Tutorial: Implement CI/CD with GitOps using Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes clusters


This tutorial uses GitOps with Flux v1. GitOps with Flux v2 is now available for Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) clusters; go to the tutorial that uses GitOps with Flux v2. 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.

In this tutorial, you'll set up a CI/CD solution using GitOps with Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes clusters. Using the sample Azure Vote app, you'll:

  • Create an Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes cluster.
  • Connect your application and GitOps repos to Azure Repos.
  • Import CI/CD pipelines.
  • Connect your Azure Container Registry (ACR) to Azure DevOps and Kubernetes.
  • Create environment variable groups.
  • Deploy the dev and stage environments.
  • Test the application environments.

If you don't have an Azure subscription, create a free account before you begin.

Azure Cloud Shell

Azure hosts Azure Cloud Shell, an interactive shell environment that you can use through your browser. You can use either Bash or PowerShell with Cloud Shell to work with Azure services. You can use the Cloud Shell preinstalled commands to run the code in this article, without having to install anything on your local environment.

To start Azure Cloud Shell:

Option Example/Link
Select Try It in the upper-right corner of a code or command block. Selecting Try It doesn't automatically copy the code or command to Cloud Shell. Screenshot that shows an example of Try It for Azure Cloud Shell.
Go to https://shell.azure.com, or select the Launch Cloud Shell button to open Cloud Shell in your browser. Screenshot that shows how to launch Cloud Shell in a new window.
Select the Cloud Shell button on the menu bar at the upper right in the Azure portal. Screenshot that shows the Cloud Shell button in the Azure portal

To use Azure Cloud Shell:

  1. Start Cloud Shell.

  2. Select the Copy button on a code block (or command block) to copy the code or command.

  3. Paste the code or command into the Cloud Shell session by selecting Ctrl+Shift+V on Windows and Linux, or by selecting Cmd+Shift+V on macOS.

  4. Select Enter to run the code or command.

Before you begin

This tutorial assumes familiarity with Azure DevOps, Azure Repos and Pipelines, and Azure CLI.

Import application and GitOps repos into Azure Repos

Import an application repo and a GitOps repo into Azure Repos. For this tutorial, use the following example repos:

Learn more about importing Git repos.


Importing and using two separate repositories for application and GitOps repos can improve security and simplicity. The application and GitOps repositories' permissions and visibility can be tuned individually. For example, the cluster administrator may not find the changes in application code relevant to the desired state of the cluster. Conversely, an application developer doesn't need to know the specific parameters for each environment - a set of test values that provide coverage for the parameters may be sufficient.

Connect the GitOps repo

To continuously deploy your app, connect the application repo to your cluster using GitOps. Your arc-cicd-demo-gitops GitOps repo contains the basic resources to get your app up and running on your arc-cicd-cluster cluster.

The initial GitOps repo contains only a manifest that creates the dev and stage namespaces corresponding to the deployment environments.

The GitOps connection that you create will automatically:

  • Sync the manifests in the manifest directory.
  • Update the cluster state.

The CI/CD workflow will populate the manifest directory with extra manifests to deploy the app.

  1. Create a new GitOps connection to your newly imported arc-cicd-demo-gitops repo in Azure Repos.

    az k8s-configuration create \
       --name cluster-config \
       --cluster-name arc-cicd-cluster \
       --resource-group myResourceGroup \
       --operator-instance-name cluster-config \
       --operator-namespace cluster-config \
       --repository-url https://dev.azure.com/<Your organization>/<Your project>/_git/arc-cicd-demo-gitops \
       --https-user <Azure Repos username> \
       --https-key <Azure Repos PAT token> \
       --scope cluster \
       --cluster-type connectedClusters \
       --operator-params='--git-readonly --git-path=arc-cicd-cluster/manifests'
  2. Ensure that Flux only uses the arc-cicd-cluster/manifests directory as the base path. Define the path by using the following operator parameter:



    If you are using an HTTPS connection string and are having connection problems, ensure you omit the username prefix in the URL. For example, https://alice@dev.azure.com/contoso/project/_git/arc-cicd-demo-gitops must have alice@ removed. The --https-user specifies the user instead, for example --https-user alice.

  3. Check the state of the deployment in Azure portal.

    • If successful, you'll see both dev and stage namespaces created in your cluster.

Import the CI/CD pipelines

Now that you've synced a GitOps connection, you'll need to import the CI/CD pipelines that create the manifests.

The application repo contains a .pipeline folder with the pipelines you'll use for PRs, CI, and CD. Import and rename the three pipelines provided in the sample repo:

Pipeline file name Description
.pipelines/az-vote-pr-pipeline.yaml The application PR pipeline, named arc-cicd-demo-src PR
.pipelines/az-vote-ci-pipeline.yaml The application CI pipeline, named arc-cicd-demo-src CI
.pipelines/az-vote-cd-pipeline.yaml The application CD pipeline, named arc-cicd-demo-src CD

Connect your ACR

Both your pipelines and cluster will be utilizing ACR to store and retrieve Docker images.

