add-b4c7-1846dd54680a FINISHED Sat Apr 8 11:33:54 2023 microshift 0.0.1 edge-commit
16252a6d-f7e1-4736-93ff-3799d9211dd4 FINISHED Sat Apr 8 12:45:11 2023 microshift 0.0.1 edge-installer

Download the bootable ISO image using the following command:

$ composer-cli compose image 9509b4de-dc66-4020-9d24-86476ffe086f


Adding Extra Configuration Using Kickstart

Previously, we’ve used the Image Builder TOML files in order to create a static configuration of our server.

As we have a few prerequisites for Microshift that might change more often, we can use a Kickstart file in order to have a more dynamic configuration ability.

Create a Kickstart file using the following command (make sure to change the served rpm-ostree server to yours):

cat > kickstart.ks << EOF
lang en_US.UTF-8
keyboard us
timezone UTC
clearpart --all --initlabel
part /boot/efi --fstype=efi --size=200
part /boot --fstype=xfs --asprimary --size=800
part pv.01 --grow
volgroup rhel pv.01
logvol / --vgname=rhel --fstype=xfs --size=10000 --name=root
network --bootproto=dhcp
ostreesetup --nogpg --url=http://<YOUR_REPO_SERVER>:8080/repo --osname=rhel --remote=edge --ref=rhel/8/x86_64/edge

# Add the pull secret to CRI-O and set root user-only read/write permissions
cat > /etc/crio/openshift-pull-secret << EOF
chmod 600 /etc/crio/openshift-pull-secret
# Configure the firewall with the mandatory rules for MicroShift
firewall-offline-cmd --zone=trusted --add-source=
firewall-offline-cmd --zone=trusted --add-source=

This Kickstart file configures the needed local storage requirements for Microshift, so as points the instance to its rpm-ostree repository that was previously created.

Make sure to use your own pull secret when needed so that you'll be able to pull the needed images for deploying Microshift.

In order for our server to have the wanted configuration, we’ll have to embed the current kickstart file into our created ISO, to do so use the following command:

$  mkksiso kickstart.ks 9509b4de-dc66-4020-9d24-86476ffe086f-installer.iso microshift-rpmostree-installer.iso

Deploying Microshift Using Zero-Touch-Provisioning

Now that you have the bootable ISO image, you can boot your device however you’d like (for example, can be flashed on a USB thumb drive).

Once your device is up and running, it’ll run Microshift with all of our added configurations.

Validating Microshift’s Installation

Once your device has booted, make sure that your RHEL For Edge instance indeed points to the created rpm-ostree repository:

$ rpm-ostree status
State: idle
* edge:rhel/8/x86_64/edge
Version: 8.7 (2023-04-17T17:44:57Z)
Commit: 0d94e1c6053df35b64d1d1aec36ec9e93ff914f33254ce41b5ac588aba608f7d

Make sure that your Microshift service is up and running:

systemctl status microshift
● microshift.service - MicroShift
Loaded: loaded (/usr/lib/systemd/system/microshift.service; disabled; vendor preset: disabled)
Active: active (running) since Sat 2023-04-08 13:26:10 EDT; 1min 9s ago
Main PID: 2551 (microshift)
Tasks: 28 (limit: 23417)
Memory: 350.1M
CPU: 20.059s
CGroup: /system.slice/microshift.service
└─2551 /usr/bin/microshift run

Now, let’s make sure that our cluster is up and running! Make sure to copy the kubeconfig from /var/lib/microshift/resources/kubeadmin/kubeconfig and copy it to where you have oc or kubectl command line (of course make sure to change the kube-api server reference from to your Microshift server's address):

$ oc get nodes --kubeconfig kubeconfig 

microshift Ready control-plane,master,worker 7m33s v1.25.0

Let’s make sure pods are indeed running and in a ready state:

$ oc get pods -A --kubeconfig kubeconfig 

openshift-dns dns-default-zjj4z 2/2 Running 0 86s
openshift-dns node-resolver-d7g8s 1/1 Running 0 3m20s
openshift-ingress router-default-7764495c8b-pd76d 1/1 Running 0 3m14s
openshift-ovn-kubernetes ovnkube-master-jl29r 4/4 Running 0 3m20s
openshift-ovn-kubernetes ovnkube-node-jssrx 1/1 Running 0 3m20s
openshift-service-ca service-ca-5556ff5b86-hslw4 1/1 Running 0 3m15s
openshift-storage topolvm-controller-5fb656798-426sq 4/4 Running 0 3m21s
openshift-storage topolvm-node-dfg2q 4/4 Running 0 86s

Great! we have Microshift up and running and we haven't touched a single thing!

Running Our First Edge Application

Make sure to create a namespace for the demo application:

$ oc create namespace microshift-demo --kubeconfig kubeconfig

Apply the following configuration to your cluster (it holds a simple Flask server that will run in your newly created namespace):

oc --kubeconfig kubeconfig apply -f - << EOF
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
name: flask-app
namespace: microshift-demo
app: flask
replicas: 1
app: flask
app: flask
- name: flask-app
- containerPort: 5000
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
name: flask-app-svc
namespace: microshift-demo
app: flask
- protocol: TCP
port: 5000
targetPort: 5000
type: ClusterIP
kind: Route
name: flask-app-route
namespace: microshift-demo
targetPort: 5000
kind: Service
name: flask-app-svc

Now, validate that the application is indeed running (of course, make sure to point a DNS record to your created Route):

$ oc get pods -n microshift-demo --kubeconfig kubeconfig 

flask-app-54c5bdb95c-bvcdf 1/1 Running 0 151m

Open the browser and see the magic!


In this demo, we saw how we could use RHEL For Edge and Microshift in order to create a bootable, distributable image that can be used to deploy an Edge Device (the platform and the operating system) without having to touch anything at all.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this demo, see ya next time :)