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Helm vs kaniko: What are the differences?

Introduction

Helm and Kaniko are two popular tools used in the containerization and deployment process. While both tools serve a similar purpose, there are key differences between them. In this article, we will explore and highlight the main distinctions between Helm and Kaniko.

  1. Packaging and Deployment: Helm is primarily a package manager for Kubernetes, allowing users to package, share, and deploy applications on a Kubernetes cluster. It provides a templating engine to define and manage Kubernetes manifests. On the other hand, Kaniko is a tool for building container images from a Dockerfile, especially suited for scenarios where running privileged containers is not feasible, like in a Kubernetes cluster with RBAC (Role-Based Access Control) policies in place.

  2. Build Location: Helm builds and deploys packages directly to a Kubernetes cluster. It leverages the Kubernetes API server to manage configurations and apply updates to the cluster. Kaniko, on the other hand, builds container images offline and does not require direct access to the Kubernetes cluster. It can be run on any machine that has access to the container registry and does not need cluster-specific configurations.

  3. Containerization Process: Helm focuses on packaging and deploying applications as Kubernetes chart archives. It manages the release lifecycle, making it easy to deploy, upgrade, or rollback versions. Kaniko, on the other hand, focuses on building container images from a given Dockerfile. It supports context-aware builds, allowing it to efficiently utilize cache layers and incrementally build images, resulting in faster builds.

  4. Container Registry Access: Helm relies on the Docker client and requires access to the Docker daemon to build and push container images to a registry. This means that it needs to run with appropriate privileges, making it unsuitable for secured environments with strict access controls. Kaniko, however, executes container builds as non-privileged users without needing direct Docker daemon access. It functions as a standalone tool, making it easier to integrate into secure CI/CD pipelines.

  5. Resource Utilization: Helm uses the Kubernetes API server to package and deploy applications, which can put additional load on the cluster. This dependence on the Kubernetes API server can sometimes lead to slower deployments if the cluster is under heavy load. Kaniko, on the other hand, operates offline and does not rely on the Kubernetes API server during the build process. This ensures that the cluster's resources are not consumed during the build phase, allowing for more efficient resource utilization.

  6. Security and Isolation: Helm assumes that you trust the package maintainers and the Helm chart itself, as it has the ability to run operations with the same permissions as the deploying user. This can introduce security risks, especially when deploying untrusted packages. Kaniko, on the other hand, operates as a non-privileged user and provides better isolation between the build environment and the cluster. This reduces the risk of privilege escalation and unauthorized access to the cluster.

In Summary, Helm is a package manager specifically designed for Kubernetes deployments, while Kaniko focuses on building container images securely and efficiently without the need for privileged access. Helm operates on the Kubernetes API server, while Kaniko works offline, making it suitable for secure environments with RBAC policies.

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Pros of Helm
Pros of kaniko
  • 8
    Infrastructure as code
  • 6
    Open source
  • 2
    Easy setup
  • 1
    Support
  • 1
    Testa­bil­i­ty and re­pro­ducibil­i­ty
  • 3
    No need for docker demon
  • 1
    Automation using jules

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Cons of Helm
Cons of kaniko
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    • 1
      Slow compared to docker

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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is Helm?

    Helm is the best way to find, share, and use software built for Kubernetes.

    What is kaniko?

    A tool to build container images from a Dockerfile, inside a container or Kubernetes cluster. kaniko doesn't depend on a Docker daemon and executes each command within a Dockerfile completely in userspace. This enables building container images in environments that can't easily or securely run a Docker daemon, such as a standard Kubernetes cluster.

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    Dec 8 2020 at 5:50PM

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    What are some alternatives to Helm and kaniko?
    Terraform
    With Terraform, you describe your complete infrastructure as code, even as it spans multiple service providers. Your servers may come from AWS, your DNS may come from CloudFlare, and your database may come from Heroku. Terraform will build all these resources across all these providers in parallel.
    Rancher
    Rancher is an open source container management platform that includes full distributions of Kubernetes, Apache Mesos and Docker Swarm, and makes it simple to operate container clusters on any cloud or infrastructure platform.
    Ansible
    Ansible is an IT automation tool. It can configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate more advanced IT tasks such as continuous deployments or zero downtime rolling updates. Ansible’s goals are foremost those of simplicity and maximum ease of use.
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    Kubernetes is an open source orchestration system for Docker containers. It handles scheduling onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages workloads to ensure that their state matches the users declared intentions.
    Docker
    The Docker Platform is the industry-leading container platform for continuous, high-velocity innovation, enabling organizations to seamlessly build and share any application — from legacy to what comes next — and securely run them anywhere
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