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Polaris on Kubernetes

Fairwinds' Polaris is an open-source policy agent, which helps you to ensure that your cluster aligns with best practices, in the areas of security, reliability, networking and efficiency.

polaris health report

Polaris requirements


Already deployed:



Polaris Namespace

We need a namespace to deploy our HelmRelease and associated YAMLs into. Per the flux design, I create this example yaml in my flux repo at /bootstrap/namespaces/namespace-polaris.yaml:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Namespace
  name: polaris

Polaris HelmRepository

We're going to install the Polaris helm chart from the fairwinds-stable repository, so I create the following in my flux repo (assuming it doesn't already exist):

kind: HelmRepository
  name: fairwinds-stable
  namespace: flux-system
  interval: 15m

Polaris Kustomization

Now that the "global" elements of this deployment (just the HelmRepository in this case) have been defined, we do some "flux-ception", and go one layer deeper, adding another Kustomization, telling flux to deploy any YAMLs found in the repo at /polaris/. I create this example Kustomization in my flux repo:

kind: Kustomization
  name: polaris
  namespace: flux-system
  interval: 30m
  path: ./polaris
  prune: true # remove any elements later removed from the above path
  timeout: 10m # if not set, this defaults to interval duration, which is 1h
    kind: GitRepository
    name: flux-system
    - apiVersion:
      kind: HelmRelease
      name: polaris
      namespace: polaris

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Polaris DNSEndpoint

If, like me, you prefer to create your DNS records the "GitOps way" using ExternalDNS, create something like the following example to create a DNS entry for your Authentik ingress:

kind: DNSEndpoint
  name: ""
  namespace: polaris
  - dnsName: ""
    recordTTL: 180
    recordType: CNAME
    - ""  


Rather than creating individual A records for each host, I prefer to create one A record ( in the example above), and then create individual CNAME records pointing to that A record.

Polaris HelmRelease

Lastly, having set the scene above, we define the HelmRelease which will actually deploy polaris into the cluster. We start with a basic HelmRelease YAML, like this example:

kind: HelmRelease
  name: polaris
  namespace: polaris
      chart: polaris
      version: 5.16.x # auto-update to semver bugfixes only (1)
        kind: HelmRepository
        name: fairwinds-stable
        namespace: flux-system
  interval: 15m
  timeout: 5m
  releaseName: polaris
  values: # paste contents of upstream values.yaml below, indented 4 spaces (2)
  1. I like to set this to the semver minor version of the Polaris current helm chart, so that I'll inherit bug fixes but not any new features (since I'll need to manually update my values to accommodate new releases anyway)
  2. Paste the full contents of the upstream values.yaml here, indented 4 spaces under the values: key

If we deploy this helmrelease as-is, we'll inherit every default from the upstream Polaris helm chart. That's probably hardly ever what we want to do, so my preference is to take the entire contents of the Polaris helm chart's values.yaml, and to paste these (indented), under the values key. This means that I can then make my own changes in the context of the entire values.yaml, rather than cherry-picking just the items I want to change, to make future chart upgrades simpler.

Why not put values in a separate ConfigMap?

Didn't you previously advise to put helm chart values into a separate ConfigMap?

Yes, I did. And in practice, I've changed my mind.

Why? Because having the helm values directly in the HelmRelease offers the following advantages:

  1. If you use the YAML extension in VSCode, you'll see a full path to the YAML elements, which can make grokking complex charts easier.
  2. When flux detects a change to a value in a HelmRelease, this forces an immediate reconciliation of the HelmRelease, as opposed to the ConfigMap solution, which requires waiting on the next scheduled reconciliation.
  3. Renovate can parse HelmRelease YAMLs and create PRs when they contain docker image references which can be updated.
  4. In practice, adapting a HelmRelease to match upstream chart changes is no different to adapting a ConfigMap, and so there's no real benefit to splitting the chart values into a separate ConfigMap, IMO.

Then work your way through the values you pasted, and change any which are specific to your configuration.