Connect ACR to Azure DevOps

During the CI process, you'll deploy your application containers to a registry. Start by creating an Azure service connection:

  1. In Azure DevOps, open the Service connections page from the project settings page. In TFS, open the Services page from the settings icon in the top menu bar.
  2. Choose + New service connection and select the type of service connection you need.
  3. Fill in the parameters for the service connection. For this tutorial:
    • Name the service connection arc-demo-acr.
    • Select myResourceGroup as the resource group.
  4. Select the Grant access permission to all pipelines.
    • This option authorizes YAML pipeline files for service connections.
  5. Choose OK to create the connection.

Connect ACR to Kubernetes

Enable your Kubernetes cluster to pull images from your ACR. If it's private, authentication will be required.

Connect ACR to existing AKS clusters

Integrate an existing ACR with existing AKS clusters using the following command:

az aks update -n arc-cicd-cluster -g myResourceGroup --attach-acr arc-demo-acr

Create an image pull secret

To connect non-AKS and local clusters to your ACR, create an image pull secret. Kubernetes uses image pull secrets to store information needed to authenticate your registry.

Create an image pull secret with the following kubectl command. Repeat for both the dev and stage namespaces.

kubectl create secret docker-registry <secret-name> \
    --namespace <namespace> \
    --docker-server=<container-registry-name>.azurecr.io \
    --docker-username=<service-principal-ID> \

To avoid having to set an imagePullSecret for every Pod, consider adding the imagePullSecret to the Service account in the dev and stage namespaces. See the Kubernetes tutorial for more information.

Create environment variable groups

App repo variable group

Create a variable group named az-vote-app-dev. Set the following values:

Variable Value
AZ_ACR_NAME (your ACR instance, for example. azurearctest.azurecr.io)
AZURE_SUBSCRIPTION (your Azure Service Connection, which should be arc-demo-acr from earlier in the tutorial)
AZURE_VOTE_IMAGE_REPO The full path to the Azure Vote App repo, for example azurearctest.azurecr.io/azvote
MANIFESTS_FOLDER azure-vote-manifests
MANIFESTS_REPO arc-cicd-demo-gitops
ORGANIZATION_NAME Name of Azure DevOps organization
PROJECT_NAME Name of GitOps project in Azure DevOps
REPO_URL Full URL for GitOps repo
SRC_FOLDER azure-vote
TARGET_CLUSTER arc-cicd-cluster

Stage environment variable group

  1. Clone the az-vote-app-dev variable group.
  2. Change the name to az-vote-app-stage.
  3. Ensure the following values for the corresponding variables:
Variable Value

You're now ready to deploy to the dev and stage environments.

Give More Permissions to the Build Service

The CD pipeline uses the security token of the running build to authenticate to the GitOps repository. More permissions are needed for the pipeline to create a new branch, push changes, and create pull requests.

  1. Go to Project settings from the Azure DevOps project main page.
  2. Select Repositories.
  3. Select <GitOps Repo Name>.
  4. Select Security.
  5. For the <Project Name> Build Service (<Organization Name>), allow Contribute, Contribute to pull requests, and Create branch.

For more information, see:

Deploy the dev environment for the first time

With the CI and CD pipelines created, run the CI pipeline to deploy the app for the first time.

CI pipeline

During the initial CI pipeline run, you may get a resource authorization error in reading the service connection name.

  1. Verify the variable being accessed is AZURE_SUBSCRIPTION.
  2. Authorize the use.
  3. Rerun the pipeline.

The CI pipeline:

  • Ensures the application change passes all automated quality checks for deployment.
  • Does any extra validation that couldn't be completed in the PR pipeline.
    • Specific to GitOps, the pipeline also publishes the artifacts for the commit that will be deployed by the CD pipeline.
  • Verifies the Docker image has changed and the new image is pushed.

CD pipeline

During the initial CD pipeline run, you'll be asked to give the pipeline access to the GitOps repository. Select View when prompted that the pipeline needs permission to access a resource. Then, select Permit to grant permission to use the GitOps repository for the current and future runs of the pipeline.

The successful CI pipeline run triggers the CD pipeline to complete the deployment process. You'll deploy to each environment incrementally.


If the CD pipeline does not automatically trigger:

  1. Verify the name matches the branch trigger in .pipelines/az-vote-cd-pipeline.yaml
    • It should be arc-cicd-demo-src CI.
  2. Rerun the CI pipeline.

Once the template and manifest changes to the GitOps repo have been generated, the CD pipeline will create a commit, push it, and create a PR for approval.

