Managing stacks with Helm


  • We created our first resources with kubectl run, kubectl expose ...

  • We have also created resources by loading YAML files with kubectl apply -f

  • For larger stacks, managing thousands of lines of YAML is unreasonable

  • These YAML bundles need to be customized with variable parameters

    (E.g.: number of replicas, image version to use ...)

  • It would be nice to have an organized, versioned collection of bundles

  • It would be nice to be able to upgrade/rollback these bundles carefully

  • Helm is an open source project offering all these things!

Helm concepts

  • helm is a CLI tool

  • tiller is its companion server-side component

  • A "chart" is an archive containing templatized YAML bundles

  • Charts are versioned

  • Charts can be stored on private or public repositories

Installing Helm

  • If the helm CLI is not installed in your environment, install it


  • Check if helm is installed:

  • If it's not installed, run the following command:

    curl | bash

Installing Tiller

  • Tiller is composed of a service and a deployment in the kube-system namespace

  • They can be managed (installed, upgraded...) with the helm CLI


  • Deploy Tiller:

    helm init

    If Tiller was already installed, don't worry: this won't break it.

At the end of the install process, you will see:

Happy Helming!

Fix account permissions

  • Helm permission model requires us to tweak permissions

  • In a more realistic deployment, you might create per-user or per-team service accounts, roles, and role bindings


  • Grant cluster-admin role to kube-system:default service account:

    kubectl create clusterrolebinding add-on-cluster-admin \
        --clusterrole=cluster-admin --serviceaccount=kube-system:default

(Defining the exact roles and permissions on your cluster requires a deeper knowledge of Kubernetes' RBAC model. The command above is fine for personal and development clusters.)

View available charts

  • A public repo is pre-configured when installing Helm

  • We can view available charts with helm search (and an optional keyword)


  • View all available charts:

    helm search
  • View charts related to prometheus:

    helm search prometheus

Install a chart

  • Most charts use LoadBalancer service types by default

  • Most charts require persistent volumes to store data

  • We need to relax these requirements a bit


  • Install the Prometheus metrics collector on our cluster:

    helm install stable/prometheus \
           --set server.service.type=NodePort \
           --set server.persistentVolume.enabled=false

Where do these --set options come from?

Inspecting a chart

  • helm inspect shows details about a chart (including available options)


  • See the metadata and all available options for stable/prometheus:

    helm inspect stable/prometheus

The chart's metadata includes an URL to the project's home page.

(Sometimes it conveniently points to the documentation for the chart.)

Viewing installed charts

  • Helm keeps track of what we've installed


  • List installed Helm charts:
    helm list

Creating a chart

  • We are going to show a way to create a very simplified chart

  • In a real chart, lots of things would be templatized

    (Resource names, service types, number of replicas...)


  • Create a sample chart:

    helm create dockercoins
  • Move away the sample templates and create an empty template directory:

    mv dockercoins/templates dockercoins/default-templates
    mkdir dockercoins/templates

Exporting the YAML for our application

  • The following section assumes that DockerCoins is currently running


  • Create one YAML file for each resource that we need:

      while read kind name; do
        kubectl get -o yaml --export $kind $name > dockercoins/templates/$name-$kind.yaml
      done <<EOF
      deployment worker
      deployment hasher
      daemonset rng
      deployment webui
      deployment redis
      service hasher
      service rng
      service webui
      service redis

Testing our helm chart


  • Let's install our helm chart! (dockercoins is the path to the chart)

    helm install dockercoins
  • Since the application is already deployed, this will fail:
    Error: release loitering-otter failed: services "hasher" already exists

  • To avoid naming conflicts, we will deploy the application in another namespace