Enable dashboard

Initially you'll probably want to use the dashboard, without the webhook, so you'll want to at least enable the ingress for the dashboard (which, itself, is enabled by default):

        # dashboard.ingress.enabled -- Whether to enable ingress to the dashboard
        enabled: true

Install Polaris!

Commit the changes to your flux repository, and either wait for the reconciliation interval, or force a reconcilliation using flux reconcile source git flux-system. You should see the kustomization appear...

~  flux get kustomizations polaris
NAME        READY   MESSAGE                         REVISION        SUSPENDED
polaris True    Applied revision: main/70da637  main/70da637    False

The helmrelease should be reconciled...

~  flux get helmreleases -n polaris polaris
NAME        READY   MESSAGE                             REVISION    SUSPENDED
polaris True    Release reconciliation succeeded    v5.16.x     False

And you should have happy pods in the polaris namespace:

~  k get pods -n polaris -l
NAME                                  READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
polaris-7c94b7446d-nwsss   1/1     Running   0          5m14s

Check your score

Browse to the URL you configured for your ingress above (it may take a while for the report to run), and confirm that Polaris is displaying your cluster overview / score.

Now pick yourself up off the floor.. some of the issues are false-positives!1

Improve your score

You may not care about some of the checks being applied. For example, you may using a single-node cluster, and so the HA / resilience checks may be immaterial to you.

Selectively disable checks

The Polaris Documentation explains how to change the config section of values.yaml. You can change the priority (ignore, warning, etc) of various checks. Here's how it looks on a cluster I manage:

    # reliability
    deploymentMissingReplicas: warning
    priorityClassNotSet: ignore
    tagNotSpecified: danger
    pullPolicyNotAlways: ignore
    readinessProbeMissing: warning
    livenessProbeMissing: ignore # Per, we don't _need_ liveness probes if we have readiness probes
    pdbDisruptionsIsZero: warning
    missingPodDisruptionBudget: ignore
    topologySpreadConstraint: ignore # we don't have complex topology

Add exceptions

You may want a check running, but want to ignore results from a particular namespace. This can be done using annotations on individual workloads, , but I prefer to codify these in Polaris' config, so that all my exemptions are stored (and versioned) in one place:

Using config

Exemptions are also configured under config, as illustrated below:

    - namespace: kube-system
        - kube-apiserver
        - kube-proxy
        - kube-scheduler
        - etcd-manager-events
        - kube-controller-manager
        - kube-dns
        - etcd-manager-main
        - hostPortSet
        - hostNetworkSet
        - readinessProbeMissing
        - cpuRequestsMissing
        - cpuLimitsMissing
        - memoryRequestsMissing
        - memoryLimitsMissing
        - runAsRootAllowed
        - runAsPrivileged
        - notReadOnlyRootFilesystem
        - hostPIDSet

    # Special case for Cilium
    - namespace: kube-system
        - cilium
        - runAsRootAllowed

Using annotations

To exempt a controller from all checks via annotations, use the annotation, e.g.

kubectl annotate deployment my-deployment

To exempt a controller from a particular check via annotations, use an annotation in the form of<check>-exempt=true, e.g.

kubectl annotate deployment my-deployment

Here's an example from the clusterRolebinding used for authentik:

kind: ClusterRoleBinding
  name: oidc-group-admin-kube-apiserver
  annotations: "true" "true"
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: cluster-admin
- kind: Group
  name: oidc:admin-kube-apiserver # for authentik
- kind: Group
  name: admin-kube-apiserver # for weave-gitops


What have we achieved? We've deployed Polaris, which we can use for a point-in-time audit of our cluster's best-practice configuration, or even as a webhook to prevent "uncomplaint" configuration from being applied in the first place! 💪



  • Polaris deployend and ready to improve our cluster security, resiliency, and efficiency !


  • Work your way through the legitimate issues highlighted by Polaris, make improvements, and refresh the report page, gradually working your way up to an A+ "smooth sailing" cluster! ☀

Chef's notes 📓

  1. You'd be surprised how many are not false positives though - especially workloads deployed from 3rd-party helm charts, which are usually defaulted to the most generally compatible configurations. 

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