knative, kubernetes

Step by Step: Deploy and interact with a Knative Service

In this post, I will show how to deploy a Knative service and interact with it through curl and via the browser. I’ll go over some of the useful stuff to know as I found this kind of confusing at first.

I’m running this on a mac using the Kubernetes that’s built in to Docker Desktop, so things will be a bit different if you are running another flavor of Kubernetes. You will need Istio and the Knative serving components installed to follow along with this.

For the service, we are deploying a simple web app example from, which by default prints out “Hi there, I love (word of your choice)”. The code is at the link above, or I have a simple test image on Docker hub, which just prints out “Hi there, I love test” (oh the lack of creativity!)

Deploying a Knative Service

First we need to create a namespace, in which our Knative service will be deployed. For example:

kubectl create namespace web-service

Here is the Knative service deployment, which is a file called service.yaml.

kind: Service
  name: event-display
        - image:

Deploy the service yaml by running the following command:

kubectl apply -f service.yaml -n web-service

Now run the following in order to view the Knative service and some details we will need:

kubectl get ksvc -n web-service

There are a few fields, including:

NAME: The name of the service

URL: The url of the service, which we will need to interact with it. By default the URL will be “<your-service-name>.<namespace>” however you can also have a custom domain.

READY: This should say “True”, if not it will say “False” and there will be a reason in the REASON field.

After a little while, you might notice the service will disappear as it scales down to zero. More on that in a while.


To interact with the service we just deployed, we need to understand a bit about the IngressGateway. By default, Knative uses the istio-ingressgateway as its gateway service. We need to understand this in order to expose our service outside of the local cluster.

We can look at the istio-ingressgateway using the following command:

kubectl get service istio-ingressgateway --namespace istio-system

This will return the following:

Within the gateway configuration, there are a number of ports and NodePorts specified as default including the one we will use to communicate with our service:

port: number: 80, name: http2 protocol: HTTP

To find the port for accessing the service you can run the following:

kubectl -n istio-system get service istio-ingressgateway -o jsonpath='{.spec.ports[?("http2")].port}'   

You can customise the Gateway configuration. Details and the different ports can be found here in the Istio documentation. I’d also recommend running through the Istio httpbin example to understand a bit more about istio and ingressgateway.

To interact with our service we will need to combine both the URL ( and the EXTERNAL-IP (localhost) which we saw for the istio-ingressgateway. Depending on your set up, these will not be the same as mine.

It will be something like the following:

curl -H "Host:"

Scaling our Service

Your initial pod has probably disappeared right now because when a service is idle, it will scale down to zero after around 90 seconds. You should see the pod start ‘Terminating’ and then disappear.

Knative uses the KPA (Knative Pod Autoscaler), which runs as a Kubernetes deployment. The KPA scales based on requests (concurrency), however it is also possible to use the HPA (Horizontal Pod Autoscaler), which allows scaling based on CPU.

You can find out more detailed information about autoscaling here but for now just note that you can change the parameters in the ConfigMap.

To see the autoscaler config you can run the following command:

kubectl describe configmap config-autoscaler -n knative-serving

To edit the ConfigMap:

kubectl edit configmap config-autoscaler -n knative-serving 

In the result you will see some fields including:

scale-to-zero-grace-period: 30s
stable-window: 60s

The scale-to-zero-grace-period specifies how long it will wait until it scales an inactive service down to zero. The autoscaler takes a 60 second window to assess activity. If it is determined that within that 60 seconds stable-window, there are no events, it will then wait another 30 seconds before scaling to zero. This is why it takes around 90 seconds to terminate an inactive service.

If desired, these can be amended so that your service will scale down faster or slower. There is also a field called enable-scale-to-zero, which (if you want to be able to scale to zero) must be set to “true”.

Test using curl

Once you curl the service again you should see the pod spin up again.

curl -H "Host:"

Should return:

Hi there, I love test!

Access Knative Service through browser

If you are using Docker Desktop on a mac, to access through a browser you could add the host to the hostfile on your mac.

sudo vi /etc/hosts

Add to the file and save it.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to (or can’t) change the host file, I used the “Simple Modify Headers” browser plugin. Then click on the icon once installed and select ‘configure’. Input the parameters as follows and then click the start button.

Now open http://localhost/test and you should see:

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