Get Started with Skaffold in Google Cloud Deploy

This document describes how to get started using Skaffold as part of Google Cloud Deploy, including the following:

  • Configuring Skaffold for use with a Google Cloud Deploy delivery pipeline
  • Using Skaffold and Google Cloud Deploy with third-party rendering tools, such as Helm and Kustomize
  • Optionally, using Skaffold for local development
  • Optionally, using Skaffold for continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD)

Why Skaffold?

Want to know why Google Cloud Deploy uses Skaffold, and why you need to manage a Skaffold configuration? Read on.

I'm experienced with CI/CD, but I don't use Skaffold currently

Skaffold is an open source command-line tool to improve productivity for developers. It orchestrates continuous development, continuous integration (CI), and continuous delivery (CD).

Skaffold provides declarative, portable configuration, using a pluggable architecture, allowing you to use different tools for the render phase.

When a release is created, Google Cloud Deploy calls Skaffold to render your manifests and then to apply those manifests to deploy your application to each target in your progression. Upon deployment, Skaffold health checks monitor the target cluster for successful deployment.

Skaffold for continuous development

You can use Skaffold for continuous development, so that images are built, tested, and deployed to a cluster (or Minikube) as you make changes to your code. Cloud Code for VS Code and Cloud Code for IntelliJ IDE extensions integrate Skaffold into Visual Studio Code and JetBrains IDEs, for continuous development.

Skaffold for continuous delivery

You can also use Skaffold for continuous delivery, with build, deploy, render, and apply steps. Google Cloud Deploy uses Skaffold's render and apply capabilities. To use Google Cloud Deploy, you need at least a valid skaffold.yaml configuration file.

Through Skaffold, you can also integrate with third-party manifest-management tools, such as Helm, and Kustomize. This lets you use the features of those tools for manifest rendering. kubectl remains the deployer for these manifests.

I'm new to deploying to Kubernetes

With Skaffold, you can configure a base set of manifests for all your deployments, then use Skaffold's rendering engine, through Google Cloud Deploy, to render, and then deploy, each deployment-specific manifest from one of those base manifests.

You can read more about managing manifests, including examples of how to use Skaffold and Google Cloud Deploy with common manifest-templating tools, such as Helm and Kustomize.

What's required to make Google Cloud Deploy work?

To use a basic Google Cloud Deploy delivery pipeline, the skaffold.yaml configuration file needs at least the following configuration:

  • The header information that all skaffold.yaml configurations need:

    apiVersion: skaffold/v2beta28
    Kind: Config
    
  • A deploy stanza, with the following properties:

    deploy:
      kubectl:
        manifests:
        -
    

    Under manifests, a list of all Kubernetes raw manifests. If you plan to use a renderer (Helm or Kustomize, for example) to render manifests to be deployed, see Adding Kustomize support to your skaffold.yaml and Adding Helm support to your skaffold.yaml for guidance on the configuring Skaffold to use these tools.

Create a skaffold.yaml file

Google Cloud Deploy uses Skaffold for rendering and deploying your applications.

At a minimum, you need to provide a skaffold.yaml file that identifies the manifests to use. Here's an example:

apiVersion: skaffold/v2beta28
kind: Config
deploy:
  kubectl:
    manifests:
      - MANIFEST

In this configuration, MANIFEST is the path to the manifest or manifests to be processed by Skaffold.

Have Google Cloud Deploy generate your skaffold.yaml

Google Cloud Deploy can generate a skaffold.yaml file for you if you don't have one, but you have a single Kubernetes manifest. The following command includes the --from-k8s-manifest flag, passing the manifest. Google Cloud Deploy uses the information in the manifest to generate the skaffold.yaml, which is then used for the release.

gcloud deploy releases create  RELEASE_NAME --delivery-pipeline=PIPELINE_NAME --from-k8s-manifest=MANIFEST --region=REGION 

Using this flag with either the --skaffold-file flag or the --source flag generates an error.

Using the generated skaffold.yaml file

The generated skaffold.yaml is suitable for onboarding, learning, and demonstrating Google Cloud Deploy. Going forward, and for production workloads, you might want a skaffold configuration that differentiates among your targets (using Skaffold profiles).

When you use the generated skaffold.yaml file as a starting point to create your own differentiated Skaffold config, be sure you use the file in the rendering source archive, not the rendered file. The rendering source is available to download from the Artifacts tab on the **Release details ** page.

  • This generated skaffold.yaml is included in the render source stored in a Cloud Storage bucket.

    You can view this file by downloading the .tar.gz file and extracting it.

  • The rendered skaffold.yaml is available in Target artifacts.

    Under Target artifacts, click View artifacts.

