# What is KUDO

# Overview

Kubernetes Universal Declarative Operator (KUDO) provides a declarative approach to building production-grade Kubernetes operators (opens new window). To quote the official documentation: "Operators are software extensions to Kubernetes that make use of custom resources to manage applications and their components". While Kubernetes already comes with a lot of built-in automation to run simple workloads, complex scenarios often need a human operator. This is where KUDO is designed to help.

# Motivation

Building Kubernetes operators is not easy. While existing tools and libraries like kubebuilder (opens new window) and Operator Framework (opens new window) and Kubernetes control loop (opens new window) help with some aspects, developing an operator is still quite an undertaking. This is where the KUDO approach differs. It utilizes a Universal and Declarative approach (the UD in KUDO), doesn't require any code and significantly accelerates the development of operators. In a nutshell, KUDO does all the "Kubernetes heavy lifting" allowing the developers to concentrate on the task at hand.

# When would you use KUDO

KUDO is built to help Dev/Ops teams manage day 2 operations of services on Kubernetes, including stateful services through the management of operators. Day 2 in this context refers to the need to support more than just initial deployment. KUDO is built to support upgrades of services along with backup, recovery and the needs of observability. In a nutshell: you would use KUDO when kubectl apply -f (or helm install) isn't quite enough to manage your application lifecycle. Some examples are:

  • you have a stateful service and need to automate specific workflows like backup and restore. Alternatively, you might need to execute extra logic when doing common tasks like needing to reshard when scaling up and down
  • you have a micro-services application where deployment workflow has multiple serial or parallel stages (e.g. generating dynamic configuration or waiting for a migration to finish)
  • you need to automate repetitive tasks around your application life-cycle like chaos and resilience testing

Find out more about how KUDO differs from other tools in the comparison section.

# Main Concepts

Let's talk about some concepts first. At the top level, there are Operator Packages.

Operator Package

An Operator Package is a collection of files that defines a KUDO operator. Think of it like a Helm Chart or Homebrew formula. An operator package can be local (a folder or tarball) or remote (tarball URL). An operator package has all the Kubernetes resources and workflow definitions to run your application.


A Repository is a place that holds operator packages. It can be a local folder or a remote URL.

KUDO Manager

A KUDO Manager is a set of Kubernetes controllers that understand KUDO operators and know how to execute plans.


A Plan is the operator's main workflow unit. A plan specifies a series of steps that will apply or delete Kubernetes resources to the cluster in the defined order.

In a nutshell: A user will take an Operator Package from the Repository, submit it to the KUDO Manager which will then execute operator Plans either automatically or on-demand.

# Operator Plans

An operator typically consists of several plans. Think of them as runbooks written in a structured way that can be executed by KUDO. Plans are made up of phases, and phases have one or more steps. Every operator must contain at least a deploy plan which is the default plan to deploy an application to the cluster. For more complex applications, you would want to define a plan for backup and restore or upgrade. Phases and steps can be executed either serially or in parallel. The default execution strategy, if none is specified, is serial.

|  Plan                              |
|                                    |
|    +-----------------------+       |
|    |  Phase                +-+     |
|    |     +------------+    +---+   |
|    |     |  Step      ++   | | |   |
|    |     |            |-+  | | |   |
|    |     +--------------|  | | |   |
|    |      +-------------|  | | |   |
|    |        +-----------+  | | |   |
|    |                       | | |   |
|    +-----------------------+ | |   |
|      +-----------------------+ |   |
|        +-----------------------+   |
|                                    |
|                                    |

Here is an example of a deploy plan for some abstract data service, where different node types (bootstrap, master, agent) has to be started in a specific serial order:

plan: deploy
├── phase: bootstrap-node
│   └── step: start-bootstrap-node
├── phase: master-nodes
│   └── step: start-master-nodes
└── phase: agent-nodes
│   └── step: start-agent-nodes
└── phase: deploy-cleanup
    └── step: remove-bootstrap-node

After the successful deployment, the bootstrap node is removed. Each step has to be finished successfully e.g. corresponding nodes are running, healthy (and exposed to the network), before KUDO continues with the execution of the next phase. Learn more about plans by writing you first operator and take a look at the plans documentation

