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Chipster in K3s


These instructions show how to install the Chipster web app version 4 to an Ubuntu server.

Chipster is based on microservice architecture. There is about a dozen different services, but each of service tries to be relatively simple and independent. Each service is run in its own container. The containers are orchestrated with Lightweight Kubernetes K3s.

The user interface in the v4 Chipster is a single-page-application (SPA) running in the user's browser. Commnad line client and Rest APIs are also available.


To get started as fast as possible, these instructinos assume that were are setting up a new single-node server. At this point we don't promise to offer complete instructions for updating this server to new Chipster versions later. Especially migrating the user's sessions and files from one version to another is not always trivial. We do try to provide the critical pointers, because we are migrating our own installations anyway.

These instructions will assume that you are running the latest version of deployment scripts and container images. If you have installed your Chipster server earlier, please update it first to the latest version or find the old version of these insructions from the time when your server was installed.

Why K3s

K3s is a Lightweight Kubernetes, effectively a container cloud platform. Do we really need the cointainer cloud platform to run a few server processes on single host? Not really, you could checkout the code yourself and follow the Dockerfiles to see what operating system packages and what kind of folder structure is needed for each service, how to compile the code and how to start the processes. Add some form of reverse proxy to terminate HTTPS (e.g. Apache or nginx) and some process monitoring (Java Service Wrapper or systemd) and you are done.

However, K3s offers standardized way of doing all that and we don't want to implement ourselves functionalities that are already offered in the standard container cloud platforms, like HTTPS termination. K3s allows us to run small-scale Chipster in very similar environment, that we know well from our larger production installations. Also the current Chipster analysis tools assume to be run with specific container images, which would be difficult to arrange without some kind of container system.



Please follow a separate document Chipster in K3s prerequisites to make sure that you have necessary hardware resources, K3s, Helm and a few other utilities installed.


First we generate passwords.

Helm doesn't seem to have a standard way for handling passwords. Our solution is to have a separate bash script which generates the passwords and stores them in a Kubernetes secret. The passwords are stored in a same format as the values.yaml in the Chipster Helm chart.

bash generate-passwords.bash

Download dependencies.

helm dependency update helm/chipster

Then we deploy the Chipster itself. Replace HOST_ADDRESS with host machine's public IP address or DNS name.

The script takes the passwords from the passwords secret that we just created.

bash deploy.bash --set host=HOST_ADDRESS

See when pod's are running (hit Ctrl + C to quit).

watch kubectl get pod

Many Chipster services can't start before some other Chipster service is running. It may take up to 15 minutes before all services are ready. If they don't start, follow the Getting started with K3s to find out why. If many services don't work, check the services auth, service-locator and session-db first, in this order.

The deploy.bash script above showed you the address of the Chipster web app, which you can open in your browser. It will also print the credentials of the chipster account that you can use to log in to the app. Run helm status chipster to see it again. Make sure the address starts with http:// and not https://. Browsers are eager to use the latter, but then the app can't connect to the Rest APIs, that are using only http:// for the time being.

If something goes wrong in the deployment and you want to start from scratch, see the chapter Uninstall Chipster.

Most tools wont work yet, because we haven't downloaded the tools-bin package. But let's make a small test first to make sure that the most essential parts of the Chipster work. Upload some file to Chipster and run a tool Misc -> Tests -> Test data input and output without tools-bin. If the result file appears in the Workflow view after few seconds, you can continue to the next chapter. If you encounter any errors, please try to solve them before continuing, because it's a lot easier and faster to change the deployment before you start the hefty tools-bin download.

We'll get to the tools-bin download soon, but let's take a quick look to the configuration system and updates first.

Configuration and Maintenance

Getting started with K3s

Please see Getting started with K3s for K3s basics.

Helm chart values

Deployment settings are defined in the helm/chipster/values.yaml file. You can override any of these values by passing --set KEY=VALUE arguments to the deploy.bash script (in addition to all the previous arguments), just like you have already done with the host name.

For example, to create a new user account john with a password verysecretpassword, you would check the file helm/chipster/values.yaml to see which object needs to modified. You would run the deploy.bash scripte then again with an additional argument:

--set users.john.password=verysecretpassword

More instructions about the --set argument can be found from the Helm documentation.

