kubegen – simple way to describe Kubernetes resources in a structured way, but without new syntax or magic
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Latest commit b442dbf Jun 1, 2018


kubegen – a simple way to describe Kubernetes resources

Kubernetes resource definitions are too verbose, and there is no built-in framework for reusability. Writing good resource templates is hard, whether you are rolling your own or using Helm.

kubegen reduces the verbosity of Kubernetes resource definitions, and adds macros for templating.

You can use JSON, YAML and HCL as configuration format for kubegen sources, and organise files in modules, which you can bundle together.

The macro syntax is not different from configuration format of choice, thereby any tools that handle a given format can be used in conjunction with kubegen. The macros are restricted to very basic operations, such as parameter lookup and joining arrays into strings. Branching and merging is likely to be added, but isn't supported at present.

The aim of this project is to make it easier to write reusable Kubernetes resource definitions.

It should be useful as is, but it's ambition is to drive the community towards an improvement upstream (so I'd hope that Helm and other related project could make use of one standard format, see issue #16). However, please note that it is WORK IN PROGRESS right now.


Motivation & High-level Goals

First of all, it should be simple to define a Kubernetes resource, users should be able to specify key fields required for a basic resource without referring to documentation.

Secondly, there should exist a simple model for defining collections of re-usable resources, let's call them modules.

As a black box, a module could be described as the following:

Given a set of input values, produce a set of Kubernetes resource that belong to one logical group.

If one wanted to implement such black box they have the following to their disposal:

  1. simple model for re-usability of sub-components
  2. stateless model for input parameter substitution
  3. built-in output validation

Additionally, it should have the following properties:

  • simple and constrained type system for input parameters
  • simple rules of inheritance and scoping
  • familiar syntax
  • all state is local
  • remote state can be obtain easily, but only to be used as input parameters
  • few simple helpers for reading local files to store as data
  • absence of any module/package management features
  • absence of resource dependency management system
  • absence of dangerous toys

Current Implementation

Firstly, kubegen provides a simple non-recursive system of modules, which allows you to define resource with a few simple parameters once and instantiate those multiple times with different values for those parameters.

For example, you can use it to describe two different environments where your app runs.

The following bundle instantiates the same module twice. The module definition is located in SourceDir: module/myapp directory, and the generated Kubernetes resources will be written to OutputDir: env/prod.

Kind: kubegen.k8s.io/Bundle.v1alpha2

  - Name: prodApp
    SourceDir: modules/myapp
    OutputDir: env/prod
      api_service_replicas: 100
      domain_name: errors.io
  - Name: testApp
    SourceDir: modules/myapp
    OutputDir: env/test
      api_service_replicas: 10
      use_rds: false
      domain_name: testing.errors.io

Additionally, kubegen simplifies the format of the definition format for resources within the modules. It keeps familiar YAML format, yet reduces nesting of certain fields to make it more intuitive to write a resource definition (perhaps even without having to consult docs or the one you wrote earlier).

For example, a front-end service in errors.io app has the following definition:

Kind: kubegen.k8s.io/Module.v1alpha2

  - name: replicas
    type: number
    default: 2
  - name: domain_name
    type: string
    required: true

  - name: frontend
      kubegen.Number.Lookup: replicas
      - name: agent
        image: 'errordeveloper/errorsio-frontend'
        imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent
          - kubegen.String.Join:
            - --domain=
            - kubegen.String.Lookup: domain_name
          - name: http
            containerPort: 8080
  - name: frontend
    port: 8080

If you are not yet very familiar with Kubernetes, this format should be much easier to write from memory. If you are already using Kubernetes, the rules of how this maps to a "native" format are really quite simple and are outlined down below.


The main use-case for which kubegen caters right now is about de-duplicating resource definitions for a set of environments, e.g. development and production.

kubegen is all about generating files locally and checking in to a repository for use with other tools that take care of managing releases (e.g. Weave Flux). Nothing stops you from finding other uses for it, and e.g. pipe the output to kubectl for testing, but it's not recommended to rely on every version of kubegen to generate output cosistent with the output of the previous version, as it is still in active development.



You can build it from source, if you wish to hack on it, otherwise you can download binaries from Equinox.

NOTE: If you are intending to try kubegen with a Kubernetes cluster before v1.9, you will need to perform API conversions manually using kubectl v1.9 locally. This is how you can do it:

kubegen module -s ./examples/modules/sockshop | ~/Code/kubernetes/bin/kubectl convert --filename - > sockshop-v1.8.yaml

Sub-command: kubegen bundle

This sub-command takes path to a module bundle and generates Kubernetes resources for modules included in the bundle. Any parameters should be specified in in the bundle manifest. This command is the primary interface for day-to-day usage of kubegen.

