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Introduction to Kubernetes, IaC and Helm 

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is one of the best platforms to deploy and manage containerized applications. But deploying such containerized applications to Kubernetes can be challenging. You have to write a detailed YAML file to deploy resources like pods, deployments, and services on Kubernetes that's where Helm comes into the play.

What is Helm?

Helm is a package manager for Kubernetes; it's the yum and apt of Kubernetes. It allows us to deploy resources to Kubernetes quickly. It deploys charts which are the packages of application. Helm is also an official Kubernetes project in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) under the category of incubating projects.

What is Infrastructure as code ? 

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) manages infrastructures like Networks, VMs, and load balancers in a descriptive model, using the same versioning as the DevOps team uses for source code. The same source code applies the same binary, and the Infrastructure as Code model generates the same environment whenever it is applied.

Infrastructure as Code is a process of provisioning and maintaining the environment's configuration through YAML code instead of manually creating required servers and storage systems. Once the Code and its parameters are written in YAML-defined configuration files, the system admins and developers need to run scripts, automatically building the cloud infrastructure.

Such automatic IT setups enable people to create the desired infrastructure and test their software quickly. Infrastructure as Code allows system admins and developers to generate any infrastructure component of their needs, including databases, virtual machines, databases, load balancers, networks, etc.

Completely Managed Kubernetes operations, including monitoring, deployment and optimized usage of Kubernetes in complex environments. Explore our Services, Managed Kubernetes as a Service

What is Helm?

In general terms, Helm is a package manager for k8s(Kubernetes). Helm is the K8s equivalent of yum or apt, which helps deploy the applications on k8s clusters. Helm charts allow developers and operators to easily package, configure, and deploy applications and services onto K8s clusters. It's a packaged application containing all the versioned and pre-configured application resources deployed as a single unit. Every programming language and OS has its package manager for the installation and maintenance of the software. Helm also provides the same basic features set as many package managers like Debian, yum, and apt.

In DevOps, among all the challenges, management & deployment of applications on the K8s cluster has proved to be the most complex one for the team. But, due to the runaway success of k8s, there is an evolving ecosystem of tools concentrated on addressing the complexities of app deployment over k8s. Most of these tools exist as open-source projects managed by the developer community. Helm is one such open-source project that has been successfully simplifying the lives of k8s users.

  1. Helm packages are charts consisting of a few YAML configuration files and templates rendered into the K8s cluster as Kubernetes manifest files.
  2. Helm Charts helps to install, define and upgrade the Kubernetes application. It will be beneficial to deploy complex applications.
  3. Helm Charts allow you to version the manifest files too. This helps to install any specific chart versions.
  4. A single chart might be used to deploy something simple or complex, like an entire web application stack with databases, HTTP servers, caches, etc.

What are the benefits of Helm?

  1. Kubernetes packages can be used using a single CLI command.  
  2. Helm offers the ability to customize application configurations during deployment. 
  3. Helm plays a crucial role in streamlining CI/CD pipelines.
  4. Helm maintains a database of all the versions of your releases automatically. 
  5. Helm enhances productivity. It lets software developers do what they are best at writing code. With Helm, deployment of the test environment becomes effortless. 
  6. Helm reduces the complexity of creating various development, testing, and production environments.
  7. Helm simplifies Kubernetes's learning curve. Thus, Developers do not require expertise in Kubernetes to start developing and deploying container applications.

Why is Helm used?

Helm makes deployments so easy in Kubernetes, all you need to add helm charts on your Kubernetes cluster. All the Helm charts are stored in Helm repository; you can search the required application chart on Helm registry and add them to your Kubernetes cluster with ease. For example, if you want to deploy a WordPress app on your Kubernetes, you have to create Yaml manifest files for deployment and service for both app and database, which can be quite complicated. Still, by using Helm you can deploy WordPress in a few minutes on your Kube cluster. Also if you want to deploy 50 microservices on Kubernetes using manifest files it consumes a whole lot of time and also there is an exorbitant probability of errors. Still, in case of Helm, you have to remember the name of required charts, and you can deploy these as quick as Flash. 

More reasons why you need Helm 

Helm Charts are like a "push button" for the deployment and deletion of applications. Helm chart gives the ability to work with microservices to those who have less experience with containers and microservices. They can quickly deploy the charts and get familiar with the Kubernetes environments. Imagine a microservice deployment approach with and without Helm. 

Without Helm

Teams have to depend on Kubernetes YAML manifest files to configure Kubernetes deployment. These manifest files define everything needed for deploying containers. Everything that each Pod requires to be configured to how the k8s cluster performs load balancing has to be specified in those YAML files. Thus, to deploy a new k8s workload, you need to create a manifest file for that deployment. To do it manually means writing multiple manifest files – one for every k8s object you create.

With Helm

Rather than writing every manifest YAML for each application deployment manually, you can easily create a Helm chart for that & let Helm deploy the application to the k8s cluster for you. Helm charts contain templates for multiple k8s resources that unite to form an application. A Helm chart can be customized to deploy on different clusters or environments. Helm charts can easily separate env or deployment-specific configurations into a different file. These values can be designated when the Helm chart is deployed over the cluster.

For example, you can utilize the same helm charts to deploy an application in different env like development, staging, or production. All can be handled via a single helm chart with customized config as needed.