Managing all the changes in the arguments becomes soon overwhelming. It's better to create your own values.yaml, to your home directory for instance, which could look like this:


    password: "verysecretpassword"

You can then simply pass this file to the deployment script.

bash deploy.bash -f ~/values.yaml

If you need to debug this process, you can run the above command with --debug --dry-run options to see how Helm processes the values.

Chipster settings

All Chipster configuration options can be found from a file chipster-defaults.yaml. The helm/chipster/values.yaml (explained in the previous chapter) has a deployments.CHIPSTER_SERVICE.configs map for each Chipster service, where you can set Chipster configuration key-value pairs.

For example, edit your ~/values.yaml to add the new setting.

Note! The Helm templates now assume that all Chipster configuration values are strings. For example the number 5 here must be enclosed in quotes.

      comp-max-jobs: "5"

Then deploy Chipster again.

bash deploy.bash -f ~/values.yaml

If you want to change a setting only momentarily, you can pass it with --set, but this will be overriden in the next deploy with the value from your own or default values.yaml.

bash deploy.bash -f ~/values.yaml --set deployments.comp.configs.comp-max-jobs=\"10\"

You can check that configuration file was changed correctly.

$ bash get-secret.bash comp
url-int-service-locator: http://service-locator
service-password-comp: "PASSWORD_HIDDEN"    
comp-max-jobs: 5

Restart services.

bash restart.bash

Please note that two-word Chipster service names like file-broker are written with camelCase in the deployments map, i.e. fileBroker to make them easier to use in Helm templates.


If you are going to maintain a Chipster server, you should subscribe at least to the chipster-tech email list to get notifications about critical vulnerabilities. Consider subscribing to the chipster-announcements list too which focuses on the new analysis features for end-users.

Before starting the update, please make sure you have the necessary backups in case something goes wrong in this process.

TODO How to follow vulnerabilities in Ubuntu, Helm and K3s?

If you have just installed Chipster, you can simply skim through this chapter now and return here when it's time to update your installation.

2021-06-04 Note! The reverse proxy of the K3s called Traefik was updated in K3s version 1.21 requiring different configuration. This repository is now compatible only with K3s version 1.21 and newer. Check your K3s version with a command k3s --version. If it is older than 1.21, please update K3s first before updating Chipster. The instructinos below do these updates in the correct order, just be careful not to skip those steps.

Pull latest changes from the deployment repository.

git pull

Install latest package repositories etc. This will also install the latest K3s and Helm.

ansible-playbook ansible/install-deps.yml -i "localhost," -c local -e user=$(whoami)

Update operating system packages on the host (including Docker and Ansible).

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade -y

Restart the server to make sure all new packages are taken in use.

sudo shutdown -r 0

Check if new passwords need to be generated:

cd git/chipster-openshift/k3s
bash generate-passwords.bash

Pull the latest images and update deployments, assuming that you have created your own ~/values.yaml.

bash deploy.bash -f ~/values.yaml --set image.localPullPolicy=Always

Wait until all deployments have tried to start at least once, which triggers the pull of the latest image.

watch kubectl get pod

Put back the default pull policy IfNotPresent, so that you can restart pods without pulling images in every restart.

bash deploy.bash -f ~/values.yaml

Restart all pods.

bash restart.bash

See also the next chapter for instructions how to update the tools-bin package.

Download the tools-bin package

The tools-bin package contains most of the Chipster analysis tool program binaries and all reference data. Its size is about 500 GB and it has hundreds of thousands files. Its download can be challenging if the internet connection is less than perfect and also simply creating so many files may take hours on some high-latency file systems.

When you have checked that the Chipster itself works, you can start the tools-bin download. If you are updating your Chipster server, you should check also if there is newer tools-bin version available. New analysis tools or new reference genome versions are added in the new tools-bin version. Usually most old tools continue working even if you don't update to the latest tools-bin version.

There are two ways to download the tools-bin. This chapter shows the more automatic version, where you simply configure the tools-bin version and the deployment scripts will start a Kubernetes job to do the download. Alternatively, you could mount a host directory and then do the download manually.

To let the deployment scripts do the download, simply run the deployment again, but set the tools-bin version this time. Check the latest tools-bin version from the file list. Don't worry if the latest tools-bin version there looks older than the latest Chipster version. It probably means only that the tools-bin package hasn't changed since that version.

Set the tools-bin version in your ~/values.yaml.

  version: chipster-4.5.2

And deploy Chipster again.

bash deploy.bash -f ~/values.yaml

That will also will print you insctructions for how to follow the progress of the download and how to restart pods when it completes.

