2. Helm Integration


The first tutorial in this series demonstrated how to setup a simple kluctl project that is able to deploy the GCP Microservices Demo to a local kind cluster.

This initial kluctl project was however quite naive and too simple to be any way realistic. For example, the project structure is too flat and will likely result in chaos when the project grows. Also, the project used self-crafted manifests while it might have been better to reuse feature rich Helm Charts. We will fix both these issues in this tutorial.

How to start

This tutorial is based on the results of the first tutorial. As an alternative, you can take the 1-basic-project example project found here and use it the base to be able to continue with this tutorial.

You can also deploy the base project and then incrementally perform deployments after each step in this tutorial. This way you will also gain some experience and feeling for to use kluctl.

A simple refactoring

Let’s start with a simple refactoring. Having all deployment items on the root level will easily get unmaintainable.

kluctl allows you to structure your project in all kinds of fashions by leveraging sub-deployments. The deployment items found in deployment projects allows specifying includes which point to sub-directory with another deployment.yml.

Let’s split the deployment into third-party applications (currently only redis) and the project specific microservices. To do this, create the sub-directories third-party and microservices. Then move the redis directory into third-party and all microservice sub-directories into microservices:

$ mkdir third-party
$ mkdir microservices
$ mv redis third-party/
$ mv adservice cartservice checkoutservice currencyservice emailservice \
    frontend loadgenerator paymentservice \
    productcatalogservice recommendationservice shippingservice microservices/

Now change the deployments list inside the root deployment.yml to:

  - include: third-party
  - include: services

Add a deployment.yml with the following content into the third-party sub-directory:

  - path: redis

And finally a deployment.yml with the following content into the microservices sub-directory:

  - path: adservice
  - path: cartservice
  - path: checkoutservice
  - path: currencyservice
  - path: emailservice
  - path: frontend
  - path: loadgenerator
  - path: paymentservice
  - path: productcatalogservice
  - path: recommendationservice
  - path: shippingservice

To get an overview of these changes, look into this commit inside the example project belonging to this tutorial.

If you deploy the new state of the project, you’ll notice that only labels will change. These labels are automatically added to all resources and represent the tags of the corresponding deployment items.

Some notes on project structure

The refactoring from above is meant as an example that demonstrates how sub-deployments can be used to structure your project. Such sub-deployments can also include deeper sub-deployments, allowing you to structure your project in any way and complexity that fits your needs.

Introducing the first Helm Chart

There are many examples where self-crafting of Kubernetes manifests is not the best solution, simply because there is already a large ecosystem of pre-created Kubernetes packages in the form of Helm Charts.

The redis deployment found in the microservices demo is a good example for this, especially as many available Helm Charts offer quite some functionality, for example high availability.

kluctl allows the integration of Helm Charts, which we will do now to replace the self-crafted redis deployment with the Bitname Redis Chart.

First, create the file third-party/redis/helm-chart.yml with the following content:

  repo: https://charts.bitnami.com/bitnami
  chartName: redis
  chartVersion: 16.8.0
  releaseName: cart
  namespace: default
  output: deploy.yml

Most of the above configuration can directly be mapped to Helm invocations (pull, install, …). The output value has a special meaning and must be reflected inside the kustomization.yml resources list. The reason is that kluctl solves the Helm integration by running helm template and writing the result to the file configured via output. After this, kluctl expects that kustomize takes over, which requires that the generated file is references in kustomization.yml.

To do so, simply replace the content of third-party/redis/kustomization.yml with:

  - deploy.yml

We now need some configuration for the redis chart, which is provides via [third-party/redis/helm-values.yml`](https://kluctl.io/docs/reference/deployments/helm/#helm-valuesyml):

architecture: replication

  enable: false

  enabled: true
  quorum: 2

  replicaCount: 3
    enabled: true

    enabled: true

The above configuration will configure redis to run in replication mode with sentinel and 3 replicas, giving us some high availability (at least in theory, as we’d still need a HA Kubernetes cluster and proper affinity configuration).

The Redis Chart will also deploy a Service resource, but with a different name as the self-crafted version. This means we have to fix the service name in microservices/cartservice/deployment.yml (look for the environment variable REDIS_ADDR) to point to cart-redis:6379 instead of redis-cart:6379.

You can now remove the old redis related manifests (third-party/redis/deployment.yml and third-party/redis/service.yml).

All the above changes can be found in this commit from the example project.

Pulling Helm Charts

We have now added a Helm Chart to our deployment, but to make it deployable it must be pre-pulled first. kluctl requires Helm Charts to be pre-pulled for multiple reasons. The most important reasons are performance and reproducibility. Performance would significantly suffer if Helm Chart would have to be pulled on-demand at deployment time. Also, Helm Charts have no functionality to ensure that a chart that you pulled yesterday is equivalent to the chart pulled today, even if the version is unchanged.

To pre-pull the redis Helm Chart, simply call:

$ kluctl helm-pull
INFO[0000] Pulling for third-party/redis/helm-chart.yml

This will pre-pull the chart into the sub-directory third-party/redis/charts. This directory is meant to be added to version control, so that it is always available when deploying.

If you ever change the chart version in helm-chart.yml, don’t forget to re-run the above command and commit the resulting changes.

Deploying the current state

It’s time to deploy the current state again:

$ kluctl deploy -t local
INFO[0000] Rendering templates and Helm charts          

New objects:

Changed objects:

Diff for object default/Deployment/cartservice
| Path                                                  | Diff                         |
| spec.template.spec.containers[0].env.REDIS_ADDR.value | -redis-cart:6379             |
|                                                       | +cart-redis:6379             |

Orphan objects:

As you can see, the changes that we did to the kluctl project are reflected in the output of the deploy call, meaning that we can perfectly see what happened. We can see a few new resources which are all redis related, the change of the service name and the old redis resources being marked as orphan. Let’s get rid of the orphan resources:

$ kluctl prune -t local
INFO[0000] Rendering templates and Helm charts          
INFO[0000] Building kustomize objects                   
INFO[0000] Getting remote objects by commonLabels       
The following objects will be deleted:
Do you really want to delete 2 objects? (y/N) y

Deleted objects:

You have just performed your first house-keeping, which you’ll probably do quite often from now on in your daily DevOps business.

More house-keeping

When time passes, new versions of the Helm Charts that you integrated are going to be released. You might have to keep your deployments up-to-date in such cases. The most naive way is to simply increase the chart version inside helm-chart.yml and then simply re-call kluctl helm-pull.

As the number of used charts can easily grow to a number where it becomes hard to keep everything up-to-date, kluctl offers a command to support you in this:

$ kluctl helm-update
INFO[0005] Chart third-party/redis/helm-chart.yml has new version 16.8.2 available. Old version is 16.8.0. 

As you can see, it will display charts with new versions. You can also use the same command to actually update the helm-chart.yml files and ultimately commit these to git:

$ kluctl helm-update --upgrade --commit
INFO[0005] Chart third-party/redis/helm-chart.yml has new version 16.8.2 available. Old version is 16.8.0. 
INFO[0005] Pulling for third-party/redis/helm-chart.yml 
INFO[0010] Committing: Updated helm chart third-party/redis from 16.8.0 to 16.8.2

How to continue

After this tutorial, you have hopefully learned how to better structure your projects and how to integrate third-party Helm Charts into your project, including some basic house-keeping tasks.

The next tutorials in this series will show you how to use this kluctl project as a base to implement a multi-environment and multi-cluster deployment.

Last modified April 22, 2022: Move guides below docs/ (f7eadbd)