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Getting Started with Lens 2024 Early Access


Lens 2024’s new Navigator speeds up workflows by letting you see as much, or as little, as you need to see

If you’ve read Miska Kaipiainen’s blog, Announcing Lens 2024, you already know the basics. Lens 2024 introduces a deep redesign/rethink of aspects of the Lens Desktop user interface and user experience, along with a slew of new features and improvements. The Lens team incorporated a ton of user feedback and wish-list items in this redesign, along with a sophisticated new vision of how a ‘Kubernetes IDE’ should work.

Getting Lens 2024 Early Access

We’re doing Lens 2024 Early Access to gain feedback before releasing in absolute earnest. So getting Lens 2024 Early Access is a little different than the usual ‘click the large blue button to download’ process. Here’s the whole scoop – if you’re an experienced Lens user with a Lens ID, you can skip steps 1-4 and just fire up Lens.

  1. Get a Lens ID (or recover an existing Lens ID).

  2. Download, install, and launch the current version of Lens Desktop (not Lens 2024, but still very nice). This is the part where you click the large blue button, the website determines what kind of computer you’re on (Linux, Mac, Windows all okay) and gives you the relevant binary stuff (for Linux, you can pick .deb, .rpm, Snap, AppImage as you prefer, etc.), and you install it and fire it up.

  3. Lens will prompt you to log in with your Lens ID. If you get to this point and don’t have one, just click the button and create one now. Lens will self-populate with any special features (e.g., Lens Teamwork, Lens Desktop Kubernetes, etc.) associated with your Lens ID/subscription tier (e.g., “Lens Pro”).

  4. In the upper-left-hand corner of the Lens screen, there’s a ‘hamburger’ button (three horizontal lines). Click this, go to the File submenu, and click Preferences.

  5. In the Preferences view, under App (see the left-hand side menu), you’ll see a dropdown that lets you select the Lens update channel. Pick Beta.

At this point, time will pass (indeterminate, but finite) … Eventually, a green icon saying “Release” will appear in the upper left, indicating that Lens 2024 Early Access is ready. Click to restart Lens and install it, and it should pick up your current logged-in state, entitlements, and etc., automatically.

First steps with Lens 2024 Early Access 

So now, you’re in Lens 2024 Early Access, and what you may notice first is that Lens 2024 does an even-more-meticulous job than prior versions of auto-discovering all the kubeconfigs you have (in normal kubeconfig locations), exploring their contexts, and putting links to relevant Kubernetes clusters in your Lens Catalog and in the Navigator.

New with Lens 2024 is the ability to auto-discover AWS EKS clusters and (of course) connect with them in ways that respect whatever your AWS IAM permissions are.

Obviously, this auto-discovery capability favors people who do normal things with important kubeconfigs (e.g., put them in ~/.kube and periodically clean up old configs, etc.). If they’re in ‘the right place,’ Lens 2024 Early Access will absolutely find them, and you can just click on the line-item in the Navigator to connect to any of them. If you drop a kubeconfig in an officially-sanctioned place, Lens will immediately auto-discover it. So the lesson here is basically: put them in .kube and life will be good.

If you’re more like me: the kind of heretic who builds small clusters all the time and puts configs in weird project subdirectories, Lens 2024 (of course) preserves the ability to let you cut and paste a kubeconfig to add a cluster. To do this, go back to that hamburger button, File -> Add Cluster, and drop in a kubeconfig.

Exploring the Navigator

Click on a cluster, and the Navigator element naming the cluster will expand to show a hierarchy of cluster object types and related functionality. Click on the cluster overview (or another element) to fill the right-hand pane with that view/table/dataset. For example, here’s my Lens 2024, showing the Applications view of a cluster. (That cluster – a k0s single-node job running on a local VM – is presently not running any workloads except for the Lens Metrics stack, which I used Lens 2024 Early Access to install – makes things very easy if your cluster isn’t already running Prometheus. If you’d like to try this yourself, right-click on the cluster name in the Navigator, pick Settings, and look at the Lens Metrics and Metrics tabs on the left.)

Now look at the tabs. It’s good to pause, here, and contemplate what’s happening on the screen (see shot above). In particular, look at the way tabs have appeared across the top. The current view has a tab, and it’s highlighted. You can pop down a menu by right-clicking on any tab, and control it, and tabs in general – e.g., close all tabs but this one, close tabs to the right of this one, etc.

This gives you some idea of how Lens tabs work conceptually. Of course, they’re like browser tabs, duh. And so they’re also like what webdevs call “breadcrumbs”: everything you look at or do gets a tab to start. And then, as you work, you prune back the ones you don’t need, rinse, repeat, and end up with a set of tabs that matches your workflow. At which point, you can click tabs to jump from view to view and get things done quickly. Sounds trivial, but in practice, it means you’re customizing your UI/UX by just doing work – do things, get rid of tabs you don’t want, do more things, and suddenly you’re working faster and you know where everything (for you, in this context) is. P.S. the back and forward buttons on the upper left work in the expected way, too.

Hotbar plays here too. But, there’s more. Work with the Navigator alone, and okay, with a lot of clusters, it can get pretty deep and complicated. But the new Lens 2024 hotbar goes beyond the ‘save a cluster,’ ‘save a space’ stuff of prior editions, and lets you click on any object to turn it into a hotbar item.

Once the item is saved in the hotbar, you can click on it to return to the selected view or object no matter what else is happening.

The legacy functionality – saving a cluster in the hotbar – is still supported too, and becomes another way to remove extraneous information. For example, the following shot shows what happens when you add one cluster (my pi1 cluster) to the hotbar, then press the hotbar button. All the noise of a fully-populated Navigator is hidden (you can bring it back by selecting a hierarchical supercategory from the popdown at the top of the Navigator pane) and all you need to deal with is one cluster’s details.

You can also save a supercategory Navigator view (e.g., AWS EKS clusters) to a hotbar button, so you have intermediate ways to constrain information as well.

In working with the new Navigator, I must admit that it took me several hours and a few cluster builds and adds and workload pushes and etc. (you know: actual work) to start feeling comfortable with it, and even a little longer before I realized it was saving me time. At this point, I think it’s unique among cloud native dev+ops workflow application UI/UX setups (VScode, browsers, public cloud UIs, etc.) in how it always makes sure you have a button to push to get to where you need to be (minimal WTF moments), and supports this dead-simple ephemeral custom UI creation process – i.e., find what you want, then prune back what you don’t want, and keep working.

Keep exploring!

There are a ton of new and improved features in Lens 2024 Early Access. More information-rich information displays with adjustable table layouts. Regular expression search on logs.

… And improved metrics with an Event Overlay feature that lets you see (and view detail) on system events, overlaid on time-series data. By the way, Lens metrics now lets you scrub back and forward in time dynamically through all the time-series data retained by your cluster (your administrator sets this up) – so now you can explore the deep history of issues and performance challenges without leaving Lens for a specialized observability thing (which you will want for sure, nonetheless).

Stay tuned for lots more coverage of Lens 2024, and please – join the Lens Forums and share feedback, so Team Lens can make adjustments before Lens 2024 hits general release.

John Jainschigg is Director, Open Source Initiatives at Mirantis.

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