This post is the very reason I decided myself to go back to blogging. I managed to do something that I considered relatively trivial, but let others know about it in the forums it turned out not to be that obvious after all. And writing about it, I realised that not even a year ago, I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea of what I am talking about here.


If you are not part of a mid-large company IT department, the following paragraph might sound like a bunch of corporate lingo that makes no sense. It is not completely true, but if you have no idea what I am talking about, just skip it.

As a mathematician turned knowledge engineer turned product manager turned data scientist with a pench for learning new stuff, one of the many hats I tend to wear quite often is that of knowledge sharer. Since in my current role I am helping setting up a federated team of data analysts, one of the problems we need to solve is breaking the information siloes among data people. This way we can avoid duplicate work and we can piggyback on each others’ research in order to extract more advanced insights.

Since I am a bit of a fanboy and I am using Jupyter a lot in my data work, when fast_template/FastPages was presented, I started thinking about how to deploy it for my use case. The main blocker was that GitHub pages are always public, even on private repos, which would have been a showstopper, as we don’t want to police a self serving tool to check that no important information is being shared publicly.

Summary (and/or TL;DR)

In order to deploy FastPages privately on a Kubernetes cluster you need to:

  1. Change the branch to which the website built by Jekyll is pushed
  2. Deploy a static webpage server (I used Nginx) with a Git-sync sidecar to keep the served site up to date
  3. Makesure the sidecar can pull the fastpages repo with a read only deploy key
  4. Expose the server internally with appropriate network policies and ingress configurations

While steps 1-3 are fairly straightforward, the last step depends heavily on your cluster configuration and policies. I will give a very high level description of what I did, but you will have to do your own research to make it work in your case.


This guide is not too beginner friendly and it is not meant to be: since the risk of getting it wrong is exposing private information, you need to have some working knowledge of what you are doing or at least some way of making sure that you are not doing huge mistakes (like a SRE/DevOps person to review what you are doing). Other than that you need

  • Access and admin privileges to private GitHub repos
  • The ability of running GitHub actions on the private repos
  • A Kubernetes cluster set up with appropriate network policies and DNS
  • A namespace that can access the private GitHub repo. This is usually the case, but if your cluster is super locked down, it might not be possible

Important: to make the deployment, you need to know your way around Kubernetes. You just need to know how to use it and deploy/manage resources into it, you don’t need cluster admin knowledge of any kind

Setting up FastPages

First of all you have to setup your FastPages repo. Just follow the latest instructions (keep in mind that the tool is under active development, so those might change quite often); this will trigger a GitHub action that will open a PR. Before following the instructions in the PR, there is a few things to do to avoid fastpages publishing private stuff by mistake.

  1. Set a branch protection rule to make sure that at least two approving reviews are required to push to the gh-pages. This is because by default, as soon as something is pushed to the gh-pages branch, it gets published on GitHub pages. As far as I know, there is no way to prevent this behaviour.
  2. Checkout into the branch that has been opened by the Setup action (the one that the open PR is attempting to merge into master) and modify the .github/workflows/ci.yaml from this ```yaml
    • name: Deploy if: github.event_name == ‘push’ uses: peaceiris/actions-gh-pages@v3 with: deploy_key: $ publish_dir: ./_site to something like this (you can pick whatever branch name you want) yaml
    • name: Deploy if: github.event_name == ‘push’ uses: peaceiris/actions-gh-pages@v3 with: deploy_key: $ publish_branch: private-website-branch publish_dir: ./_site ```

After this you are can continue setting up the repo according to the instructions in the PR.

This is all that is needed on the FastPages side of things.

Gotchas and other optional steps

If you want the website to function in any useful way, you will have to set up an internal domain. How to do so depends heavily on how the DNS and network policies are setup in your Kubernetes cluster. If your domain is going to be, for example, you want to make sure to that

  • Your CNAME file (so that the categories work properly, for example) contains
  • The _config.yml file contains
    url: "" # the base hostname & protocol for your site, e.g.
    baseurl: ""

Before you merge the setup PR (or right after that), it is also a good idea to create an upstream branch and to set its remote to the original FastPages repo, so that you can keep your deployment in sync with the development of FastPages.

Don’t do it later as I did. It’s a pain to solve the merge conflicts.

Deploying the server

Since Jekyll builds a complete static website and the github action pushes it to the branch we have set up in the step above, we only need something capable of serving it. I have used a basic Nginx alpine image, but there are probably a thousand different options. In order to avoid having to redeploy the server manually everytime, furthermore, we want to add a git-sync sidecar that pulls the website branch into the served folder of the Nginx container and keeps it up to date. There are a few possible variations but this is how more or less how the manifest would look like

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: your-namespace
          app: fastpages
  replicas: 1 # You can set this to something higher if needed
            app: fastpages
        restartPolicy: Always
            fsGroup: 65533 # to make SSH key readable 
        - name: fastpages
          image: nginx:alpine
          imagePullPolicy: Always
          - name: site
            mountPath: /usr/share/nginx/html
          - mountPath: /etc/nginx/conf.d
            name: fastpages-conf
          - containerPort: 80
            protocol: TCP
              memory: 20Mi
        - name: git-sync
          imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent
            - name: GIT_SYNC_REPO
              value: ""
            - name: GIT_SYNC_DEST
              value: "www"
            - name: GIT_SYNC_ROOT
              value: "/site"
            - name: GIT_SYNC_SSH
              value: "true"
            - name: GIT_SYNC_MAX_SYNC_FAILURES
              value: "5"
              cpu: 0m
              memory: 0Mi
              memory: 200Mi
            runAsUser: 65533 # git-sync user
          - name: git-secret
            mountPath: /etc/git-secret
          - name: site
            mountPath: /site
        - name: site
          emptyDir: {}
        - configMap:
            defaultMode: 420
            name: fastpages-conf
          name: fastpages-conf
        - name: git-secret
            secretName: fastpages-git-ssh
            defaultMode: 0400
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: fastpages
    app: fastpages
  - name: http
    protocol: TCP
    port: 80
    targetPort: 80
apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
    name: fastpages-conf
    namespace: your-namespace
    default.conf: |-
        server {
            listen       80;
            server_name _;
            root /usr/share/nginx/html/www/;
            access_log /dev/stdout;

Before deploying the above, generate a new SSH key pair and create a secret with the private key in your namespace called fastpages-git-ssh. After that use the public key of the pair to create a new read only deploy key on your FastPages repo.

Once all this is done, you can deploy the above and you webserver container should start happily. Sadly, you will not be able to access it yet if your namespace has properly set policies.

Important: Please be careful of how you manage your secrets, don’t put them on GitHub unencrypted and don’t do anything weird.

Making the server accessible

In order to be expose the served webpages there are probably a couple more resources to be deployed. Both of these are dependent on how your Kubernetes cluster has been set up, so there is not much I can do to help you. In order to make everything work you need

  1. An Ingress to expose the HTTP route to the DNS and within the cluster
  2. A Netork Policy to make sure that the deployed resources are allowed to communicate among them, if this is not already possible by default in your namespace

Once again, if you don’t knwo how to do this, you will have to consult your SRE/DevOps/SystemAdmin team or whoever is maintaining the cluster. Please don’t follow the advice of a random Data Scientist to set up network policies for potentially sensitive resources.

Parting thoughts

If you are reading this, you should at this point have a deployment, or know how to get a fastpages powered private website on your Kubernetes cluster.

I admit that the recipe is quite verbose,but depending on your experience with Kubernetes, these steps might be more or less familiar. If that is not the case, I hope you managed to at least get an idea of what is going on.