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Making the most out of CLIs

by Soumik Majumder — Mar 21, 2022

Carvel is glad to have kapp and the (brand new!) kctrl as a part of our arsenal. In this blog, we will see how these powerful CLIs, along with our good old friend kubectl, fit into our day-to-day workflows.

We often see our users leverage all three of them in their workflows. Let’s look at what each one of them is super good at!

kubectl

kubectl is a CLI built by the Kubernetes team. It let’s users interact with the cluster and resources on it.

Viewing resources current state on the cluster

kubectl lets you fetch and view the current state of a resource on the cluster in it’s entirety. This is quite useful while exploring resources on a cluster and debugging faulty resources.

Managing your kubeconfig and contexts

The set of commands under kubectl config allow us to manage and modify the configurations we use while connecting to our clusters. These configurations include values which indicate which cluster the tool interacts with, how we authenticate with the cluster and default namespace used. This is used as the default configuration for connecting to a cluster by other tools on the host - more often than not. And kubectl allows us to seamlessly modify and switch between multiple “contexts” like these.

Interacting with nodes

kubectl has a set of powerful commands that let us cordon and uncordon nodes (making them available or not available for scheduling). These commands can also help users drain resources from a node so that it can be cordoned safely. Nodes can be “tainted” with certain key-values, which allow only pods that tolerate those “taints” to be scheduled on them. Learn more about these commands here.

Dive into your containers and applications

kubectl allows us to attach to processes containers running on pods and execute commands inside them easily. Users can observe the resource consumption on a pod as well. // might remove Proxying and port-forwarding options let a pod or the K8s API server serve HTTP content to localhost. Letting users debug their applications easily

kapp

kapp CLI helps users manage their workloads effectively on the cluster. This involves defining interactions between resources declaratively and deploying and updating them confidently.

But wait isn’t this something kubectl apply or kubectl patch will help us do for resource manifests?

Well yes, but kapp goes a step further, it helps users order resources in their manifests, apply changes safely and predictably, and then goes on to wait for the resources to reach their desired state. (You could take a deep dive into this over here)

Let’s see how kapp makes our lives easier.

kapp lets users group and order multiple resources easily. This lets us do tasks like “create a Deployment after a Job has finished” declaratively in our manifests. kapp also caters to other use cases, like versioning resources and defining create/update/delete strategies for resources in the abstract “application”. These features allow users to efficiently and declaratively manage resources to be deployed on clusters.

Applying changes safely and confidently

While applying changes to the cluster, kapp shows a diff against the resources on the cluster (as seen here), this lets the user be more aware of the changes a patch or a deploy has on the cluster. Once the user confirms the changes, kapp waits for resources to reach their desired state ensuring that the changes are in effect as the user intended.

View the grouped resources and their statuses easily

The kapp inspect command enables users to view resources that have been grouped into an “application”. It lists the resources and surfaces information about whether or not the resources are in a healthy state. In case a resource is not in it’s desired state, helpful information which helps the user work towards the cause of the failure is surfaced as well.

kctrl

So what does our newest ally bring to the table? kctrl allows users to interact easily with kapp-controllers custom resources. It allows users to easily consume published Carvel packages and (will eventually help) interact with and debug AppCRs in a comprehensive manner.

Get up and running with Carvel packages easily

Initially, installing a package would require the consumer to author a PackageInstall CR which would refer to a particular Package and a version, along with Secrets or ConfigMaps defining values consumed by the PackageInstall and an assigned service account it uses to make changes. kctrl allows users to easily install a package and conveniently supply details required to install it. Carvel packages can be configured by supplying certain values to them during installation. The CLI allows users to easily supply these values as a YAML file. This file is used to create a secret which is referenced by the PackageInstall created under the hood. This enables package consumers to be up and running, even if they are not ready to get their hands dirty with some YAML.

Have a reference while authoring values for packages

As we discussed earlier, some packages accept configuration in the form of a YAML file defining certain values. The structure of such files for a package is defined using an OpenAPI schema while authoring these packages. kctrl let’s user surface details about the values accepted along with short descriptions of the effect they have.

Re-configure and fix installations with ease

kctrl also allows users to update the values supplied to a PackageInstall and bump versions for an installation easily. Of course, without the user having to author resources themselves.

What is coming up for kctrl?

AppCRs are at the heart of Carvel’s Packaging API. Different versions of a Package, are essentially different workflows defined in an AppCR style so that they can be distributed - multiple packages can be grouped together and distributed as a PackageRepository. And each PackageInstall resource decides which version of the AppCR should be running on a cluster.

kctrl will be making it easier for users to interact with and managing AppCRs. This helps users better debug AppCRs defining GitOps (or other single-source-of-truth) workflows - which might have been authored by them or created due to a package installation.

kctrl will:

  • Surface information essential for debugging erroneous AppCRs in a comprehensive manner to the user
  • Allow users to easily pause and force reconciliation for AppCRs - essential in debugging workflows
  • Make it easy to inspect resources that are being created by an AppCR

To sum up…

kubectl is really useful for viewing resources as-is on the cluster, lets us manage our default kubeconfig easily, and is unparalleled when it comes to interacting with nodes and how they are scheduled.

kapp is a one-stop solution for managing resources on your clusters effectively. It also helps users deploy changes to the cluster reliably and confidently.

kctrl is the ideal tool for interacting with custom resources defined by kapp-controller. It helps users get started and get more done while having minimal knowledge of what happens under the hood and without authoring the resources themselves. It also enhances how users interact with AppCRs that are at the core of kapp-controller helping them fix issues faster.

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