  1. Open the PR link given in the Create PR task output.

  2. Verify the changes to the GitOps repo. You should see:

    • High-level Helm template changes.
    • Low-level Kubernetes manifests that show the underlying changes to the desired state. Flux deploys these manifests.
  3. If everything looks good, approve and complete the PR.

  4. After a few minutes, Flux picks up the change and starts the deployment.

  5. Forward the port locally using kubectl and ensure the app works correctly using:

    kubectl port-forward -n dev svc/azure-vote-front 8080:80

  6. View the Azure Vote app in your browser at http://localhost:8080/.

  7. Vote for your favorites and get ready to make some changes to the app.

Set up environment approvals

Upon app deployment, you can not only make changes to the code or templates, but you can also unintentionally put the cluster into a bad state.

If the dev environment reveals a break after deployment, keep it from going to later environments using environment approvals.

  1. In your Azure DevOps project, go to the environment that needs to be protected.
  2. Navigate to Approvals and Checks for the resource.
  3. Select Create.
  4. Provide the approvers and an optional message.
  5. Select Create again to complete the addition of the manual approval check.

For more details, see the Define approval and checks tutorial.

Next time the CD pipeline runs, the pipeline will pause after the GitOps PR creation. Verify the change has been synced properly and passes basic functionality. Approve the check from the pipeline to let the change flow to the next environment.

Make an application change

With this baseline set of templates and manifests representing the state on the cluster, you'll make a small change to the app.

  1. In the arc-cicd-demo-src repo, edit azure-vote/src/azure-vote-front/config_file.cfg file.

  2. Since "Cats vs Dogs" isn't getting enough votes, change it to "Tabs vs Spaces" to drive up the vote count.

  3. Commit the change in a new branch, push it, and create a pull request.

    • This is the typical developer flow that will start the CI/CD lifecycle.

PR validation pipeline

The PR pipeline is the first line of defense against a faulty change. Usual application code quality checks include linting and static analysis. From a GitOps perspective, you also need to assure the same quality for the resulting infrastructure to be deployed.

The application's Dockerfile and Helm charts can use linting in a similar way to the application.

Errors found during linting range from:

  • Incorrectly formatted YAML files, to
  • Best practice suggestions, such as setting CPU and Memory limits for your application.


To get the best coverage from Helm linting in a real application, you will need to substitute values that are reasonably similar to those used in a real environment.

Errors found during pipeline execution appear in the test results section of the run. From here, you can:

  • Track the useful statistics on the error types.
  • Find the first commit on which they were detected.
  • Stack trace style links to the code sections that caused the error.

Once the pipeline run has finished, you have assured the quality of the application code and the template that will deploy it. You can now approve and complete the PR. The CI will run again, regenerating the templates and manifests, before triggering the CD pipeline.


In a real environment, don't forget to set branch policies to ensure the PR passes your quality checks. For more information, see the Set branch policies article.

CD process approvals

A successful CI pipeline run triggers the CD pipeline to complete the deployment process. Similar to the first time you can the CD pipeline, you'll deploy to each environment incrementally. This time, the pipeline requires you to approve each deployment environment.

  1. Approve the deployment to the dev environment.
  2. Once the template and manifest changes to the GitOps repo have been generated, the CD pipeline will create a commit, push it, and create a PR for approval.
  3. Open the PR link given in the task.
  4. Verify the changes to the GitOps repo. You should see:
    • High-level Helm template changes.
    • Low-level Kubernetes manifests that show the underlying changes to the desired state.
  5. If everything looks good, approve and complete the PR.
  6. Wait for the deployment to complete.
  7. As a basic smoke test, navigate to the application page and verify the voting app now displays Tabs vs Spaces.
    • Forward the port locally using kubectl and ensure the app works correctly using: kubectl port-forward -n dev svc/azure-vote-front 8080:80
    • View the Azure Vote app in your browser at http://localhost:8080/ and verify the voting choices have changed to Tabs vs Spaces.
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 for the stage environment.

Your deployment is now complete. This ends the CI/CD workflow.

Clean up resources

If you're not going to continue to use this application, delete any resources with the following steps:

  1. Delete the Azure Arc GitOps configuration connection:

    az k8s-configuration delete \
    --name cluster-config \
    --cluster-name arc-cicd-cluster \
    --resource-group myResourceGroup \
    --cluster-type connectedClusters
  2. Remove the dev namespace:

    • kubectl delete namespace dev
  3. Remove the stage namespace:

    • kubectl delete namespace stage

Next steps

In this tutorial, you have set up a full CI/CD workflow that implements DevOps from application development through deployment. Changes to the app automatically trigger validation and deployment, gated by manual approvals.

Advance to our conceptual article to learn more about GitOps and configurations with Azure Arc-enabled Kubernetes.