Declarative vs imperative in Kubernetes


  • Our container orchestrator puts a very strong emphasis on being declarative

  • Declarative:

    I would like a cup of tea.

  • Imperative:

    Boil some water. Pour it in a teapot. Add tea leaves. Steep for a while. Serve in a cup.

  • Declarative seems simpler at first ...
  • ... As long as you know how to brew tea

Declarative vs imperative

  • What declarative would really be:

    I want a cup of tea, obtained by pouring an infusion¹ of tea leaves in a cup.

¹An infusion is obtained by letting the object steep a few minutes in hot² water.

²Hot liquid is obtained by pouring it in an appropriate container³ and setting it on a stove.

³Ah, finally, containers! Something we know about. Let's get to work, shall we?

Did you know there was an ISO standard specifying how to brew tea?

Declarative vs imperative

  • Imperative systems:

    • simpler

    • if a task is interrupted, we have to restart from scratch

  • Declarative systems:

    • if a task is interrupted (or if we show up to the party half-way through), we can figure out what's missing and do only what's necessary

    • we need to be able to observe the system

    • ... and compute a "diff" between what we have and what we want

  • Virtually everything we create in Kubernetes is created from a spec

  • Watch for the spec fields in the YAML files later!

  • The spec describes how we want the thing to be

  • Kubernetes will reconcile the current state with the spec
    (technically, this is done by a number of controllers)

  • When we want to change some resource, we update the spec

  • Kubernetes will then converge that resource