CNCF Charts Course for Helm Package Manager

Now that the open source Helm package manager is starting to achieve critical mass, the number and types of applications that will be deployed on Kubernetes clusters are set to significantly expand.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has published a report showing there have now been more than 13,000 contributors from nearly 1,700 companies participating in the project. In total, there have been more than 9,400 code commits, 14,500 pull requests and more than 2 million downloads a month.

The top two contributing companies to Helm as of the end of the December 2019 reporting period were Microsoft and codecentric AG, with 17% and 6% of contributions, respectively. The total number of companies contributing code has increased by 41% since Helm became a CNCF project. Leading contributors are Microsoft, codecentric AG, Bitnami and Samsung SDS.

Started in 2015, Helm traces its lineage back to the Deis project to build an open source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, which Microsoft later acquired. In 2016, Helm was merged with the Kubernetes Deployment Management tool and then in 2018 became its own project again within the CNCF. Helm just achieved graduation status within the CNCF, alongside Kubernetes and nine other projects.

Matt Farina, a Samsung engineer and Helm maintainer, says Helm is gaining traction because as IT operations teams become more involved with Kubernetes, many of them are starting to appreciate the need for a package manager that creates Helm Charts, eliminating the need to manage large volumes of YAML files just to deploy an application. In fact, Helm goes a long way toward making Kubernetes more accessible by, for example, making it easier to deploy a MySQL database on Kubernetes clusters.

Going forward, tools such as Flux, currently a sandbox level project within the CNCF, should make it easier for IT operations teams to import and share Helm charts via Git repositories, Farina says. Extensions to Helm Charts in the form of higher-level tools such as Armada will also make it easier to manage dependencies across Helm charts, he adds.

In addition, Farina says, many IT teams are starting to appreciate the fact that they can deploy business logic alongside applications using Helm Charts.

In the meantime, the next immediate priorities for the Helm project team are to improve both documentation and support for multi-tenant environments.

There may be some instances where DevOps teams prefer to work with YAML files to package applications, but Farina says most IT teams likely will rely on Helm.

As IT organizations look to operationalize what may soon become fleets of Kubernetes clusters, the amount of time required to deploy applications on those clusters will need to be greatly reduced. Helm provides a means of accomplishing that goal using an open source tool that is not going to fade away anytime soon because of a lack of community support. That’s especially significant as IT teams start to appreciate not just the challenges associated with provisioning and maintaining Kubernetes clusters but also all the software that eventually gets deployed on them.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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