A Beginner's Guide to Helm and its Benefits

Introduction to Infrastructure as Code

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) manages infrastructures like Networks, VM’s and load balancers in a descriptive model, using the same versioning as the DevOps team uses for source code. The same source code applies the same binary, and the Infrastructure as Code model generates the same environment whenever it is applied.

Infrastructure as Code is a process of provisioning and maintaining the environment's configuration through YAML code instead of manually creating required servers and storage systems. Once the code and its parameters are written in YAML-defined configuration files, the system admins and developers need to run scripts, automatically building the cloud infrastructure.

Such automatic IT setups enable people to quickly create the desired infrastructure and test their software. Infrastructure as Code allows system admins and developers to generate any infrastructure component of their needs, including databases, virtual machines, databases, load balancers, networks, etc.

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What is Helm?

In general terms, Helm is a package manager for k8s(Kubernetes). Helm is the K8s equivalent of yum or apt, which helps deploy the applications on k8s clusters. Helm charts allow developers and operators to easily package, configure, and deploy applications and services onto K8s clusters. It's a packaged application containing all the versioned and pre-configured application resources deployed as a single unit. Every programming language and OS has its package manager for the installation and maintenance of the software. Helm also provides the same basic features set as many package managers like Debian, yum, apt.

In DevOps, among all the challenges, management & deployment of applications on the K8s cluster has proved to be the most complex one for the team. But, due to the runaway success of k8s, there is an evolving ecosystem of tools concentrated on addressing the complexities of app deployment over k8s. Most of these tools exist as open-source projects managed by the developer community. Helm is one such open-source project that has been successfully simplifying the lives of k8s users.

  1. Helm packages are charts consisting of a few YAML configuration files and templates rendered into the K8s cluster as Kubernetes manifest files.
  2. Helm Charts helps to install, define and upgrade the Kubernetes application. It will be very helpful to deploy complex applications.
  3. Helm Charts allow you to version the manifest files too. This helps to install any specific chart versions.
  4. A single chart might be used to deploy something simple or complex, like a full web application stack with databases, HTTP servers, caches, etc.

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What are the benefits of Helm?

  1. Install software.
  2. Reduces the microservices complexity
  3. Enhance the productivity
  4. Install software dependencies automatically.
  5. Update/Upgrade software.
  6. Configure software deployments.
  7. Fetch software packages from repositories.

Why should we use Helm?

Helm Charts are like a “push button” for the deployment and deletion of applications. Helm chart gives the ability to work with microservices to those who have less experience on containers and microservices. They can quickly deploy the charts and get familiar with the Kubernetes environments.

Let’s imagine a microservice deployment approach with a helm and without a helm.

Without Helm

Teams have to depend on Kubernetes YAML manifest files to configure Kubernetes deployment. These manifest files define everything needed for deploying containers. Everything that each Pod requires to be configured to how the k8s cluster performs load balancing has to be specified in those YAML files. Thus, to deploy a new k8s workload, you need to create a manifest file for that deployment. To do it manually means writing multiple manifest files – one for every k8s object you create.

With Helm

Rather than writing every manifest YAML for each application deployment manually, you can easily create a Helm chart for that & let Helm deploy the application to the k8s cluster for you. Helm charts contain templates for multiple k8s resources that unite to form an application. A Helm chart can be customized to deploy on different clusters or environments. Helm charts can easily separate env or deployment-specific configurations into a different file. These values can be designated when the Helm chart is deployed over the cluster.

For example, you can utilize the same helm charts to deploy an application in different env like development, staging, or production. All can be handled via a single helm chart with customized config as needed.

Helm has evolved with time & with every new upgrade. It has ensured that application management on k8s must be simpler. With the latest release of Helm 3, the benefits have excelled the expectations of the DevOps community. It has been happily included in the list of must-have tools for deploying applications to k8s.

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We all know Kubernetes is the future of DevOps and container orchestration, and Helm is the most efficient technique to utilize Kubernetes resources properly. The DevOps team can do the same using kubectl commands, but working with Helm can quickly manage, define, and deploy the application.

Additionally, one more thing to keep in mind while initializing with container deployment is to avoid losing sight of the big picture. DevOps users require the flexibility to determine the right tool based on their use cases. But it’s also essential to ensure that you are alert of the limitations of these tools so that your project is not stalled or delayed & you don't suffer in the long run.

  1. Discover more here What Is Ansible?
  2. Read more about GCP for Infrastructure As Code


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