If you updated the tools-bin version, you can free disk space by removing the old version. Check the name of the old tools-bin volume:

kubectl get pvc

End remove it:

kubectl delete pvc NAME_OF_OLD_TOOLS_BIN_VOLUME

Admin view

  • check the password of admin user account from the auth
kubectl exec deployment/auth -it -- cat security/users
  • when logged in with that account, there is Admin link in the top bar of the web app. Click that link to see the Admin view.

Custom DB queries

Postgres databases are defined as a dependency of the Chipster Helm chart. When you deploy the Chipster Helm chart, also the databases are deployed.

If you want to make custom queries to the databases, you can run the psql client program in the database container.

kubectl exec statefulset/chipster-session-db-postgresql -it -- bash -c 'psql postgresql://$POSTGRES_USER:$POSTGRES_PASSWORD@localhost/$POSTGRES_DB'

Single quotes (') are important so that your local shell doesn't try to expand the variables, which are only defined inside of the container.


Configure Chipster to use TLS (https) to encrypt and validate the network traffic between the browser and the server.


JWT keys

Chipster service auth creates authentication tokens. These are JWT tokens that are signed with a private key. Other Chipster services can request the corresponding public key from the Rest API of these services to validate these tokens. The private key is generated in generate-passwords.bash and must be kept secret.

TODO How to generate new keys if the old keys have leaked?

OpenID Connect

A separate document has instructions for authenticating Chipster users with OpenID Connect protocol.

LDAP authentication

Instructions for LDAP authentication are provided in a separate document.

File authentication

There is a file security/users on auth, just like in the old Chipster v3, but it won't survive container restarts. The easiest way to add new users is through values.yaml.


Every disk will fail eventually, bugs may delete the data or administrators can make mistakes. Please make sure you take backups from your server or make sure your users understand that they may lose the files they have stored in your Chipster server.


TODO Collect logs with Filebeat (running in a sidecar container) and push them to Logstash

See to change logging levels.


TODO Collect statistics from the admin Rest API, push them to InfluxDB and show in Grafana

Monitoring and session replay tests

TODO Configure ReplayServer

Customize front page, contact details and terms of use

You can customize the front page and other html pages. It would be good to write at least what kind of usage is allowed on your server, who is maintaining it and how to contact you in case there are any issues.

Example sessions

  • check the password of example_session_owner from the auth (see the Admin view topic above)
  • login with that account and create same sessions
  • share them as read-only to user ID everyone

Check the latest example sessions version from the file list. Don't worry if the latest tools-bin version there looks older than the latest Chipster version. It probably means only that the example-sessions hasn't changed since that version.

The page lists the current example sessions. Concatenate the address of the page and one of those lines to download individual sessions. Make sure you have https in front of the address, because the server doesn't repond to download requests in plain http.

TODO write script for downloading, uploading and sharing all example sessions

Support request sessions


  • configure support email address on session-worker
  • check the password of support_session_owner from auth (see the Admin view topic above)
  • login with that account too see the support request sessions

Remote management

TODO copy kubectl configuration from the host and use kubectl from your laptop

K3s cluster


  • How to handle possible custom images? Copy manually to each node or setup an image registry?
  • How to handle PVCs? Setup a NFS share or Longhorn?
  • How to scale the cluster up and down?
  • How to scale Chipster inside the cluster?

See also the page Chipster cluster for the instructions about the number of replicas for each Chipster service.

Tool development

The page Tool script development provides instructions for changing and and adding new tools to your Chipster server.

Container images

When running Chipster in containers, the program itself, tool scripts and operating system packages come from the container images. By default these images are pulled from public repositories. If you want to change anything in the images, you can build your own container images.

Uninstall Chipster

Command helm uninstall chipster should delete all Kubernetes objects, except volumes. This is relatively safe to run when you want run the installation again, but want to keep the data volumes. Use kubectl delete pvc --all, if you want to delete the volumes too.

The helm uninstall chipster command gives you almost a fresh start with one caveat. The databases store their password on their volumes. If you generate the passwords again, the databases won't accept the new passwords. In the early phases when you don't have anything valuable in the databases, it's easiest to simply delete the database volumes too.

If the Helm release is too badly broken for the uninstallation, you can delete everything manually with kubectl.

for t in job deployment statefulset pod secret ingress service pvc; do  
    kubectl delete $t --all