Get a Kubernetes LoadBalancer where you never thought it was possible.

In cloud-based Kubernetes solutions, Services can be exposed as type "LoadBalancer" and your cloud provider will provision a LoadBalancer and start routing traffic, in another word: you get ingress to your service.

inlets-operator brings that same experience to your local Kubernetes or k3s cluster (k3s/k3d/minikube/microk8s/Docker Desktop/KinD). The operator automates the creation of an inlets exit-node on public cloud, and runs the client as a Pod inside your cluster. Your Kubernetes Service will be updated with the public IP of the exit-node and you can start receiving incoming traffic immediately.

Who is this for?

This solution is for users who want to gain incoming network access (ingress) to their private Kubernetes clusters running on their laptops, VMs, within a Docker container, on-premises, or behind NAT. The cost of the LoadBalancer with a IaaS like DigitalOcean is around 5 USD / mo, which is 10 USD cheaper than an AWS ELB or GCP LoadBalancer.

Whilst 5 USD is cheaper than a "Cloud Load Balancer", this tool is for users who cannot get incoming connections due to their network configuration, not for saving money vs. public cloud.

Status and backlog

This version of the inlets-operator is a early proof-of-concept, but it builds upon inlets, which is stable and widely used.

Backlog completed:

Backlog pending:

Inlets tunnels HTTP traffic at L7, so the inlets-operator can be used to tunnel HTTP traffic. A new project I'm working on called inlets-pro tunnels any TCP traffic at L4 i.e. Mongo, Redis, NATS, SSH, TLS, whatever you like.


inlets and inlets-operator are brought to you by Alex Ellis. Alex is a CNCF Ambassador and the founder of OpenFaaS.

If you like this project, then join dozens of other developers by Sponsoring Alex and his OSS work through GitHub Sponsors today.

Video demo

This video demo shows a single-node VM running on k3s on, and the inlets exit node also being provisioned on Packet's infrastructure.

See an alternative video showing my cluster running with KinD on my Mac and the exit node being provisioned on DigitalOcean:

Step-by-step tutorial

Try the step-by-step tutorial

Running in-cluster, using DigitalOcean for the exit node

You can also run the operator in-cluster, a ClusterRole is used since Services can be created in any namespace, and may need a tunnel.

# Create a secret to store the access token

kubectl create secret generic inlets-access-key \
  --from-literal inlets-access-key="$(cat ~/Downloads/do-access-token)"

kubectl apply -f ./artifacts/crd.yaml

# Apply the operator deployment and RBAC role
kubectl apply -f ./artifacts/operator-rbac.yaml
kubectl apply -f ./artifacts/operator.yaml

Run the Go binary with

Assuming you're running a local cluster with KinD:

Sign up to and get an access key, save it in ~/packet-token

kubectl apply -f ./aritifacts/crd.yaml

export PACKET_PROJECT_ID=""	# Populate from dashboard

export GOPATH=$HOME/go/
go get -u

go get

go build && ./inlets-operator  --kubeconfig "$(kind get kubeconfig-path --name="kind")" --access-key=$(cat ~/packet-token) --project-id="${PACKET_PROJECT_ID}"

Run the Go binary with DigitalOcean

Assuming you're running a local cluster with KinD:

Sign up to and get an access key, save it in ~/do-access-token.

kubectl apply ./aritifacts/crd.yaml

export GOPATH=$HOME/go/
go get -u

go get

go build && ./inlets-operator  --kubeconfig "$(kind get kubeconfig-path --name="kind")" --access-key=$(cat ~/do-access-token) --provider digitalocean

Monitor/view logs

The operator deployment is in the kube-system namespace.

kubectl logs deploy/inlets-operator -n kube-system -f

Get a LoadBalancer provided by inlets

kubectl run nginx-1 --image=nginx --port=80 --restart=Always
kubectl run nginx-2 --image=nginx --port=80 --restart=Always

kubectl expose deployment nginx-1 --port=80 --type=LoadBalancer
kubectl expose deployment nginx-2 --port=80 --type=LoadBalancer

kubectl get svc

kubectl get tunnel/nginx-1-tunnel -o yaml

kubectl logs deploy/nginx-1-tunnel-client

Check the IP of the LoadBalancer and then access it via the Internet.

Example with OpenFaaS, make sure you give the port a name of http, otherwise a default of 80 will be used incorrectly.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: gateway
  namespace: openfaas
    app: gateway
    - name: http
      port: 8080
      protocol: TCP
      targetPort: 8080
      nodePort: 31112
    app: gateway
  type: LoadBalancer

To ignore a service such as traefik type in: kubectl annotate svc/traefik -n kube-system dev.inlets.manage=false

Provider Pricing

Provider Price per month Price per hour OS image CPU Memory
Packet ~$51 $0.07 Ubuntu 16.04 4 8GB
Digital Ocean $5 ~$0.0068 Ubuntu 16.04 1 512MB


Contributions are welcome, see the guide.

Similar projects / products and alternatives

  • metallb - open source LoadBalancer for private Kubernetes clusters, no tunnelling.
  • inlets - inlets provides an L7 HTTP tunnel for applications through the use of an exit node, it is used by the inlets operator
  • inlets pro - L4 TCP tunnel, which can tunnel any TCP traffic and is on the roadmap for the inlets-operator
  • Cloudflare Argo - paid SaaS product from Cloudflare for Cloudflare customers and domains - K8s integration available through Ingress
  • ngrok - a popular tunnelling tool, restarts every 7 hours, limits connections per minute, paid SaaS product with no K8s integration available

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