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KubeBuilder Design Principles

This lays out some of the guiding design principles behind the KubeBuilder project and its various components.


  • Libraries Over Code Generation: Generated code is messy to maintain, hard for humans to change and understand, and hard to update. Library code is easy to update (just increase your dependency version), easier to version using existing mechanisms, and more concise.

  • Copy-pasting is bad: Copy-pasted code suffers from similar problems as code generation, except more acutely. Copy-pasted code is nearly impossible to easy update, and frequently suffers from bugs and misunderstandings. If something is being copy-pasted, it should refactored into a library component or remote kustomize base.

  • Common Cases Should Be Easy: The 80-90% common cases should be simple and easy for users to understand.

  • Uncommon Cases Should Be Possible: There shouldn't be situations where it's downright impossible to do something within controller-runtime or controller-tools. It may take extra digging or coding, and it may involve interoperating with lower-level components, but it should be possible without unreasonable friction.


  • KubeBuilder Has Opinions: KubeBuilder exists as an opinionated project generator. It should strive to give users a reasonable project layout that's simple enough to understand when getting started, but provides room to grow. It might not match everyone's opinions, but it should strive to be useful to most.

  • Batteries Included: KubeBuilder projects should contain enough deployment information to reasonably develop and run the scaffolded project. This includes testing, deployment files, and development infrastructure to go from code to running containers.

controller-tools and controller-runtime

  • Sufficient But Composable: controller-tools and controller-runtime should be sufficient for building a custom controller by hand. While scaffolding and additional libraries may make life easier, building without should be as painless as possible. That being said, they should strive to be usable as building blocks for higher-level libraries as well.

  • Self-Sufficient Docs: controller-tools and controller-runtime should strive to have self-sufficient docs (i.e. documentation that doesn't require reading other libraries' documentation for common use cases). Examples should be plentiful.

  • Contained Arcana: Developers should not need to be experts in Kubernetes API machinery to develop controllers, but those familiar with Kubernetes API machinery should not feel out of place. Abstractions should be intuitive to new users but feel familiar to experienced ones. Abstractions should embrace the concepts of Kubernetes (e.g. declarative idempotent reconcilers) while simplifying the details.


  • Abstractions Should Be Layered: Abstractions should be built on top of lower layers, such that advanced users can write custom logic while still working within the existing model. For instance, the controller builder is built on top of the event, source, and handler helpers, which are in turn built for use with the event, source, and handler interfaces.

  • Repetitive Stress Injuries Are Bad: When possible, commonly used pieces should be exposed in a way that enables clear, concise code. This includes aliasing groups of functionality under "alias" or "prelude" packages to avoid having 40 lines of imports, including common idioms as flexible helpers, and infering resource information from the user's object types in client code.

  • A Little Bit of Magic Goes a Long Way: In absence of generics, reflection is acceptable, especially when it leads to clearer, conciser code. However, when possible interfaces that use reflection should be designed to avoid requiring the end-developer to use type assertions, string splitting, which are error-prone and repetitive. These should be dealt with inside controller-runtime internals.

  • Defaults Over Constructors: When not a huge performance impact, favor auto-defaulting and Options structs over constructors. Constructors quickly become unclear due to lack of names associated with values, and don't work well with optional values.


  • Words Are Better Than Letters: Don't abbreviate variable names unless it's blindingly obvious what they are (e.g. ctx for Context). Single- and double-letter method receivers are acceptable, but single- and double-letter variables quickly become confusing the longer a code block gets.

  • Well-commented code: Code should be commented and given Godocs, even private methods and functions. It may seem obvious what they do at the time and why, but you might forget, and other will certainly come along.

  • Test Behaviors: Test cases should be comprehensible as sets of expected behaviors. Test cases read without code (e.g. just using It, Describe, Context, and By lines) should still be able to explain what's required of the tested interface. Testing behaviors makes internal refactors easier, and makes reading tests easier.

  • Real Components Over Mocks: Avoid mocks and recording actions. Mocks tend to be brittle and gradually become more complicated over time (e.g. fake client implementations tend to grow into poorly-written, incomplete API servers). Recording of actions tends to lead to brittle tests that requires changes during refactors. Instead, test that the end desired state is correct. Test the way the world should be, without caring how it got there, and provide easy ways to set up the real components so that mocks aren't required.