ADR010: Expressing one-shot commands in a Kubernetes-native way

  • Status: accepted

  • Deciders:

    • Lars Francke

  • Date: 1.3.2021

Context and Problem Statement

Kubernetes follows a declarative model where a user describes the desired state of the world. There are some things that cannot be easily or naturally modeled in a declarative way. Some examples being: restart, start, stop, repair, finalize upgrade, etc.

We still need to support those actions. This ADR is about finding a way to do so. As can be seen in the linked issue others are facing the same issue and various workarounds are in-use. Kubernetes offers no native way to achieve our goal.

Considered Options

  • Have the Operators start a Web server that accepts requests for these actions

  • Add CRDs for these kinds of actions

    • Have a single CRD: FooCommand which takes a string with the command (e.g. "restart")

    • Have a CRD per command (e.g. FooRestart, FooStart)


We decided to go with a single CRD per command. We decided against a web server (for now) because it’d mean we’d need to reimplement authentication and authorization from scratch and this’d need to be consistent with the way Kubernetes works.

Unfortunately, Kubernetes doesn’t support arbitrary subresources for CRDs yet (only scale and status are supported)

Our implementation idea is as follows:
  • Create a CRD

    • It needs to have a reference to the parent resource (i.e. a name and a namespace)

  • Write an operator (command operator) which should be made generic and reusable

  • This operator watches this new custom resource

    • For each command object it tries to find the referenced resource and sets the ownerReference of the command-CR to the one of the parent

    • In theory users could do this themselves but it’s harder to use (i.e. having to find the uid)

  • The parent controller will be notified and during its reconcile it can get a list of all commands sorted by creationTimestamp

  • It can then work on the command - tracking progress in the status - and also potentially update the command-CR

Open questions:
  • Should the command CR be deleted immediately after it has been completed?

  • Should the command CR be used to track progress in addition to or instead of the parent resource?

Positive Consequences

  • We do not change the spec of the main objects so we can keep imperative actions out of it

    • This allows users to keep the spec in version control

Negative Consequences

  • Implementation effort because each CRD needs a new controller

    • Can be mitigated somehow because the controllers should be pretty uniform

  • Can be harder to use

    • Instead of being able to issue a simple command like spark restart users first have to construct a proper YAML file and then use kubectl to apply it

    • Can be mitigated with custom CLIs