• Blog timeOct 23, 2023
  • Blog author Poonam
  • Blog CategoryCategory: Kubernetes

Are you worried how you can boost your Kubernetes skills? No worries this guide has got you covered.  

Kubernetes has transformed how we manage container orchestration, and is currently the official norm to administer containerized workloads. The capacity it has to fully automate software implementation, expansion, and oversight in a packaged architecture has rendered it a must-have technology for contemporary app development. Kubernetes serves as a framework for developing secure and scalable applications that are cloud-native, allowing enterprises to offer solutions with increased flexibility and economy.

Now let’s explore Kustomize and Helm the two powerful tools designed to address these challenges. So, Kustomize is a declarative method for organizing configurations that allows you to alter Kubernetes setups without changing the initially created YAML files. While Helm, on the contrary, is a Kubernetes package administration system that allows you to easily regulate, download, and modify programs employing Helm charts. 

In this post, we will dive deeper into Kustomize including Helm, investigating their capabilities, scenarios of use, and recommended practices in order to provide you with critical Kubernetes configuration administration abilities.



Kubernetes Configuration Management

The renowned container orchestrations platform Kubernetes continues to rise in popularity due to the capacity it has to manage the distribution and scalability of encapsulated workloads. The intricate nature in handling setups within a Kubernetes setting, on the other hand, ought to not be overlooked. Management of configurations is critical in Kubernetes for various reasons such as: 


Scalability: Kubernetes is well-known for its capacity to easily scale systems. The complexity involved in handling configurations for multiple pods, goods or services, as well as assets arises along with this globalization. Efficient configuration management ensures that changes can be applied consistently across all instances.

Portability: Kubernetes enables application deployment across many environments, including research, evaluation, and operation. The management of configurations should make it easy to alter variables in accordance with the desired scenario to maintain mobility.

Security: Managing sensitive information, such as API tokens and passwords, within Kubernetes configurations is a delicate task. Configuration management tools should provide mechanisms for securely handling secrets.

Versioning: Keeping track of configuration changes and maintaining version history is essential for troubleshooting and auditing. Configuration management tools should assist in versioning configurations.

Declarative Configuration

Declarative speech configuration handling is a cornerstone of Kubernetes. It focuses on stating the envisioned state of the structure as opposed to explaining the processes to get there. Declaratory configuration within Kubernetes refers to declaring which resources ought to be available and the way they ought to work.


The following are important components of continuous configuration using Kubernetes:


  • Desired State: You declare the desired state of your Kubernetes resources in YAML manifests. Kubernetes then works to reconcile the actual state with the declared state.
  • Idempotent Operations: Declarative configuration allows you to apply configurations repeatedly without causing harm. If a resource already matches the desired state, Kubernetes takes no action.
  • Version Control: By versioning your YAML manifests, you can track changes over time, allowing for easy rollback and auditing.



Kustomize constitutes a sophisticated and adaptable Kubernetes deployment administration tool. It makes designing and overseeing Kubernetes resources easier by permitting you to build and update setups declaratively. 


Origins: Kustomize was originally developed by Kubernetes SIG CLI (Special Interest Group Command Line Interface) and is now an official Kubernetes project.

Declarative Approach: Kustomize follows the Kubernetes philosophy of declarative configuration. Instead of making direct changes to YAML files, you define desired configurations, and Kustomize generates the customized YAML manifests for you.

Manifest Modification: It allows you to modify existing Kubernetes YAML files without altering the original sources, making it easier to manage configurations across different environments and teams.


Benefits of Using Kustomize

Kustomize for kubernetes offers several advantages for managing Kubernetes configurations:

Separation of Concerns: Kustomize promotes a clear separation between base configurations and overlays. This separation makes it easier to maintain a common set of configurations while accommodating environment-specific changes.

Reusability: You can create reusable bases and overlays, reducing duplication and ensuring consistency across multiple applications or environments.

Environment-Specific Customization: Kustomize simplifies the process of customizing configurations for different environments, such as development, staging, and production.

Patch Management: Kustomize allows you to apply patches to resources, enabling fine-grained customization without modifying the original manifests.

Version Control: Since Kustomize operates on declarative configurations, you can version-control your customization instructions, making it easy to track changes and roll back if needed.

