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Kubernetes Gated Deployments
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Kubernetes Gated Deployments

Kubernetes Gated Deployments facilitates A/B tests on application deployments to perform automated regression testing and canary analysis.


Kubernetes Gated Deployments extends the Kubernetes API to add a new type of object called GatedDeployments, that allows engineers to specify which deployments and decision plugins to include in the A/B test. It uses a controller in the Kubernetes control plane that is responsible for implementing this behavior by retrieving and analyzing metrics from the backend specified, decisioning the A/B test, and either rolling back or continuing the deployment.

How it works

Gated Deployment Path

  1. A GatedDeployment object is added to the cluster (see the section for Installing the controller)
  2. The controller fetches GatedDeployment objects using the Kubernetes API
  3. When the treatment deployment specified in the GatedDeployment object is deployed and eligible for an A/B test, i.e., it has more than zero replicas and a different pod spec than the control deployment, the controller will start the experiment
  4. The controller will poll the decision plugins and determine if the treatment deployment is causing harm to the metrics measured
  5. The controller will either roll back the treatment deployment (by setting the number of replicas to zero), or promote the treatment deployment by setting the control deployment's image to that of the treatment deployment, followed by scaling the treatment deployment down to zero replicas


Installing the controller

Using kubectl

To create the GatedDeployment controller on an existing Kubernetes cluster, run the following:

kubectl apply -f gated-deployments.yml

This creates all the necessary resources and deploys the controller in the kubernetes-gated-deployments namespace.

Using Helm

Alternatively, Helm can be used to install and manage the resources and controller. To install, run the following:

helm install helm/kubernetes-gated-deployments --name kubernetes-gated-deployments

See the Developing section for running locally during development.

Create control and treatment deployments

Create two identical deployments with different names (e.g., example-rest-service-control and example-rest-service-treatment). Initially, the number of replicas for the treatment deployment must be set to 0 and control deployment will be the only one taking production traffic.

Example deployment manifests are available here.

NOTE: The names of the deployments cannot be a prefix of the other. The gated deployment controller uses the deployment name as the host prefix (since pod names are of the form <deployment name>-<xxxxx> and if one deployment name is the prefix of the other, it will include data from all the pods. For example, using example-rest-service for control and example-rest-service-treatment for treatment will result in control including the data for treatment as well.

Configure the gated deployment

Create an example-rest-service-gated-deployment.yml file like below:

apiVersion: ''
kind: GatedDeployment
  name: example-rest-service
    name: example-rest-service-control
    name: example-rest-service-treatment
    - name: newRelicPerformance
      accountId: 807783
      secretName: newrelic-secrets
      secretKey: example-rest-service
      appName: example-rest-service
      minSamples: 50
      maxTime: 600
      testPath: /shopper/products

Save the file and run:

kubectl apply -f example-rest-service-gated-deployment.yml

In the example above, the GatedDeployment object specifies that we want to gate our deployments on the performance of the /shopper/products path, between the example-rest-service-control deployment and example-rest-service-treatment deployment (the latter of which we deploy new changes to). In this case, we specify that we want the controller to use the newRelicPerformance decision plugin to analyze performance data, which will be retrieved from New Relic (which our application is instrumented with).

For this plugin, you will also need to create a secret containing the NewRelic API key; an example is shown below. In this case, newRelic.secretName is set to newrelic-secrets, and newRelic.secretKey is set to example-rest-service. This means that the controller will look in its deployed namespace for a secret called newrelic-secrets, and look in the secret data for the value corresponding to the key example-rest-service.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Secret
  name: newrelic-secrets
type: Opaque
  example-rest-service: aW5zaWdodHNBcGlLZXk=

Within the deploymentDescriptor section of the GatedDeployment object, these are the possible options to customize. All options are required unless explicitly specified as optional.

Property Description
control Section describing the control deployment. Name of the control deployment.
treatment Section describing the treatment deployment. This should be the one normally deployed, e.g. as part of your CICD pipeline. Name of the treatment deployment.
decisionPlugins Section containing the list of decision plugin config objects. See Plugin configurations below for details on specific plugins.

Plugin configurations

Each type of plugin will require its own configuration. The following parameters are common to all plugins:

Property Description
name The plugin name. This allows the plugin factory to find the correct plugin class.
maxTime (optional) The maximum amount of time the experiment will run, at which point the A/B test will stop and automatically roll out the treatment deployment to the control deployment. When not specified, this defaults to 600 seconds (10 minutes)

Plugins are designed to return one of three values:

  • WAIT: if the analysis cannot make a conclusion about the metric yet, e.g., it requires a minimum amount of time or if the result is not yet statistically significant
  • PASS: if the treatment version does no harm to the metric analyzed
  • FAIL: if the treatment does harm to the metric analyzed

New Relic performance plugin

Property Description
name Must be newRelicPerformance
accountId Account ID of the New Relic account integrated with your application.
secretName Name of the secret where your New Relic API keys can be found. This should be created in the namespace where kubernetes-gated-deployments is deployed.
secretKey Name of the key in the secret specified in secretName that contains the New Relic Insights API key, used to run NRQL to collect performance data.
appName Name of the New Relic application.
testPath Path that you want to measure performance of for both deployments.
minSamples The minimum number of samples required for each deployment before testing for significance.
zScoreThreshold (optional) The Z Score threshold for Mann-Whitney U test. Defaults to 1.96, which corresponds to a p-value of 0.05
harmThreshold (optional) Maximum allowable ratio of treatment to control U values from the Mann-Whitney U Test before treatment is marked as causing harm. This defaults to 1.5.

Contributing plugins

To contribute a new plugin, create a new plugins class in lib/plugins that is a subclass of Plugin. At minimum, you should implement the following methods:

  • build: this should create the plugin with any necessary setup
  • _poll: this is called periodically, and it should fetch and analyze metrics to return a DecisionResult

The following methods are implemented by default:

  • onExperimentStart: this is called when the experiment starts, and sets the experiment start time
  • onExperimentStop: this is called when an experiment ends, and clears the experiment start time
  • onExperimentPoll: this is called on every polling interval; it will check if the maximum experiment duration has been reached and return PASS if it has, or it will return the result from _poll.

Rolling out new versions

To roll out a new version, update the treatment deployment with the new image and set the number of replicas to a non zero value (depending on the percentage of traffic you want to send to the new version).

Once the treatment deploy is rolled out, the gated deployment controller will start a new experiment and start polling for decisions from the decision plugins. The experiment runs until either all plugins have returned PASS, or any single plugin returns FAIL, at which point the controller will set the gatedDeployStatus annotation on the treatment deployment to either noHarm or harm respectively.

An example command to get the value of the annotation

kubectl get deploy -o jsonpath='{.metadata.annotations.gatedDeployStatus}' example-rest-service-treatment

This value can be periodically polled to check if the new version is causing harm or not in the CI/CD pipeline of the application. If the deployment causes no harm, the controller automatically rolls it out the new version to the control deployment. The status of the rollout can be checked using the below command.

kubectl rollout status deploy/example-rest-service-control


See for how to contribute to this project.

You can develop locally with Minikube.

On Linux, the kvm2 driver provides better performance than the default virtualbox driver, but either will work:

minikube start --vm-driver=kvm2

minikube start will configure your kubeconfig for your local Minikube cluster and set the current context to be for Minikube. With that configuration you can run the kubernetes-gated-deployment controller on your host operating system:

npm start


Kubernetes Gated Deployments is MIT licensed.


  • Steven Fu
  • Satish Ravi
  • Jacob Brooks
  • Silas Boyd-Wickizer
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