Writing a ClusterClass

A ClusterClass becomes more useful and valuable when it can be used to create many Cluster of a similar shape. The goal of this document is to explain how ClusterClasses can be written in a way that they are flexible enough to be used in as many Clusters as possible by supporting variants of the same base Cluster shape.

Table of Contents

Basic ClusterClass

The following example shows a basic ClusterClass. It contains templates to shape the control plane, infrastructure and workers of a Cluster. When a Cluster is using this ClusterClass, the templates are used to generate the objects of the managed topology of the Cluster.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  controlPlane:
    ref:
      apiVersion: controlplane.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
      kind: KubeadmControlPlaneTemplate
      name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
      namespace: default
    machineInfrastructure:
      ref:
        kind: DockerMachineTemplate
        apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
        name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
        namespace: default
  infrastructure:
    ref:
      apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
      kind: DockerClusterTemplate
      name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0-control-plane
      namespace: default
  workers:
    machineDeployments:
    - class: default-worker
      template:
        bootstrap:
          ref:
            apiVersion: bootstrap.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
            kind: KubeadmConfigTemplate
            name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0-default-worker
            namespace: default
        infrastructure:
          ref:
            apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
            kind: DockerMachineTemplate
            name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0-default-worker
            namespace: default

The following example shows a Cluster using this ClusterClass. In this case a KubeadmControlPlane with the corresponding DockerMachineTemplate, a DockerCluster and a MachineDeployment with the corresponding KubeadmConfigTemplate and DockerMachineTemplate will be created. This basic ClusterClass is already very flexible. Via the topology on the Cluster the following can be configured:

  • .spec.topology.version: the Kubernetes version of the Cluster
  • .spec.topology.controlPlane: ControlPlane replicas and their metadata
  • .spec.topology.workers: MachineDeployments and their replicas, metadata and failure domain
apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: Cluster
metadata:
  name: my-docker-cluster
spec:
  topology:
    class: docker-clusterclass
    version: v1.22.4
    controlPlane:
      replicas: 3
      metadata:
        labels:
          cpLabel: cpLabelValue 
        annotations:
          cpAnnotation: cpAnnotationValue
    workers:
      machineDeployments:
      - class: default-worker
        name: md-0
        replicas: 4
        metadata:
          labels:
            mdLabel: mdLabelValue
          annotations:
            mdAnnotation: mdAnnotationValue
        failureDomain: region

Best practices:

  • The ClusterClass name should be generic enough to make sense across multiple clusters, i.e. a name which corresponds to a single Cluster, e.g. “my-cluster”, is not recommended.
  • Try to keep the ClusterClass names short and consistent (if you publish multiple ClusterClasses).
  • As a ClusterClass usually evolves over time and you might want to rebase Clusters from one version of a ClusterClass to another, consider including a version suffix in the ClusterClass name. For more information about changing a ClusterClass please see: Changing a ClusterClass.
  • Prefix the templates used in a ClusterClass with the name of the ClusterClass.
  • Don’t reuse the same template in multiple ClusterClasses. This is automatically taken care of by prefixing the templates with the name of the ClusterClass.

ClusterClass with MachineHealthChecks

MachineHealthChecks can be configured in the ClusterClass for the control plane and for a MachineDeployment class. The following configuration makes sure a MachineHealthCheck is created for the control plane and for every MachineDeployment using the default-worker class.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  controlPlane:
    ...
    machineHealthCheck:
      maxUnhealthy: 33%
      nodeStartupTimeout: 15m
      unhealthyConditions:
      - type: Ready
        status: Unknown
        timeout: 300s
      - type: Ready
        status: "False"
        timeout: 300s
  workers:
    machineDeployments:
    - class: default-worker
      ...
      machineHealthCheck:
        unhealthyRange: "[0-2]"
        nodeStartupTimeout: 10m
        unhealthyConditions:
        - type: Ready
          status: Unknown
          timeout: 300s
        - type: Ready
          status: "False"
          timeout: 300s

ClusterClass with patches

As shown above, basic ClusterClasses are already very powerful. But there are cases where more powerful mechanisms are required. Let’s assume you want to manage multiple Clusters with the same ClusterClass, but they require different values for a field in one of the referenced templates of a ClusterClass.

A concrete example would be to deploy Clusters with different registries. In this case, every cluster needs a Cluster-specific value for .spec.kubeadmConfigSpec.clusterConfiguration.imageRepository in KubeadmControlPlane. Use cases like this can be implemented with ClusterClass patches.