Integration with CI/CD: Kustomize seamlessly integrates into CI/CD pipelines, automating configuration management and ensuring consistency during deployment.



Practical Usage

  • Building a Kustomize Base
  1. Start by creating a base directory containing your base configuration. This directory should include all the common YAML files for your application.
  2. Define a Kustomization file (kustomization.yaml) in the base directory to specify the resources and transformations to apply.


  • Creating Overlays for Environment-Specific Configurations
  1. For each environment or variation, create an overlay directory that includes only the YAML files that need customization.
  2. In the overlay directory, define a Kustomization file to specify which base to use and any additional transformations required.


  • Customizing Resources with Kustomize Transformers
  1. 1Use Kustomize transformers such as patches, replacements, and field setters to customize specific resources.
  2. Transformers are defined in the Kustomization file of the overlay or base. If you are keen on making your career ahead in this or learning more about the latest developments, including customization, it is advisable to enroll yourself into courses offered by several institutions, including Grass Institute. 


Helm is a renowned open-source Kubernetes distribution manager. Helm is an encapsulated application implementation, administration, and scaling tool established through the Kubernetes consortium. This is accomplished through the use of "charts," that serve as packets of prepared Kubernetes capabilities. 


Helm allows users to define, install, and upgrade applications on Kubernetes clusters with ease, promoting reusability and consistency. Helm charts can be shared and versioned, making it a powerful tool for managing complex application configurations in Kubernetes.


Benefits of Using Helm:

  • Package Management: Helm packages applications as charts, streamlining distribution and installation.
  • Versioning: Helm charts can be version-controlled, facilitating auditing and rollbacks.
  • Templating: Helm provides templating capabilities for dynamic configuration.
  • Reusability: Charts can be reused across different projects and environments.
  • Community Support: Helm has a vibrant community and a vast repository of charts.


Helm Chart:

Helm charts are organized into directories with specific structures:

  • charts/: This directory contains subcharts or dependencies required by the main chart.
  • templates/: It holds Kubernetes manifest files with Helm-specific templating to customize configurations.
  • values.yaml: This file stores default configuration values for the chart.
  • Chart.yaml: The metadata file that defines chart details.
  • values.schema.json: An optional JSON schema file for validating user-supplied values.

Understanding the layout and contents of a Helm chart is crucial for both chart creation and consumption.


Difference between Kustomize and HELM


Use Cases and When to Choose Kustomize:

Kustomize is a valuable tool for specific use cases:

  • Complex Configurations: Choose Kustomize when dealing with complex configurations where you need granular control over individual resources and their customization.
  • Multi-Environment Deployments: It excels in managing configurations for different environments (e.g., dev, staging, prod) by creating overlays specific to each environment.
  • Fine-Grained Customization: If you need to apply precise transformations to resources, Kustomize's transformers provide the flexibility to achieve this.
  • Integration with GitOps: Kustomize aligns well with GitOps workflows, where you maintain configuration as code in a version-controlled repository.


Use Cases and When to Choose Helm:

Helm is a robust choice for various scenarios:

  • Package Management: Helm shines in packaging complex applications with multiple resources and dependencies into reusable charts. It's excellent for distributing and sharing applications.
  • Versioned Releases: installing Helm when you need to maintain versioned releases and easily roll back to previous versions in case of issues.
  • Templating and Default Values: Helm's templating and values mechanism allow you to parameterize configurations, making it suitable for dynamic and adaptable deployments.
  • Community and Ecosystem: Helm for kubernetes benefits from a large community and a vast repository of charts, making it a convenient choice for accessing pre-built applications and services.


Pros and Cons of Each Tool:


  • Pros: Fine-grained customization, GitOps-friendly, lightweight, integrates well with existing workflows, doesn't require an external package repository.
  • Cons: Learning curve for beginners, might require additional tooling for chart management, limited chart sharing capabilities.



  • Pros: Robust package management, versioned releases, extensive chart repository, templating for dynamic configuration, well-suited for CI/CD pipelines.
  • Cons: Overhead for simple configurations, potential complexity in managing large charts, less granular resource-level customization.


