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Introduction

The intention of this guide is to give you more detailed information on various elements of the HelmRelease Custom Resource. You can follow it in one take, use it as a more explanatory reference, or a combination of both.

It assumes you have the Helm Operator already installed in your cluster. If you have not done this yet, follow the installation instructions from the quickstart

The guide tries not to presume a specific enabled Helm version but for the sake of simplicity it was written while making use of Helm 3.

A minimal HelmRelease

To get started, we will first create the most minimal HelmRelease possible. We will use (parts) of this minimal HelmRelease as an example throughout the rest of this guide.

# podinfo.yaml
---
apiVersion: helm.fluxcd.io/v1
kind: HelmRelease
metadata:
  name: podinfo
  namespace: default
spec:
  chart:
    repository: https://stefanprodan.github.io/podinfo
    name: podinfo
    version: 3.2.0

The spec.chart object is the only mandatory property of the HelmRelease and defines the Helm chart that should be installed by the Helm Operator. This HelmRelease will manage stefanprodan/podinfo

a tiny web application made with Go that showcases best practices of running microservices in Kubernetes

from a Helm repository chart source.

Applying this to the cluster and making the Helm Operator do the release is equivalent to a human running the following helm commands:

$ helm repo add podinfo https://stefanprodan.github.io/podinfo
$ helm upgrade -i default-podinfo podinfo/podinfo --version '3.2.0'

A couple of differences between the HelmRelease resource and listed helm commands should stand out:

  1. The HelmRelease does not make use of a repository alias, instead the absolute URL of the Helm repository is used.

    This is to ensure the HelmRelease is able to stand on its own. If we used names in the spec, which were resolved to URLs elsewhere (e.g., in a repositories.yaml supplied to the operator), it would be possible to change the meaning of a HelmRelease without altering it. This is undesirable because it makes it hard to specify exactly what you want, in the one place; or to read exactly what is being specified, in the one place.
  2. The spec.chart.version is mandatory.

    The reasoning behind this is the same as the explanation given above.
  3. The default release name used by the Helm Operator is composed from the metadata.namespace and the metadata.name of the HelmRelease resource (<namespace>-<name>).

    This to ensure it does not collide with other HelmRelease resources that may have the same .metadata.name but different namespace definitions.

Having absorbed this information, you can now go ahead and apply the resource using kubectl:

$ kubectl apply -f podinfo.yaml

Take a look at the logs of the Helm Operator deployment and you will see the Helm installation was performed almost instantly after applying the resource:

$ kubectl logs deploy/flux-helm-operator
...
ts=2020-01-01T12:00:00.000000000Z caller=release.go:335 component=release release=default-podinfo targetNamespace=default resource=default:helmrelease/podinfo helmVersion=v3 info="no existing release" action=install
ts=2020-01-01T12:00:00.000000000Z caller=helm.go:69 component=helm version=v3 info="creating 2
resource(s)" targetNamespace=default release=default-podinfo
ts=2020-01-01T12:00:00.000000000Z caller=release.go:266 component=release release=default-podinfo targetNamespace=default resource=default:helmrelease/podinfo helmVersion=v3 info="Helm release sync succeeded" revision=3.2.0
$ kubectl get helmrelease
NAME      RELEASE           STATUS     MESSAGE                       AGE
podinfo   default-podinfo   deployed   Helm release sync succeeded   10s

As expected, the release will now also show up for e.g. helm list:

$ helm list
NAME            NAMESPACE       REVISION        UPDATED                                 STATUS          CHART           APP VERSION
default-podinfo default         1               2020-01-01 12:00:00.000000000 +0000 UTC deployed        podinfo-3.2.0   3.2.0

Congratulations! You made your first Helm release using a HelmRelease resource.