Defining variables in the ClusterClass

The following example shows how variables can be defined in the ClusterClass. A variable definition specifies the name and the schema of a variable and if it is required. The schema defines how a variable is defaulted and validated. It supports a subset of the schema of CRDs. For more information please see the godoc.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  variables:
  - name: imageRepository
    required: true
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: string
        description: ImageRepository is the container registry to pull images from.
        default: k8s.gcr.io
        example: k8s.gcr.io

Defining patches in the ClusterClass

The variable can then be used in a patch to set a field on a template referenced in the ClusterClass. The selector specifies on which template the patch should be applied. jsonPatches specifies which JSON patches should be applied to that template. In this case we set the imageRepository field of the KubeadmControlPlaneTemplate to the value of the variable imageRepository. For more information please see the godoc.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  patches:
  - name: imageRepository
    definitions:
    - selector:
        apiVersion: controlplane.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
        kind: KubeadmControlPlaneTemplate
        matchResources:
          controlPlane: true
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/kubeadmConfigSpec/clusterConfiguration/imageRepository
        valueFrom:
          variable: imageRepository

Setting variable values in the Cluster

After creating a ClusterClass with a variable definition, the user can now provide a value for the variable in the Cluster as in the example below.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: Cluster
metadata:
  name: my-docker-cluster
spec:
  topology:
    ...
    variables:
    - name: imageRepository
      value: my.custom.registry

Advanced features of ClusterClass with patches

This section will explain more advanced features of ClusterClass patches.

MachineDeployment variable overrides

If you want to use many variations of MachineDeployments in Clusters, you can either define a MachineDeployment class for every variation or you can define patches and variables to make a single MachineDeployment class more flexible.

In the following example we make the instanceType of a AWSMachineTemplate customizable. First we define the workerMachineType variable and the corresponding patch:

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: aws-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  variables:
  - name: workerMachineType
    required: true
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: string
        default: t3.large
  patches:
  - name: workerMachineType
    definitions:
    - selector:
        apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
        kind: AWSMachineTemplate
        matchResources:
          machineDeploymentClass:
            names:
            - default-worker
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/instanceType
        valueFrom:
          variable: workerMachineType
---
apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: AWSMachineTemplate
metadata:
  name: aws-clusterclass-v0.1.0-default-worker
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      # instanceType: workerMachineType will be set by the patch.
      iamInstanceProfile: "nodes.cluster-api-provider-aws.sigs.k8s.io"
---
...

In the Cluster resource the workerMachineType variable can then be set cluster-wide and it can also be overridden for an individual MachineDeployment.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: Cluster
metadata:
  name: my-aws-cluster
spec:
  ...
  topology:
    class: aws-clusterclass-v0.1.0
    version: v1.22.0
    controlPlane:
      replicas: 3
    workers:
      machineDeployments:
      - class: "default-worker"
        name: "md-small-workers"
        replicas: 3
        variables:
          overrides:
          # Overrides the cluster-wide value with t3.small.
          - name: workerMachineType
            value: t3.small
      # Uses the cluster-wide value t3.large.
      - class: "default-worker"
        name: "md-large-workers"
        replicas: 3
    variables:
    - name: workerMachineType
      value: t3.large

Builtin variables

In addition to variables specified in the ClusterClass, the following builtin variables can be referenced in patches:

  • builtin.cluster.{name,namespace}
  • builtin.cluster.topology.{version,class}
  • builtin.cluster.network.{serviceDomain,services,pods,ipFamily}
  • builtin.controlPlane.{replicas,version,name}
    • Please note, these variables are only available when patching control plane or control plane machine templates.
  • builtin.controlPlane.machineTemplate.infrastructureRef.name
    • Please note, these variables are only available when using a control plane with machines and when patching control plane or control plane machine templates.
  • builtin.machineDeployment.{replicas,version,class,name,topologyName}
    • Please note, these variables are only available when patching the templates of a MachineDeployment and contain the values of the current MachineDeployment topology.
  • builtin.machineDeployment.{infrastructureRef.name,bootstrap.configRef.name}
    • Please note, these variables are only available when patching the templates of a MachineDeployment and contain the values of the current MachineDeployment topology.

Builtin variables can be referenced just like regular variables, e.g.:

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  patches:
  - name: clusterName
    definitions:
    - selector:
      ...
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/kubeadmConfigSpec/clusterConfiguration/controllerManager/extraArgs/cluster-name
        valueFrom:
          variable: builtin.cluster.name

Tips & Tricks

Builtin variables can be used to dynamically calculate image names. The version used in the patch will always be the same as the one we set in the corresponding MachineDeployment (works the same way with .builtin.controlPlane.version).

