By Sandeep Rajan, Software Engineer, Infoblox

Addons extend the functionality of Kubernetes. Some of the addons like CoreDNS and kube-proxy are considered essential to the functionality of a Kubernetes cluster and are shipped along with cluster management tools like Kubeadm, Kops, etc. There are other addons which can be installed as an option and are not as critical, but help users manage their clusters (e.g., Calico, Kubernetes Dashboard, NodelocalDNS, etc.)

The purpose of the cluster-addons project is to be able to manage addons in a better way with the help of Operators.

An Operator is a method of packaging, deploying and managing a Kubernetes application.

Each Operator will have its own CustomResourceDefinition (CRD), where users will be able to manage the addons in terms of installing, upgrading, choosing the version, etc. of the addon by modifying the CRD without being dependent on the cluster management tools.

The need for cluster-addon Operators

Today, cluster management tools like Kubeadm, Kops, Cluster API, etc., are bundled with essential addons such as CoreDNS and kube-proxy.
Some of the challenges faced are:

In the past, there has been an attempt to solve these problems via the bash version of addon-manager. However, the addon-manager was unsuccessful and hasn’t been widely adopted.

The cluster-addons project focuses on solving these challenges by introducing Operators. Operators allow users to decouple the lifecycle of the addons from the lifecycle of the cluster.

Each Operator is defined by a CRD. Users will be able to tailor the addon in a limited way (E.g., installing, upgrading) through the CRD. Each Operator has its own Controller. A Controller is a control loop that watches the state of your addon resources and makes or requests changes where needed. The controller tries to move the current state of the addon resources closer to the desired state.

The CoreDNS Operator

CoreDNS has been the default DNS addon since Kubernetes v1.11 and is one of the most essential addons for having a functional Kubernetes cluster.

The CoreDNS Operator has been specifically highlighted here as CoreDNS is one of the most complicated addons. It is the first Operator to be implemented to showcase the power of the Operator and its capability of making CoreDNS easier to manage on a cluster.

As part of its basic functionality, the CoreDNS Operator is capable of installing CoreDNS, upgrading the CoreDNS version, and migrating the Corefile automatically during upgrade to ensure it is up to date and compatible with any version of CoreDNS, providing the user with a seamless experience.

The Operator continuously monitors the CoreDNS resources (Deployment, ConfigMap, Service, etc.) with the help of a controller.

The CoreDNS specifications can be modified through the CustomResource (CR). An example CoreDNS CR is as follows:

kind: CoreDNS
  name: coredns-operator
  namespace: kube-system
  version: 1.7.0
  dnsDomain: cluster.local
  corefile: |
    .:53 {
        health {
           lameduck 5s
        kubernetes cluster.local {
           pods insecure
           ttl 30
        prometheus :9153
        forward . /etc/resolv.conf {
            max_concurrent 1000
        cache 30

As seen above, the CoreDNS Version, DNS Domain, DNS IP and Corefile can be modified by modifying the CR spec. The Controller will register the changes applied to the CR and will reconcile with the CoreDNS resources to reflect the changes.

To learn about how to install the CoreDNS Operator on your cluster, you can follow the instructions here.

Creating your own Operator

The cluster-addon operators are created with the help of Kubebuilder, a framework for creating your own Kubernetes APIs using CRDs.
If you are interested in creating your own Operator, please check out these step-by-step instructions on how to create and deploy your Operator.

Status of the project

Today, The cluster-addon repository contains many Operators such as CoreDNS, NodelocalDNS, kube-proxy, etc., which can be installed and enable users to manage these addons on their Kubernetes clusters.

The cluster-addon project also contains the addon-installer library, which functions as a small implementation for applying addon operators to the Kubernetes cluster using kubectl and Kustomize.

Future work

We are working towards integrating the Operators into cluster management tools such as Kubeadm, Kops and Cluster API.


If you are interested in the cluster-addons project, want to explore Operators, want to discuss addons or new features, or get stuck somewhere, you can contact us at:

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