Helm has evolved with time & with every new upgrade. It has ensured that application management on k8s must be simpler. With the latest release of Helm 3, the benefits have excelled the expectations of the DevOps community. It has been happily included in the must-have tools for deploying applications to k8s.

How to install Helm?

The process of installing Helm is effortless, you can install it using the binaries, or you can use package managers.

From homebrew on macOS:

brew install Helm

From Chocolatey on windows:

choco install Kubernetes-helm

From installer script:

Helm now comes with an installer script, you can fetch this script to your system, and it automatically installs the latest version of Helm in your system. $ curl -fsSL -o get_helm.sh https://raw.githubusercontent.com / helm / helm / master / scripts / get-helm-3 $ chmod 700 get_helm.sh $ ./get_helm.sh

From binary release

Download the required version from "https://github.com/helm/helm/releases" 2. Unpack it using tar -zxvf helm-v3.0.0-linux-amd 64.tar.gz (for linux) 3. Move to helm binary to desired location (mv linux-amd64 / helm /usr / local / bin / helm ) After the installation of Helm in your system you can use the Command "helm version" to check the version of the Helm and also it verifies that Helm is successfully installed in your system.

What are Helm charts?

The applications packages in Helm are called charts; they consist of YAML files and templates that are used for Kubernetes Deployments.

The structure of Helm charts

|-- Chart.yaml
|-- charts
|-- templates
| |-- NOTES.txt
| |-- _helpers.tpl
| |-- deployment.yaml
| |-- ingress.yaml
| `-- service.yaml
`-- values.yaml

  • Chart.yaml

 This file contains the metadata about the chart, such as the chart's name, version, and keywords.
  • README.md

 This file has information about the chart for the users so that they face no difficulty in using this chart.
  • LICENSE
 This file contains a plain text license for the chart.
  • templates
 This directory contains the templates files of the chart, and when they combined with values, they generate the valid Kubernetes manifest files.
  • requirements.yaml
This file contains the list of all the dependencies of a chart. values.yaml
This file contains the default configuration values for a chart.
  • configmap.yaml
This file contains the database configurations.
  • secrets.yaml
This file stores all the database passwords. These charts can be installed from a local directory or a .tar.gz file. You can also use the repository to install charts in your Kubernetes.

What is Helm Repository?

A Helm repository is a server that acts as an arsenal for the Helm charts. We can use any HTTP server that can serve YAML files and tar files as a Helm repository. A Helm repo contains an index.yaml file that has the list of all the packages. On the other hand, at the user side or the client-side "helm repo" command is used to manage the repositories. Helm Commands:
  • To install tiller

helm init
  • To create a chart

 helm create <chart name>
  • To List the repositories

 helm repo list
  • To search a chart

 helm search <chart name>
  • To install a chart

 helm install <chart name> <flag>
  • To inspect a chart

 helm inspect <chart> <flag>
  • Install application using Helm

Installing apps using Helm is quite easy; you can install very complex applications in just a few minutes. First of all, you have to add a repo in your system using Helm, and you can install any deployments available in that repo into your Kube cluster. For example, To install Jenkins using Helm we use Bitnami repository: 
  • To install Bitnami repository, we'll use the command

 helm repo add bitnami https://charts.bitnami.com/bitnami 
  • To install Jenkins chart with a given name

 helm install --name jenk bitnami/Jenkins 
  • To check deployment on Kubernetes

 kubectl get deploy This command shows you all the deployments running in your system, and you'll also see Jenkins deployment there.

Frequently asked questions about Helm

What is Helm, and why is it used?

Helm is a Kubernetes deployment tool. Helms helps to automate the management of applications to kubernetes clusters. 

How does Helm work with Kubernetes?

Helm enables developers/users/DevOps team to install applications onto the Kubernetes cluster. Helm also calls itself "The Kubernetes package manager."

What is Helm's alternative?

AnsibleTerraformKustomize, Rancher, Kubernetes, and Docker are some famous alternatives to Helm.

Who developed Helm?

Deis developed Helm, a firm dedicated to helping the Kubernetes Ecosystem. Deis was later acquired by Microsoft. 

What is a Helm client?

The Command-line client for the end-users is Helm Client. The Helm client's responsibilities include -Managing repositories and releases with Local chart development.

Conclusion

Kubernetes is undoubtedly the future of container orchestration. Helm is the best way to use Kubernetes effectively and efficiently, helm not just only helps developers who want to install some apps on Kubernetes, but it also helps DevOps engineer, they can still create YAML manifest files and use kubectl commands to do deployments. Yet, Helm helps them in reducing the complexity of deployment on Kubernetes, by using Helm they can define app quickly and deploy it easily on Kubernetes. There is no limit to the advantages of Helm. Still, it doesn't mean that it is perfect like every other thing helm have limitation too, it requires too much logic to write its template, and it's tough for a beginner to work on the Helm and also it has some security issues. Surely, Helm is not impeccable yet, but it's growing continuously and rapidly with the support of the large, passionate community behind it, even recently Helm releases the latest version of its known as Helm3, with the rich set of new features it decreases the security problems of Helm, with this increasing speed we can believe that the day is not far when Helm becomes a perfect match for Kubernetes.

What's Next? 

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