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  patches:
  - name: customImage
    description: "Sets the container image that is used for running dockerMachines."
    definitions:
    - selector:
        apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
        kind: DockerMachineTemplate
        matchResources:
          machineDeploymentClass:
            names:
            - default-worker
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/customImage
        valueFrom:
          template: |
            kindest/node:{{ .builtin.machineDeployment.version }}

Complex variable types

Variables can also be objects, maps and arrays. An object is specified with the type object and by the schemas of the fields of the object. A map is specified with the type object and the schema of the map values. An array is specified via the type array and the schema of the array items.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  variables:
  - name: httpProxy
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: object
        properties: 
          # Schema of the url field.
          url: 
            type: string
          # Schema of the noProxy field.
          noProxy:
            type: string
  - name: mdConfig
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: object
        additionalProperties:
          # Schema of the map values.
          type: object
          properties:
            osImage:
              type: string
  - name: dnsServers
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: array
        items:
          # Schema of the array items.
          type: string

Objects, maps and arrays can be used in patches either directly by referencing the variable name, or by accessing individual fields. For example:

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  jsonPatches:
  - op: add
    path: /spec/template/spec/httpProxy/url
    valueFrom:
      # Use the url field of the httpProxy variable.
      variable: httpProxy.url
  - op: add
    path: /spec/template/spec/customImage
    valueFrom:
      # Use the osImage field of the mdConfig variable for the current MD class.
      template: "{{ (index .mdConfig .builtin.machineDeployment.class).osImage }}"
  - op: add
    path: /spec/template/spec/dnsServers
    valueFrom:
      # Use the entire dnsServers array.
      variable: dnsServers
  - op: add
    path: /spec/template/spec/dnsServer
    valueFrom:
      # Use the first item of the dnsServers array.
      variable: dnsServers[0]

Tips & Tricks

Complex variables can be used to make references in templates configurable, e.g. the identityRef used in AzureCluster. Of course it’s also possible to only make the name of the reference configurable, including restricting the valid values to a pre-defined enum.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: azure-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  variables:
  - name: clusterIdentityRef
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: object
        properties:
          kind:
            type: string
          name:
            type: string

Even if OpenAPI schema allows defining free form objects, e.g.

variables:
  - name: freeFormObject
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: object

User should be aware that the lack of the validation of users provided data could lead to problems when those values are used in patch or when the generated templates are created (see e.g. 6135).

As a consequence we recommend avoiding this practice while we are considering alternatives to make it explicit for the ClusterClass authors to opt-in in this feature, thus accepting the implied risks.

Using variable values in JSON patches

We already saw above that it’s possible to use variable values in JSON patches. It’s also possible to calculate values via Go templating or to use hard-coded values.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  patches:
  - name: etcdImageTag
    definitions:
    - selector:
      ...
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/kubeadmConfigSpec/clusterConfiguration/etcd
        valueFrom:
          # This template is first rendered with Go templating, then parsed by 
          # a YAML/JSON parser and then used as value of the JSON patch.
          # For example, if the variable etcdImageTag is set to `3.5.1-0` the 
          # .../clusterConfiguration/etcd field will be set to:
          # {"local": {"imageTag": "3.5.1-0"}}
          template: |
            local:
              imageTag: {{ .etcdImageTag }}
  - name: imageRepository
    definitions:
    - selector:
      ...
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/kubeadmConfigSpec/clusterConfiguration/imageRepository
        # This hard-coded value is used directly as value of the JSON patch.
        value: "my.custom.registry"

Tips & Tricks

Templates can be used to implement defaulting behavior during JSON patch value calculation. This can be used if the simple constant default value which can be specified in the schema is not enough.

        valueFrom:
          # If .vnetName is set, it is used. Otherwise, we will use `{{.builtin.cluster.name}}-vnet`.  
          template: "{{ if .vnetName }}{{.vnetName}}{{else}}{{.builtin.cluster.name}}-vnet{{end}}"

When writing templates, a subset of functions from the sprig library can be used to write expressions like e.g. {{ .name | upper }}. Only functions that are guaranteed to evaluate to the same result for a given input are allowed (e.g. upper or max can be used, while now or randAlpha can not be used).

Optional patches

Patches can also be conditionally enabled. This can be done by configuring a Go template via enabledIf. The patch is then only applied if the Go template evaluates to true. In the following example the httpProxy patch is only applied if the httpProxy variable is set (and not empty).

