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Configuration, ConfigMaps and Secrets

In general, applications require some sort of contextual information as input. Such contexts are often provided in the form of configuration files, command-line arguments, and environment variables. Therefore, when containerizing applications and creating images we need to decouple the generic image content from the customizable configuration information. This is mainly done to keep the containerized applications portable. Kubernetes and Openshift have two types of abstractions called Secrets and ConfigMaps that can be used to inject contextual information (configuration) into containers during startup and avoid hardcoding them in images. A good example use case for ConfigMaps and Secrets are application (service) admin passwords and their configuration files. Service passwords can be set as Secrets and added to containers as environment variables, and configuration files can be stored as ConfigMaps that can be mounted under containers as files on startup.


It is highly recommended to check out the basic Kubernetes and Openshift concepts before moving on, especially if you are not familiar with them already. You can also practice deploying a simple static webserver to get some hands-on experience.


ConfigMaps are useful in collecting configuration type data in Kubernetes objects. Their contents are communicated to containers by environmental variables or volume mounts.


kind: ConfigMap
apiVersion: v1
  name: my-config-map
  data.prop.a: hello
  data.prop.b: bar
  data.prop.long: |-

Create a ConfigMap

ConfigMaps can be created in various ways. If we have a ConfigMap object definition as listed above in configmap.yaml, then, an instance of it can be created using the oc create -f configmap.yaml command. You can also use the more specific command oc create configmap <configmap_name> [options] to create an instance of a ConfigMap from directories, specific files, or literal values. For example, if you have a directory with files containing the data needed to populate a ConfigMap as follows:

$ ls example-dir

You can then create a ConfigMap similar to the one difined in configmap.yaml as:

oc create configmap my-config-map \

This command also works with files instead of directories.

Use a ConfigMap

The following pod imports the value of data.prop.a to the DATA_PROP_A environment variable and creates the files data.prop.a, data.prop.b and data.prop.long inside /etc/my-config:


kind: Pod
apiVersion: v1
  name: my-config-map-pod
  restartPolicy: Never
  - name: configmap-vol
      name: my-config-map
  - name: confmap-cont
    image: perl
    - /bin/sh
    - -c
    - |-
      cat /etc/my-config/data.prop.long &&
      echo "" &&
    - name: DATA_PROP_A
          name: prop-a-config
          key: data.prop.a
          optional: true     # Run this pod even
    volumeMounts:            # if data.prop.a is not defined in configmap
    - name: configmap-vol
      mountPath: /etc/my-config

The output log, provided with the command oc logs confmap-cont of this container, should be:



Secrets behave much like ConfigMaps, with the difference that once created they are stored in base64 encoded form, and their contents are not displayed by default in the command line or in the web interface.


apiVersion: v1
kind: Secret
  WebHookSecretKey: dGhpc19pc19hX2JhZF90b2tlbgo=
  name: webhooksecret
  namespace: mynamespace     # set this to your project namespace

Create a secret

As with any other OpenShift/Kubernetes objects, Secrets can also be created from a Secret object definition. For the definition listed above as secret.yaml, a Secret instance can be created using the oc create -f secret.yaml command. You can also use the more specific command oc create secret [flags] <secret_name> [options] to create an instance of a Secret from directories, specific files, or literal values. For example, if you have a file called WebHookSecretKey containing a secret key you can use it to create an instance of a secret similar to the one specified in the previous secret.yaml file as follows:

oc create secret generic webhooksecret \

Edit a secret

The process to edit a secret is not trivial. The idea is to retrieve the secret JSON definition, decode it, edit it, and then encode it back and replace it.

  • First you need to retrieve the different files/secrets inside the secret (the examples use jq to process the JSON files, but it can be done without it):
oc get secrets $SECRET_NAME -o json | jq ' .data | keys '
  • Then choose one of the options and get the file/secret itself:
oc get secrets $SECRET_NAME -o json >secret.json
jq '.data.$KEY_NAME ' secret.json | base64 -d >$KEY_NAME.file
  • Edit the file with any editor.

  • Encode the new file and replace the previous value in the JSON file:

B64=$(base64 $KEY_NAME.file -w0)
jq " .data.$KEY_NAME = \"$B64\" " secret.json
oc replace -f secret.json

As you can see the process can be a bit obfuscated.

Last update: June 13, 2022