Push and pull Helm charts to an Azure container registry

To quickly manage and deploy applications for Kubernetes, you can use the open-source Helm package manager. With Helm, application packages are defined as charts, which are collected and stored in a Helm chart repository.

This article shows you how to host Helm charts repositories in an Azure container registry, using Helm 3 commands and storing charts as OCI artifacts. In many scenarios, you would build and upload your own charts for the applications you develop. For more information on how to build your own Helm charts, see the Chart Template Developer's Guide. You can also store an existing Helm chart from another Helm repo.

Important

This article has been updated with Helm 3 commands. Helm 3.7 includes changes to Helm CLI commands and OCI support introduced in earlier versions of Helm 3. By design helm moves forward with version. We recommend to use 3.7.2 or later.

Helm 3 or Helm 2?

To store, manage, and install Helm charts, you use commands in the Helm CLI. Major Helm releases include Helm 3 and Helm 2. For details on the version differences, see the version FAQ.

Helm 3 should be used to host Helm charts in Azure Container Registry. With Helm 3, you:

  • Can store and manage Helm charts in repositories in an Azure container registry
  • Store Helm charts in your registry as OCI artifacts. Azure Container Registry provides GA support for OCI artifacts, including Helm charts.
  • Authenticate with your registry using the helm registry login or az acr login command.
  • Use helm commands to push, pull, and manage Helm charts in a registry
  • Use helm install to install charts to a Kubernetes cluster from the registry.

Feature support

Azure Container Registry supports specific Helm chart management features depending on whether you are using Helm 3 (current) or Helm 2 (deprecated).

Feature Helm 2 Helm 3
Manage charts using az acr helm commands ✔️
Store charts as OCI artifacts ✔️
Manage charts using az acr repository commands and the Repositories blade in Azure portal ✔️

Note

As of Helm 3, az acr helm commands for use with the Helm 2 client are being deprecated. A minimum of 3 months' notice will be provided in advance of command removal.

Chart version compatibility

The following Helm chart versions can be stored in Azure Container Registry and are installable by the Helm 2 and Helm 3 clients.

Version Helm 2 Helm 3
apiVersion v1 ✔️ ✔️
apiVersion v2 ✔️

Migrate from Helm 2 to Helm 3

If you've previously stored and deployed charts using Helm 2 and Azure Container Registry, we recommend migrating to Helm 3. See:

Prerequisites

The following resources are needed for the scenario in this article:

  • An Azure container registry in your Azure subscription. If needed, create a registry using the Azure portal or the Azure CLI.
  • Helm client version 3.7 or later - Run helm version to find your current version. For more information on how to install and upgrade Helm, see Installing Helm. If you upgrade from an earlier version of Helm 3, review the release notes.
  • A Kubernetes cluster where you will install a Helm chart. If needed, create an AKS cluster [using the Azure CLI][./learn/quick-kubernetes-deploy-cli], [using Azure PowerShell][./learn/quick-kubernetes-deploy-powershell], or [using the Azure portal][./learn/quick-kubernetes-deploy-portal].
  • Azure CLI version 2.0.71 or later - Run az --version to find the version. If you need to install or upgrade, see Install Azure CLI.

Set up Helm client

Use the helm version command to verify that you have installed Helm 3:

helm version

Note

The version indicated must be at least 3.8.0, as OCI support in earlier versions was experimental.

Set the following environment variables for the target registry. The ACR_NAME is the registry resource name. If the ACR registry url is myregistry.azurecr.io, set the ACR_NAME to myregistry

ACR_NAME=<container-registry-name>

Create a sample chart

Create a test chart using the following commands:

mkdir helmtest

cd helmtest
helm create hello-world

As a basic example, change directory to the templates folder and first delete the contents there:

cd hello-world/templates
rm -rf *

In the templates folder, create a file called configmap.yaml, by running the following command:

cat <<EOF > configmap.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  name: hello-world-configmap
data:
  myvalue: "Hello World"
EOF

For more about creating and running this example, see Getting Started in the Helm Docs.

Save chart to local archive

Change directory to the hello-world subdirectory. Then, run helm package to save the chart to a local archive.

In the following example, the chart is saved with the name and version in Chart.yaml.

cd ..
helm package .

Output is similar to:

Successfully packaged chart and saved it to: /my/path/hello-world-0.1.0.tgz

Authenticate with the registry

Run helm registry login to authenticate with the registry. You may pass registry credentials appropriate for your scenario, such as service principal credentials, user identity, or a repository-scoped token.

  • Authenticate with an Azure Active Directory service principal with pull and push permissions (AcrPush role) to the registry.
    SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_NAME=<acr-helm-sp>
    ACR_REGISTRY_ID=$(az acr show --name $ACR_NAME --query id --output tsv)
    PASSWORD=$(az ad sp create-for-rbac --name $SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_NAME \
              --scopes $(az acr show --name $ACR_NAME --query id --output tsv) \
               --role acrpush \
              --query "password" --output tsv)
    USER_NAME=$(az ad sp list --display-name $SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_NAME --query "[].appId" --output tsv)
    
  • Authenticate with your individual Azure AD identity to push and pull Helm charts using an AD token.
    USER_NAME="00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000"
    PASSWORD=$(az acr login --name $ACR_NAME --expose-token --output tsv --query accessToken)
    
  • Authenticate with a repository scoped token (Preview).
    USER_NAME="helmtoken"
    PASSWORD=$(az acr token create -n $USER_NAME \
                      -r $ACR_NAME \
                      --scope-map _repositories_admin \
                      --only-show-errors \
                      --query "credentials.passwords[0].value" -o tsv)
    
  • Then supply the credentials to helm registry login.
    helm registry login $ACR_NAME.azurecr.io \
      --username $USER_NAME \
      --password $PASSWORD
    

Push chart to registry as OCI artifact

Run the helm push command in the Helm 3 CLI to push the chart archive to the fully qualified target repository. Separate the words in the chart names and use only lower case letters and numbers. In the following example, the target repository namespace is helm/hello-world, and the chart is tagged 0.1.0:

helm push hello-world-0.1.0.tgz oci://$ACR_NAME.azurecr.io/helm

After a successful push, output is similar to:

Pushed: <registry>.azurecr.io/helm/hello-world:0.1.0
digest: sha256:5899db028dcf96aeaabdadfa5899db02589b2899b025899b059db02

List charts in the repository

As with images stored in an Azure container registry, you can use az acr repository commands to show the repositories hosting your charts, and chart tags and manifests.

For example, run az acr repository show to see the properties of the repo you created in the previous step:

az acr repository show \
  --name $ACR_NAME \
  --repository helm/hello-world

Output is similar to:

{
  "changeableAttributes": {
    "deleteEnabled": true,
    "listEnabled": true,
    "readEnabled": true,
    "writeEnabled": true
  },
  "createdTime": "2021-10-05T12:11:37.6701689Z",
  "imageName": "helm/hello-world",
  "lastUpdateTime": "2021-10-05T12:11:37.7637082Z",
  "manifestCount": 1,
  "registry": "mycontainerregistry.azurecr.io",
  "tagCount": 1
}

Run the az acr manifest list-metadata command to see details of the chart stored in the repository. For example:

az acr manifest list-metadata \
  --registry $ACR_NAME \
  --name helm/hello-world

Output, abbreviated in this example, shows a configMediaType of application/vnd.cncf.helm.config.v1+json:

[
  {
    [...]
    "configMediaType": "application/vnd.cncf.helm.config.v1+json",
    "createdTime": "2021-10-05T12:11:37.7167893Z",
    "digest": "sha256:0c03b71c225c3ddff53660258ea16ca7412b53b1f6811bf769d8c85a1f0663ee",
    "imageSize": 3301,
    "lastUpdateTime": "2021-10-05T12:11:37.7167893Z",
    "mediaType": "application/vnd.oci.image.manifest.v1+json",
    "tags": [
      "0.1.0"
    ]

Install Helm chart

Run helm install to install the Helm chart you pushed to the registry. The chart tag is passed using the --version parameter. Specify a release name such as myhelmtest, or pass the --generate-name parameter. For example:

helm install myhelmtest oci://$ACR_NAME.azurecr.io/helm/hello-world --version 0.1.0

Output after successful chart installation is similar to:

NAME: myhelmtest
LAST DEPLOYED: Tue Oct  4 16:59:51 2021
NAMESPACE: default
STATUS: deployed
REVISION: 1
TEST SUITE: None

To verify the installation, run the helm get manifest command.

helm get manifest myhelmtest

The command returns the YAML data in your configmap.yaml template file.

Run helm uninstall to uninstall the chart release on your cluster:

helm uninstall myhelmtest

Pull chart to local archive

You can optionally pull a chart from the container registry to a local archive using helm pull. The chart tag is passed using the --version parameter. If a local archive exists at the current path, this command overwrites it.

helm pull oci://$ACR_NAME.azurecr.io/helm/hello-world --version 0.1.0

Delete chart from the registry

To delete a chart from the container registry, use the az acr repository delete command. Run the following command and confirm the operation when prompted:

az acr repository delete --name $ACR_NAME --image helm/hello-world:0.1.0

Migrate your registry to store Helm OCI artifacts

If you previously set up your Azure container registry as a chart repository using Helm 2 and the az acr helm commands, we recommend that you upgrade to the Helm 3 client. Then, follow these steps to store the charts as OCI artifacts in your registry.

Important

  • After you complete migration from a Helm 2-style (index.yaml-based) chart repository to OCI artifact repositories, use the Helm CLI and az acr repository commands to manage the charts. See previous sections in this article.
  • The Helm OCI artifact repositories are not discoverable using Helm commands such as helm search and helm repo list. For more information about Helm commands used to store charts as OCI artifacts, see the Helm documentation.

Enable OCI support (enabled by default in Helm v3.8.0)

Ensure that you are using the Helm 3 client:

helm version

If you are using Helm v3.8.0 or higher, this is enabled by default. If you are using a lower version, you can enable OCI support setting the environment variable:

export HELM_EXPERIMENTAL_OCI=1

List current charts

List the charts currently stored in the registry, here named myregistry:

helm search repo myregistry

Output shows the charts and chart versions:

NAME                            CHART VERSION   APP VERSION     DESCRIPTION                                       
myregistry/ingress-nginx        3.20.1          0.43.0          Ingress controller for Kubernetes...
myregistry/wordpress            9.0.3           5.3.2           Web publishing platform for building...
[...]

Pull chart archives locally

For each chart in the repo, pull the chart archive locally, and take note of the filename:

helm pull myregisry/ingress-nginx
ls *.tgz

A local chart archive such as ingress-nginx-3.20.1.tgz is created.

Push charts as OCI artifacts to registry

Login to the registry:

az acr login --name $ACR_NAME

Push each chart archive to the registry. Example:

helm push ingress-nginx-3.20.1.tgz oci://$ACR_NAME.azurecr.io/helm

After pushing a chart, confirm it is stored in the registry:

az acr repository list --name $ACR_NAME

After pushing all of the charts, optionally remove the Helm 2-style chart repository from the registry. Doing so reduces storage in your registry:

helm repo remove $ACR_NAME

Next steps