Coding, How to

K8s Operator with dynamic CRDs using controller runtime (no structs)

Warning: This is a bit of a brain dump.

I’m working on a project at the moment which dynamically creates a set of CRDs in Kubernetes and an operator to manage them based off a schema which is provided by the user at runtime.

When the code is being built it doesn’t know the schema/shape of the CRDs. This means the standard approach used in Kubebuilder with controller-gen isn’t going to work.

Now, for those that haven’t played with Kubebuilder it’s gives you a few super useful things to build a K8s operator in Go:

  1. Controller-gen creates all the structs, templated controllers and keeps all those type files in sync for you. So you change a CRDs Struct and the CRD Yaml spec is updated etc. These are all build time tools so we can’t use em.
  2. A nice abstraction around how to interact with K8s as a controller – The controller-runtime. As the name suggests we can use this one at runtime.

So while we can’t use the build time controller-gen we can still use all the goodness of the controller-runtime. In theory.

This is where the fun came in, there aren’t any docs on interacting with a dynamic/unstructured object type using the controller runtime so I did a bit of playing around.

(Code samples for illustration – if you want end2end running example skip to the bottom).

To get started on this journey we need a helping hand. Kuberentes has an API for working which objects which don’t have a Golang struct defined. This is how we can start: Lets check out the go docs for unstructured..


Ok so this gives us some nice ways to work with a CRD which doesn’t have a struct defined.

To use this meaningfully we’re going to have to tell it the type it represents – In K8s this means telling it it’s Group, Version and Kind. These are all wrapped up nicely in the schema.GroupVersionKind struct. Lets look at the docs:


Great so hooking these two up together we can create an Unstructured instance that represents a CRD, like so!

Cool, so what can we do from here? Well the controller runtime uses the runtime.object interface for all it’s interactions and guess what we have now? Yup a runtime.Object.. wrapper method to make things obvious

Well now we can create an instance of the controller for our unstructured CRD.

Notice that I’m passing the GroupVersionKind into the controller struct – this will be useful when we come to make changes to a CRD we’re handling.

In the same way that you can use the r.Client on the controller in Kubebuilder you can now use it with the unstructured resource. We use the gvk again here to set the type so that the client knows how to work with it.

Now you might be thinking – wow isn’t it going to be painful working without the strongly typed CRD structs?

Yes it’s harder but there are some helper methods in the unstructured api which make things much easier. For example, the following let you easily retrieve or set a string which is nested inside it.

unstructured.NestedString(resource.Object, "status", "_tfoperator", "tfState")

unstructured.SetNestedField(resource.Object, string(serializedState), "status", "_tfoperator", "tfState")

Here is the end result hooking up the controller runtime to a set of dynamically created and managed CRDS. It’s very much a work in progress and I’d love feedback if there are easier ways to tackle this or things that I’ve got wrong.

#terraform, Coding, vscode

Terraform, Docker, Ubuntu 20.04, Go 1.14 and MemLock: Down the rabbit hole

I recently upgrade my machine and and installed the latest Ubuntu 20.04 as part of that.

Very smugly I fired it up the new install and, as I use devcontainers, looked forward to not installing lots of devtools as the Dockerfile in each project had all the tooling needed for VSCode to spin up and get going.

Sadly it wasn’t that smooth. After spinning up a project which uses terraform I found an odd message when running terraform plan

failed to retrieve schema from provider “random”: rpc error: code = Unavailable desc = connection error: desc = “transport: authentication handshake failed: EOF

error from terraform plan

Terraform has a provider model which uses GRPC to talk between the CLI and the individual providers. Random is one of the HashiCorp made providers so it’s a really odd one to see a bug in.

Initially I assumed that the downloaded provider was corrupted. Nope, clearing the download and retrying didn’t help.

So assuming I’d messed something up I:

  1. Tried changing the docker image using by the devcontainer. Nope. Same problem.
  2. Different versions of terraform. Nope. Same problem.
  3. Updated the Docker version I was using. Nope. Same problem.
  4. Restarted the machine. Nope. Same problem.

Now feeling quite frustrated I finally remembered a trick I’d used lots when building my own terraform providers. I enabled debug logging on the terraform CLI.

TF_LOG=DEBUG terraform plan

This is where it gets interesting…

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Coding, How to, kubernetes

How to build Kubernetes from source and test in Kind with VSCode & devcontainers

I found myself last week looking at a bit of code in K8s which I thought I could make better, so I set about trying to understand how to clone, change and test it.

Luckily K8s has some good docs, trust these over me as they’re a great guide. This blog is more of a brain dump of how I got on trying with Devcontainers and VSCode. This is my first try at this so I’ve likely got lots of things wrong.

Roughly I knew what I needed as I’d heard about:

  1. Bazel for the Kubernetes build
  2. Kind to run a cluster locally
  3. Kubetest for running end2end tests

As the K8s build and testing cycle can use up quite a bit of machine power I didn’t want be doing all this on my laptop and ideally I wanted to capture all the setup in a nice repeatable way.

Enter DevContainers for VSCode, I’ve got them setup on my laptop to actually run on a meaty server for me and I can use them to capture all the setup requirements for building K8s.

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