Usage: kubegen bundle <bundleManifest> ... [flags]


  -m, --module stringSlice   Names of modules to process (all modules in each given bundle are processed by defult)

Global Flags

  -o, --output string   Output format ["yaml" or "json"] (default "yaml")
  -s, --stdout          Output to stdout instead of creating files


Render sockshop bundle that instantiates the sockshop module for two environments (test and prod):

> kubegen bundle examples/sockshop.yml
Wrote 18 files based on bundle manifest "examples/sockshop.yml":
  – sockshop-test.d/cart.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/orders.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/payment.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/zipkin.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/rabbitmq.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/shipping.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/user.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/catalogue.yaml
  – sockshop-test.d/front-end.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/rabbitmq.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/zipkin.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/orders.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/shipping.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/catalogue.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/front-end.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/user.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/cart.yaml
  – sockshop-prod.d/payment.yaml

Sub-command: kubegen module

This sub-command take path to a module and generates Kubernetes resources defined within that module. Any parameters should be specified --parameters flag. It is convenient for testing.

Usage: kubegen module <moduleSourceDir> [flags]


  -n, --name string             Name of the module instance (optional) (default "$(basename <source-dir>)")
  -N, --namespace string        Namespace of the module instance (optional)
  -O, --output-dir string       Output directory (default "./<name>")
  -p, --parameters stringSlice  Parameters to set for the module instance

Global Flags

  -o, --output string   Output format ["yaml" or "json"] (default "yaml")
  -s, --stdout          Output to stdout instead of creating files


Render sockshop module and view the output:

> kubegen module examples/modules/sockshop --stdout | less

Render sockshop module to standard output and see what kubectl apply would do (dry-run mode):

> kubegen module examples/modules/sockshop --stdout --namespace sockshop-test-1 | kubectl apply --dry-run --filename -
service "cart" created (dry run)
service "cart-db" created (dry run)
deployment "cart" created (dry run)
deployment "cart-db" created (dry run)
service "catalogue" created (dry run)
service "catalogue-db" created (dry run)
deployment "user-db" created (dry run)
service "zipkin" created (dry run)
service "zipkin-mysql" created (dry run)
deployment "zipkin" created (dry run)
deployment "zipkin-mysql" created (dry run)
deployment "zipkin-cron" created (dry run)

Sub-command kubegen self-upgrade

This command allows you simply upgrade the binary you have downloaded to latest version.

General Specification

There are 2 main layers in kubegen:

  • bundle provides a way of instantiating one or more modules
  • module is a collection of one or more YAML, JSON or HCL manifests

A manifest within a module may contain the following top-level keys:

  • Parameters
  • Deployments
  • Services
  • DaemonSets
  • ReplicaSets
  • StatefulSets
  • ConfigMaps
  • Secrets

Each of those keys is expected to contains a list of objects of the same type (as denoted by the key).

Parameters are scoped globally per-module.

A manifest is converted to List of objects defined within it and results in one file. In other words, module instance will result in as many native manifest files as there are manifests within a module, unless parameter-only manifests are used.

Resource Conversion Rules

Broadly, kubegen flattens the most non-intuitive parts of a Kubernetes resource. For example, a native Deployment object has spec.template.spec.containers, for kubegen that simply become containers. Additionally, you shouldn't have to specify metadata.name along with metadata.labels.name, you simply set name along with optional labels, and selectors are also inferred unless specified otherwise.

HCL translation

kubegen is polyglot and supports HCL in addition to traditional Kubernetes JSON and YAML formats.

The style of HCL keys is a little different. First of all, top-level keys are singular instead of plural, e.g.

parameter "my_replicas" {
  type = "string"
  required = true

All keys under deployment or other resources use snake_case instead of lowerCamel, e.g.

deployment "my_deployment" {
  labels {
    app = "my-app"

  replicas = {
    kubegen.Number.Lookup = "my_replicas"

  container "main" {
    image = "myorg/app"
    image_pull_policy = "IfNotPresent"


Build Status

Get the source code and build the dependencies:

go get github.com/Masterminds/glide
go get -d github.com/errordeveloper/kubegen
cd $GOPATH/src/github.com/errordeveloper/kubegen
$GOPATH/bin/glide up --strip-vendor

Build kubegen: