Application deployments with GitOps (Flux v2) for AKS and Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes

Azure provides an automated application deployments capability using GitOps that works with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes clusters. The key benefits provided by adopting GitOps for deploying applications to Kubernetes clusters include:

  • Continual visibility into the status of applications running on clusters.
  • Separation of concerns between application development teams and infrastructure teams. Application teams don't need to have experience with Kubernetes deployments. Platform engineering teams typically create a self-serve model for application teams, empowering them to run deployments with higher confidence.
  • Ability to recreate clusters with the same desired state in case of a crash or to scale out.

With GitOps, you declare the desired state of your Kubernetes clusters in files in Git repositories. The Git repositories may contain the following files:

Because these files are stored in a Git repository, they're versioned, and changes between versions are easily tracked. Kubernetes controllers run in the clusters and continually reconcile the cluster state with the desired state declared in the Git repository. These operators pull the files from the Git repositories and apply the desired state to the clusters. The operators also continuously assure that the cluster remains in the desired state.

GitOps on Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes or Azure Kubernetes Service uses Flux, a popular open-source tool set. Flux provides support for common file sources (Git and Helm repositories, Buckets, Azure Blob Storage) and template types (YAML, Helm, and Kustomize). Flux also supports multi-tenancy and deployment dependency management, among other features. Flux is deployed directly on the cluster, and each cluster's control plane is logically separated. Hence, it can scale well to hundreds and thousands of clusters. It enables pure pull-based GitOps application deployments. No access to clusters is needed by the source repo or by any other cluster.

Flux cluster extension

GitOps is enabled in an Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes or AKS cluster as a Microsoft.KubernetesConfiguration/extensions/microsoft.flux cluster extension resource. The microsoft.flux extension must be installed in the cluster before one or more fluxConfigurations can be created. The extension is installed automatically when you create the first Microsoft.KubernetesConfiguration/fluxConfigurations in a cluster, or you can install it manually using the portal, the Azure CLI (az k8s-extension create --extensionType=microsoft.flux), ARM template, or REST API.

Controllers

By default, the microsoft.flux extension installs the Flux controllers (Source, Kustomize, Helm, Notification) and the FluxConfig CRD, fluxconfig-agent, and fluxconfig-controller. You can control which of these controllers is installed. Optionally, you can also install the Flux image-automation and image-reflector controllers, which provide functionality for updating and retrieving Docker images.

  • Flux Source controller: Watches the source.toolkit.fluxcd.io custom resources. Handles synchronization between the Git repositories, Helm repositories, Buckets and Azure Blob storage. Handles authorization with the source for private Git, Helm repos and Azure blob storage accounts. Surfaces the latest changes to the source through a tar archive file.

  • Flux Kustomize controller: Watches the kustomization.toolkit.fluxcd.io custom resources. Applies Kustomize or raw YAML files from the source onto the cluster.

  • Flux Helm controller: Watches the helm.toolkit.fluxcd.io custom resources. Retrieves the associated chart from the Helm Repository source surfaced by the Source controller. Creates the HelmChart custom resource and applies the HelmRelease with given version, name, and customer-defined values to the cluster.

  • Flux Notification controller: Watches the notification.toolkit.fluxcd.io custom resources. Receives notifications from all Flux controllers. Pushes notifications to user-defined webhook endpoints.

  • Flux Custom Resource Definitions:

    • kustomizations.kustomize.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • imagepolicies.image.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • imagerepositories.image.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • imageupdateautomations.image.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • alerts.notification.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • providers.notification.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • receivers.notification.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • buckets.source.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • gitrepositories.source.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • helmcharts.source.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • helmrepositories.source.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • helmreleases.helm.toolkit.fluxcd.io
    • fluxconfigs.clusterconfig.azure.com
  • FluxConfig CRD: Custom Resource Definition for fluxconfigs.clusterconfig.azure.com custom resources that define FluxConfig Kubernetes objects.

  • fluxconfig-agent: Responsible for watching Azure for new or updated fluxConfigurations resources, and for starting the associated Flux configuration in the cluster. Also responsible for pushing Flux status changes in the cluster back to Azure for each fluxConfigurations resource.

  • fluxconfig-controller: Watches the fluxconfigs.clusterconfig.azure.com custom resources and responds to changes with new or updated configuration of GitOps machinery in the cluster.

Note

The microsoft.flux extension is installed in the flux-system namespace and has cluster-wide scope. The option to install this extension at the namespace scope is not available, and attempts to install at namespace scope will fail with 400 error.

Flux configurations

Diagram showing the installation of a Flux configuration in an Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes or AKS cluster.

You create Flux configuration resources (Microsoft.KubernetesConfiguration/fluxConfigurations) to enable GitOps management of the cluster from your Git repos, Bucket sources or Azure Blob Storage. When you create a fluxConfigurations resource, the values you supply for the parameters, such as the target Git repo, are used to create and configure the Kubernetes objects that enable the GitOps process in that cluster. To ensure data security, the fluxConfigurations resource data is stored encrypted at rest in an Azure Cosmos DB database by the Cluster Configuration service.

The fluxconfig-agent and fluxconfig-controller agents, installed with the microsoft.flux extension, manage the GitOps configuration process.

fluxconfig-agent is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Polls the Kubernetes Configuration data plane service for new or updated fluxConfigurations resources.
  • Creates or updates FluxConfig custom resources in the cluster with the configuration information.
  • Watches FluxConfig custom resources and pushes status changes back to the associated Azure fluxConfiguration resources.

fluxconfig-controller is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Watches status updates to the Flux custom resources created by the managed fluxConfigurations.
  • Creates private/public key pair that exists for the lifetime of the fluxConfigurations. This key is used for authentication if the URL is SSH based and if the user doesn't provide their own private key during creation of the configuration.
  • Creates custom authentication secret based on user-provided private-key/http basic-auth/known-hosts/no-auth data.
  • Sets up RBAC (service account provisioned, role binding created/assigned, role created/assigned).
  • Creates GitRepository or Bucket custom resource and Kustomization custom resources from the information in the FluxConfig custom resource.

Each fluxConfigurations resource in Azure is associated with one Flux GitRepository or Bucket custom resource and one or more Kustomization custom resources in a Kubernetes cluster. When you create a fluxConfigurations resource, you specify the URL to the source (Git repository, Bucket or Azure Blob storage) and the sync target in the source for each Kustomization. You can configure dependencies between Kustomization custom resources to control deployment sequencing. You can also create multiple namespace-scoped fluxConfigurations resources on the same cluster for different applications and app teams.

Note

The fluxconfig-agent monitors for new or updated fluxConfiguration resources in Azure. The agent requires connectivity to Azure for the desired state of the fluxConfiguration to be applied to the cluster. If the agent is unable to connect to Azure, there will be a delay in making changes in the cluster until the agent can connect. If the cluster is disconnected from Azure for more than 48 hours, then the request to the cluster will time-out, and the changes will need to be reapplied in Azure.

Sensitive customer inputs like private key and token/password are stored for less than 48 hours in the Kubernetes Configuration service. If you update any of these values in Azure, make sure that your clusters connect with Azure within 48 hours.

You can monitor Flux configuration status and compliance in the Azure portal, or use dashboards to monitor status, compliance, resource consumption, and reconciliation activity. For more information, see Monitor GitOps (Flux v2) status and activity.

Version support

The most recent version of the Flux v2 extension (microsoft.flux) and the two previous versions (N-2) are supported. We generally recommend that you use the most recent version of the extension. Starting with microsoft.flux version 1.7.0, ARM64-based clusters are supported.

Note

If you have been using Flux v1, we recommend migrating to Flux v2 as soon as possible.

Support for Flux v1-based cluster configuration resources created prior to January 1, 2024 will end on May 24, 2025. Starting on January 1, 2024, you won't be able to create new Flux v1-based cluster configuration resources.

If you've added support for private link to an Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes cluster, then the microsoft.flux extension works out-of-the-box with communication back to Azure. For connections to your Git repository, Helm repository, or any other endpoints that are needed to deploy your Kubernetes manifests, you must provision these endpoints behind your firewall, or list them on your firewall, so that the Flux Source controller can successfully reach them.

Data residency

The Azure GitOps service (Azure Kubernetes Configuration Management) stores/processes customer data. By default, customer data is replicated to the paired region. For the regions Singapore, East Asia, and Brazil South, all customer data is stored and processed in the region.

Apply Flux configurations at scale

Because Azure Resource Manager manages your configurations, you can automate creating the same configuration across all Azure Kubernetes Service and Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes resources using Azure Policy, within the scope of a subscription or a resource group. This at-scale enforcement ensures that specific configurations are applied consistently across entire groups of clusters.

Learn how to use the built-in policies for Flux v2.

Parameters

To see all the parameters supported by Flux in Azure, see the az k8s-configuration documentation. The Azure implementation doesn't currently support every parameter that Flux supports.

For information about available parameters and how to use them, see GitOps (Flux v2) supported parameters.

Multi-tenancy

Flux v2 supports multi-tenancy in version 0.26. This capability is integrated into Azure GitOps with Flux v2.

Note

For the multi-tenancy feature, you need to know if your manifests contain any cross-namespace sourceRef for HelmRelease, Kustomization, ImagePolicy, or other objects, or if you use a Kubernetes version less than 1.20.6. To prepare:

  • Upgrade to Kubernetes version 1.20.6 or greater.
  • In your Kubernetes manifests, assure that all sourceRef are to objects within the same namespace as the GitOps configuration.
    • If you need time to update your manifests, you can opt out of multi-tenancy. However, you still need to upgrade your Kubernetes version.

Update manifests for multi-tenancy

Let’s say you deploy a fluxConfiguration to one of our Kubernetes clusters in the cluster-config namespace with cluster scope. You configure the source to sync the https://github.com/fluxcd/flux2-kustomize-helm-example repo. This is the same sample Git repo used in the Deploy applications using GitOps with Flux v2 tutorial. After Flux syncs the repo, it deploys the resources described in the manifests (YAML files). Two of the manifests describe HelmRelease and HelmRepository objects.

apiVersion: helm.toolkit.fluxcd.io/v2beta1
kind: HelmRelease
metadata:
  name: nginx
  namespace: nginx
spec:
  releaseName: nginx-ingress-controller
  chart:
    spec:
      chart: nginx-ingress-controller
      sourceRef:
        kind: HelmRepository
        name: bitnami
        namespace: flux-system
      version: "5.6.14"
  interval: 1h0m0s
  install:
    remediation:
      retries: 3
  # Default values
  # https://github.com/bitnami/charts/blob/master/bitnami/nginx-ingress-controller/values.yaml
  values:
    service:
      type: NodePort
apiVersion: source.toolkit.fluxcd.io/v1beta1
kind: HelmRepository
metadata:
  name: bitnami
  namespace: flux-system
spec:
  interval: 30m
  url: https://charts.bitnami.com/bitnami

By default, the Flux extension deploys the fluxConfigurations by impersonating the flux-applier service account that is deployed only in the cluster-config namespace. Using the above manifests, when multi-tenancy is enabled the HelmRelease would be blocked. This is because the HelmRelease is in the nginx namespace and is referencing a HelmRepository in the flux-system namespace. Also, the Flux helm-controller can't apply the HelmRelease, because there is no flux-applier service account in the nginx namespace.

To work with multi-tenancy, the correct approach is to deploy all Flux objects into the same namespace as the fluxConfigurations. This approach avoids the cross-namespace reference issue, and allows the Flux controllers to get the permissions to apply the objects. Thus, for a GitOps configuration created in the cluster-config namespace, these example manifests would change as follows:

apiVersion: helm.toolkit.fluxcd.io/v2beta1
kind: HelmRelease
metadata:
  name: nginx
  namespace: cluster-config 
spec:
  releaseName: nginx-ingress-controller
  targetNamespace: nginx
  chart:
    spec:
      chart: nginx-ingress-controller
      sourceRef:
        kind: HelmRepository
        name: bitnami
        namespace: cluster-config
      version: "5.6.14"
  interval: 1h0m0s
  install:
    remediation:
      retries: 3
  # Default values
  # https://github.com/bitnami/charts/blob/master/bitnami/nginx-ingress-controller/values.yaml
  values:
    service:
      type: NodePort
apiVersion: source.toolkit.fluxcd.io/v1beta1
kind: HelmRepository
metadata:
  name: bitnami
  namespace: cluster-config
spec:
  interval: 30m
  url: https://charts.bitnami.com/bitnami

Opt out of multi-tenancy

When the microsoft.flux extension is installed, multi-tenancy is enabled by default to assure security by default in your clusters. However, if you need to disable multi-tenancy, you can opt out by creating or updating the microsoft.flux extension in your clusters with "--configuration-settings multiTenancy.enforce=false":

az k8s-extension create --extension-type microsoft.flux --configuration-settings multiTenancy.enforce=false -c CLUSTER_NAME -g RESOURCE_GROUP -n flux -t <managedClusters or connectedClusters>
az k8s-extension update --configuration-settings multiTenancy.enforce=false -c CLUSTER_NAME -g RESOURCE_GROUP -n flux -t <managedClusters or connectedClusters>

Migrate from Flux v1

If you're still using Flux v1, we recommend migrating to Flux v2 as soon as possible.

To migrate to using Flux v2 in the same clusters where you've been using Flux v1, you must first delete all Flux v1 sourceControlConfigurations from the clusters. Because Flux v2 has a fundamentally different architecture, the microsoft.flux cluster extension won't install if there are Flux v1 sourceControlConfigurations resources in a cluster. The process of removing Flux v1 configurations and deploying Flux v2 configurations shouldn't take more than 30 minutes.

Removing Flux v1 sourceControlConfigurations doesn't stop any applications that are running on the clusters. However, during the period when Flux v1 configuration is removed and Flux v2 extension isn't yet fully deployed:

  • If there are new changes in the application manifests stored in a Git repository, these changes aren't pulled during the migration, and the application version deployed on the cluster will be stale.
  • If there are unintended changes in the cluster state and it deviates from the desired state specified in source Git repository, the cluster won't be able to self-heal.

We recommend testing your migration scenario in a development environment before migrating your production environment.

View and delete Flux v1 configurations

Use these Azure CLI commands to find and then delete existing sourceControlConfigurations in a cluster:

az k8s-configuration list --cluster-name <Arc or AKS cluster name> --cluster-type <connectedClusters OR managedClusters> --resource-group <resource group name>
az k8s-configuration delete --name <configuration name> --cluster-name <Arc or AKS cluster name> --cluster-type <connectedClusters OR managedClusters> --resource-group <resource group name>

You can also view and delete existing GitOps configurations for a cluster in the Azure portal. To do so, navigate to the cluster where the configuration was created and select GitOps in the left pane. Select the configuration, then select Delete.

Deploy Flux v2 configurations

Use the Azure portal or Azure CLI to apply Flux v2 configurations to your clusters.

Flux v1 retirement information

The open-source project of Flux v1 has been archived, and feature development has stopped indefinitely.

Flux v2 was launched as the upgraded open-source project of Flux. It has a new architecture and supports more GitOps use cases. Microsoft launched a version of an extension using Flux v2 in May 2022. Since then, customers have been advised to move to Flux v2 within three years, as support for using Flux v1 is scheduled to end in May 2025.

Key new features introduced in the GitOps extension for Flux v2:

  • Flux v1 is a monolithic do-it-all operator. Flux v2 separates the functionalities into specialized controllers (Source controller, Kustomize controller, Helm controller, and Notification controller).
  • Supports synchronization with multiple source repositories.
  • Supports multi-tenancy, like applying each source repository with its own set of permissions.
  • Provides operational insights through health checks, events and alerts.
  • Supports Git branches, pinning on commits and tags, and following SemVer tag ranges.
  • Credentials configuration per GitRepository resource: SSH private key, HTTP/S username/password/token, and OpenPGP public keys.

Next steps