# Operator Parameters

Operators can be customized using provided parameters. Where KUDO differs from a lot of similar tools: operator parameters are tied to plans, so that when a parameter changes a plan would be automatically triggered. Here are two typical parameters for the number of nodes and memory that each node container is using:

  - name: NODE_COUNT
    description: "Number of application nodes."
    default: "3"
    trigger: "deploy"

  - name: NODE_MEM_MIB
    description: "Memory request (in MiB) for node containers."
    default: "4096"
    trigger: "update"

Each parameter has a trigger field which specifies what plan will be executed when this parameter changes. The operations required to safely update a running application can vary depending on which parameter is being updated. For instance, updating the NODE_COUNT may require a simple update of the deployment, whereas updating the NODE_MEM_MIB may require rolling out a new version via a canary or blue/green deployment. If no trigger is specified, the default deploy plan will be executed.

You can also trigger plans manually, without the corresponding parameter update. See plans documentation for more details.

# Default Plans

By default, KUDO reserves three plan names for special purposes:

  • deploy (required) as mentioned above this plan deploys the application to the cluster. This is also the default plan which is used when a parameter value changes and does not have a trigger.
  • upgrade plan is used to upgrade an operator to a new version. If upgrade is not defined, deploy is used.
  • cleanup plan, when exists, is triggered when an operator is removed. This gives an operator a chance to have a graceful shutdown and cleanup resources. Read more about cleanup plans.

# Under the Hood

As mentioned in the concepts section KUDO Manager is a set of Kubernetes controllers deployed into the cluster that handles operators, invokes plans, etc. It utilizes Kubernetes CRDs (opens new window) to extend Kubernetes API. The important ones are:


An Operator CRD contains the high-level description of an application to be run in a Kubernetes cluster. Not to be confused with the overall Operator. It contains only metadata about your application but no specific plans or resources. You can have multiple versions of your application ready to be installed in your cluster, all belonging to the same Operator.


An OperatorVersion is a concrete version of your Application. It contains all the Kubernetes resources used by the operator (deployments, services), plans and parameters. Think about OperatorVersion as a Class, that when instantiated, becomes the running application.


An Instance is a deployed version of your application. If the OperatorVersion is a Class, Instance is a specific object of that Class. It must provide missing parameter values and can override the defaults defined in the OperatorVersion. Creating an Instance means in most cases, executing the deploy plan which will render and apply Kubernetes resources according to the plan phases and steps.

Multiple OperatorVersions of the same Operator might exist in the cluster. Think about multiple teams using different Kafka versions depending on their requirements. The separation in OperatorVersion and Instance is useful when the same version of your application is used by different teams in the same cluster. Each team then owns a separate Instance of the OperatorVersion and can configure and scale it separately.

Normally, Operator and OperatorVersion are handled by the manager and rarely seen by the user. Instance, on the other hand, is present in many CLI commands, e.g. when installing an operator, the user can specify the name of the instance:

$ kubectl kudo install kafka --instance dev-kafka

# Limitations

# Cross-namespace ownership and cluster-scoped resources

All the resources created by an operator Instance are owned (opens new window) by it. This way, when the Instance is deleted, the resources are removed too. However, the Instance (as well as Operator, and OperatorVersion) are namespace scoped. Namespaced resources can only own resources in the same namespace. As a result, it isn't possible for a single operator to create resources in multiple namespaces.

It is possible for an Instance to create cluster-scoped resources. However, these resourceOwners field for such resources is not populated with the Instance reference. Cluster-scoped resources are also not automatically cleaned up when the Instance is deleted. Additionally, they can result in issues when updating or upgrading an Instance. KEP-5 (opens new window) will resolve this limitation.

# Reconciling arbitrary resources

KUDO cannot reconcile arbitrary user-specified resource types.

The only things that KUDO controller reconciles are KUDO-specific Instance, OperatorVersion and Operator custom resources. The controller makes sure that they are deployed according to their spec by executing plans which can create arbitrary other resources.

In this plan-driven model, the authoritative source of information can only be the KUDO custom resources.