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: docker-clusterclass-v0.1.0
spec:
  ...
  variables:
  - name: httpProxy
    schema:
      openAPIV3Schema:
        type: string
  patches:
  - name: httpProxy
    enabledIf: "{{ if .httpProxy }}true{{end}}"
    definitions:
    ...  

Tips & Tricks:

Hard-coded values can be used to test the impact of a patch during development, gradually roll out patches, etc. .

    enabledIf: false

A boolean variable can be used to enable/disable a patch (or “feature”). This can have opt-in or opt-out behavior depending on the default value of the variable.

    enabledIf: "{{ .httpProxyEnabled }}"

Of course the same is possible by adding a boolean variable to a configuration object.

    enabledIf: "{{ .httpProxy.enabled }}"

Builtin variables can be leveraged to apply a patch only for a specific Kubernetes version.

    enabledIf: '{{ semverCompare "1.21.1" .builtin.controlPlane.version }}'

With semverCompare and coalesce a feature can be enabled in newer versions of Kubernetes for both KubeadmConfigTemplate and KubeadmControlPlane.

    enabledIf: '{{ semverCompare "^1.22.0" (coalesce .builtin.controlPlane.version .builtin.machineDeployment.version )}}'

Version-aware patches

In some cases the ClusterClass authors want a patch to be computed according to the Kubernetes version in use.

While this is not a problem “per se” and it does not differ from writing any other patch, it is important to keep in mind that there could be different Kubernetes version in a Cluster at any time, all of them accessible via built in variables:

  • builtin.cluster.topology.version defines the Kubernetes version from cluster.topology, and it acts as the desired Kubernetes version for the entire cluster. However, during an upgrade workflow it could happen that some objects in the Cluster are still at the older version.
  • builtin.controlPlane.version, represent the desired version for the control plane object; usually this version changes immediately after cluster.topology.version is updated (unless there are other operations in progress preventing the upgrade to start).
  • builtin.machineDeployment.version, represent the desired version for each specific MachineDeployment object; this version changes only after the upgrade for the control plane is completed, and in case of many MachineDeployments in the same cluster, they are upgraded sequentially.

This info should provide the bases for developing version-aware patches, allowing the patch author to determine when a patch should adapt to the new Kubernetes version by choosing one of the above variables. In practice the following rules applies to the most common use cases:

  • When developing a version-aware patch for the control plane, builtin.controlPlane.version must be used.
  • When developing a version-aware patch for MachineDeployments, builtin.machineDeployment.version must be used.

Tips & Tricks:

Sometimes users need to define variables to be used by version-aware patches, and in this case it is important to keep in mind that there could be different Kubernetes versions in a Cluster at any time.

A simple approach to solve this problem is to define a map of version-aware variables, with the key of each item being the Kubernetes version. Patch could then use the proper builtin variables as a lookup entry to fetch the corresponding values for the Kubernetes version in use by each object.

JSON patches tips & tricks

JSON patches specification RFC6902 requires that the target of add operation must exist.

As a consequence ClusterClass authors should pay special attention when the following conditions apply in order to prevent errors when a patch is applied:

  • the patch tries to add a value to an array (which is a slice in the corresponding go struct)
  • the slice was defined with omitempty
  • the slice currently does not exist

A workaround in this particular case is to create the array in the patch instead of adding to the non-existing one. When creating the slice, existing values would be overwritten so this should only be used when it does not exist.

The following example shows both cases to consider while writing a patch for adding a value to a slice. This patch targets to add a file to the files slice of a KubeadmConfigTemplate which has omitempty set.

This patch requires the key .spec.template.spec.files to exist to succeed.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: my-clusterclass
spec:
  ...
  patches:
  - name: add file
    definitions:
    - selector:
        apiVersion: bootstrap.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
        kind: KubeadmConfigTemplate
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/files/-
        value:
          content: Some content.
          path: /some/file
---
apiVersion: bootstrap.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: KubeadmConfigTemplate
metadata:
  name: "quick-start-default-worker-bootstraptemplate"
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      ...
      files:
      - content: Some other content
        path: /some/other/file

This patch would overwrite an existing slice at .spec.template.spec.files.

apiVersion: cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: ClusterClass
metadata:
  name: my-clusterclass
spec:
  ...
  patches:
  - name: add file
    definitions:
    - selector:
        apiVersion: bootstrap.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
        kind: KubeadmConfigTemplate
      jsonPatches:
      - op: add
        path: /spec/template/spec/files
        value:
        - content: Some content.
          path: /some/file
---
apiVersion: bootstrap.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: KubeadmConfigTemplate
metadata:
  name: "quick-start-default-worker-bootstraptemplate"
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      ...