    Release details page, showing render source and target artifacts

Using Skaffold for local development

One of Skaffold's strengths is that you can use it for local development, as well as for CI/CD. In dev mode, Skaffold watches your source files, and when it detects a change, Skaffold rebuilds the images, re-tests, and redeploys the containers to a minikube cluster (for example) on your local machine.

When using Skaffold in this way, you can use the same commands locally as for remote deployment.

If you use Skaffold for local development, you can define separate Skaffold profiles for your targets, and a default deploy stanza for local development.

When you stop dev mode, Skaffold cleans up deployed artifacts from the cluster.

Using Skaffold for CI/CD

In addition to Skaffold's continuous local build and deploy for your development loop, Google Cloud Deploy uses Skaffold's CI/CD features to render and apply your manifests and deploy your application to your defined targets, given container images built using a CI tool like Cloud Build and an image registry like Artifact Registry.

Render, deploy, and apply

Skaffold separates the manifest rendering process from deployment. Google Cloud Deploy calls skaffold render, to render the manifests, and skaffold apply to apply them to the target.

This separation between render and apply allows you to capture the full declarative state of your application in configuration, so that it can be applied in a safely repeatable way, for example for rollbacks. This also makes approvals easier. Because manifests are rendered for all targets before the first rollout, you can see the rendered YAML that will be applied to each target.

Google Cloud Deploy doesn't support using other deployers to deploy your application. You can, however, use tools like Helm or Kustomize for rendering.

To learn more about how Google Cloud Deploy deploys using kubectl as the deployer, see Google Cloud Deploy Service architecture.

About Skaffold profiles

You can create separate Skaffold profiles—identified in skaffold.yaml, in a profiles: stanza.

When using Skaffold profiles with Google Cloud Deploy, you might create separate profiles for all, or some, of your targets. For example, different profiles for dev, staging, and prod.

Profiles aren't necessary in order to use Skaffold in Google Cloud Deploy, but are useful for defining manifest customizations among your targets, for example using different Kustomize kustomization.yaml files per target.

Add Kustomize support to your skaffold.yaml

Integrating your Kustomize configuration with your Google Cloud Deploy/Skaffold configuration consists of the following:

  1. Include a kustomization.yaml file among your configuration files.

    You can store your configuration files in a local directory or in a Cloud Storage bucket.

  2. In your skaffold.yaml file, create a deploy stanza for each profile.

    You can also have a deploy stanza outside of any defined profiles, if you're not using profiles or for a default deploy configuration not tied to a profile. Here's an example:

    apiVersion: skaffold/v2beta28
    kind: Config
    build:
      artifacts:
        - image: leeroy-web-profiles
          context: leeroy-web-profiles
        - image: leeroy-app-profiles
          context: leeroy-app-profiles
      googleCloudBuild:
        projectId: ${PROJECT_ID}
    profiles:
    - name: local
      deploy:
        kustomize:
          paths:
            - leeroy-app-profiles/kubernetes/local
    - name: test
      deploy:
        kustomize:
          paths:
            - leeroy-app-profiles/kubernetes/test
    - name: staging
      deploy:
        kustomize:
          paths:
            - leeroy-app-profiles/kubernetes/staging
    - name: prod
      deploy:
        kustomize:
          paths:
            - leeroy-app-profiles/kubernetes/prod
    

    The Skaffold configuration shown here has separate profiles for test, staging, and prod targets. It also shows a profile for local development. Under each profile is a deploy.kustomize stanza with a path that points to the location of the kustomization to use for that target.

Add Helm support to your skaffold.yaml

You can use Helm to render your manifests. Google Cloud Deploy doesn't use Helm to deploy your applications, and supports only kubectl as a deployer.

To use Helm, you need your Helm chart or charts, stored in any location you can reference from within your skaffold.yaml. This can be in a file system, a repository, possibly along with your skaffold.yaml, or an Open Container Initiative (OCI) repository.

To use a Helm chart, you add a helm stanza to your skaffold.yaml file.

apiVersion: skaffold/v2beta28
kind: Config
build:
  artifacts:
  - image: skaffold-helm-image
deploy:
  helm:
    releases:
    - name: skaffold-helm-image
      chartPath: charts

The skaffold.yaml reference shows what's required in this helm stanza.

Using kpt with Skaffold

We recommend that you not use kpt with Skaffold V1 in Google Cloud Deploy.

Unsupported Skaffold features

The following features of Skaffold can't be used in Google Cloud Deploy:

What's next

  • Visit the Skaffold site to find out about how it works and what it can do for you.

  • Practice using Google Cloud Deploy with Kustomize and Skaffold profiles.

  • Learn how Google Cloud Deploy selects the Skaffold version to use, when the Skaffold version changes, and how to determine which version is currently in use.

  • Learn how to use Skaffold profiles in conjunction with advanced manifest-management tools like Helm, Kustomize, and kpt.

  • Try out the Skaffold profiles walkthrough.