Real-World Scenarios:

The choice among Kustomize andHelm is frequently determined by the specific demands of your endeavor, the experience of the group working with the tools, plus the intricate nature of any Kubernetes configurations. In certain situations, using two tools may deliver the greatest possible universes, permitting you to successfully harness each of their advantages.


  • Microservices Deployment: Helm is great for launching a microservices-based project with various services as well as connections, whereas Kustomize is great for fine-tuning configurations within each service.
  • Multi-Environment Setup: Kustomize is preferred when managing configurations for different environments with slight variations, such as development, staging, and production. Helm's versioning capabilities are valuable when maintaining distinct versions for different environments.
  • Application Distribution: Helm is a strong choice for distributing applications or services as reusable charts to a broader audience, enabling seamless adoption and updates.




Best Practices

Best Practices for Using Kustomize:

  • Modularize Configurations: Organize your configurations into smaller, reusable components. Use Kustomize bases to create a library of common resources that can be shared across multiple applications.
  • Keep Overlays Simple: Overlays should contain minimal changes specific to the target environment. Avoid duplicating resources from the base unless necessary.
  • Version Control: Place your Kustomize configurations under version control (e.g., Git) to track changes, collaborate with others, and ensure configuration history.
  • Use GitOps: Integrate Kustomize into a GitOps workflow for declarative, version-controlled configuration management. Changes in the Git repository trigger automatic deployments, enhancing reliability and repeatability.
  • Documentation: Maintain clear documentation for your Kustomize configurations, describing how to use them, the purpose of overlays, and any environment-specific considerations.


Best Practices for Using Helm:

  • Chart Organization: Structure Helm charts logically, with clear separation of templates, values, and dependencies. Follow Helm's chart conventions for consistency.
  • Parameterization: Leverage Helm's values files to parameterize configurations. Externalize environment-specific values to make deployments adaptable across different environments.
  • Chart Versioning: Use semantic versioning (SemVer) for your Helm charts to ensure compatibility and provide a clear version history.
  • Chart Testing: Implement automated testing for Helm charts to validate their correctness before deployment, reducing the risk of issues in production.
  • Security: Securely manage sensitive data like secrets and credentials. Consider Helm's built-in mechanisms for managing secrets or use external secret management tools.
  • Helm Repositories: Publish your Helm charts to Helm repositories for easy distribution and consumption. Host your repository securely and ensure chart accessibility.


Combining Kustomize and Helm for Advanced Configuration Management:


Combining Helm and Kustomize leverages the strengths of each tool, providing a powerful and flexible solution for managing Kubernetes configurations in diverse and complex environments. This hybrid approach enhances modularity, reusability, and maintainability while promoting best practices in configuration management.

  • Separation of Concerns: Use Helm for managing high-level application packaging and versioning, while Kustomize excels in fine-grained resource customization and environment-specific overlays.
  • Helm Values and Kustomize Overlays: Integrate Helm values files with Kustomize overlays. Define environment-specific values in Helm values files, and then use these values within your Kustomize overlays for resource customization.
  • GitOps Workflow: Implement a GitOps workflow that combines Helm and Kustomize. Use Helm for managing releases and high-level configurations, while Kustomize handles resource-level customization and GitOps-driven deployments.
  • Testing: Include both Helm chart testing and Kustomize validation in your CI/CD pipeline to ensure that the entire stack, including customizations, is validated before deployment.
  • Documentation and Training: Train your team on the combined approach and maintain documentation that outlines how Helm and Kustomize work together in your specific deployment process.


Kustomize offers fine-grained resource customization, ideal for multi-environment setups. Helm provides package management and versioning capabilities, simplifying distribution. Both tools emphasize declarative configuration, enhancing Kubernetes deployment practices.

Combining Kustomize and Helm offers the best of both worlds. It enables precise resource customization and versioned releases, making it adaptable to complex scenarios. This approach promotes modularity, reusability, and efficient GitOps workflows while accommodating diverse Kubernetes configuration needs.

Mastering both Kustomize and Helm empowers you with versatile skills in Kubernetes configuration management, enabling you to tackle various deployment challenges and contribute effectively to modern container orchestration projects. For the same, you can register yourself in Kubernetes Training & Certification course that includes kustomize management available at your fingertips. While there are quite a plenty options to choose from, we will recommend you to go for the ones offered by Grass Technologies.

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