Helm 3 Preview: Charting Our Future – Part 2: A Gentle Farewell to Tiller

Thu, Apr 25, 2019

This is part 2 of 7 of our Helm 3 Preview: Charting Our Future blog series. (Check out our previous blog post on the history of Helm here.)

During the Helm 2 development cycle, we introduced Tiller as part of our integration with Google's Deployment Manager. Tiller played an important role for teams working on a shared cluster - it made it possible for multiple different operators to interact with the same set of releases.

With role-based access controls (RBAC) enabled by default in Kubernetes 1.6, locking down Tiller for use in a production scenario became more difficult to manage. Due to the vast number of possible security policies, our stance was to provide a permissive default configuration. This allowed first-time users to start experimenting with Helm and Kubernetes without having to dive headfirst into the security controls. Unfortunately, this permissive configuration could grant a user a broad range of permissions they weren't intended to have. DevOps and SREs had to learn additional operational steps when installing Tiller into a multi-tenant cluster.

After hearing how community members were using Helm in certain scenarios, we found that Tiller's release management system did not need to rely upon an in-cluster operator to maintain state or act as a central hub for Helm release information. Instead, we could simply fetch information from the Kubernetes API server, render the Charts client-side, and store a record of the installation in Kubernetes.

Tiller’s primary goal could be accomplished without Tiller, so one of the first decisions we made regarding Helm 3 was to completely remove Tiller.

With Tiller gone, the security model for Helm is radically simplified. Helm 3 now supports all the modern security, identity, and authorization features of modern Kubernetes. Helm's permissions are evaluated using your kubeconfig file. Cluster administrators can restrict user permissions at whatever granularity they see fit. Releases are still recorded in-cluster, and the rest of Helm's functionality remains.

Read the next blog post here where we discuss chart repositories in the next part of our Helm 3 Preview: Charting Our Future blog series over the course of 4 weeks.

Matt Fisher

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