A Guide to Creating Kubernetes Operators with Go

A Guide to Creating Kubernetes Operators with Go

Kubernetes operators are custom software extensions that manage and automate tasks for applications running on Kubernetes clusters. This article demonstrates creating a Kubernetes operator using the Go programming language and the Kubernetes Operator SDK.


To follow this guide, you need:

  • A basic understanding of Kubernetes and Go programming language
  • A Kubernetes cluster (e.g., Minikube, kind, or any cloud-based Kubernetes service)
  • The kubectl command-line tool installed
  • The Go programming language (version 1.16+) installed
  • The Operator SDK installed

Table of Contents

What are Kubernetes Operators?

Kubernetes operators are custom controllers that extend the Kubernetes API to manage complex applications. They allow you to define custom resources and provide the necessary automation to handle them.

Setting Up the Development Environment

First, create a new directory for your operator:

$ mkdir my-operator && cd my-operator

Initialize the project with the operator-sdk:

$ operator-sdk init --domain example.com --repo github.com/example/my-operator

This command creates your operator’s necessary files and directories, including the Dockerfile, Makefile, and the Go module.

Creating a Custom Resource Definition (CRD)

Now, create a custom resource definition (CRD) for your operator:

$ operator-sdk create api --group apps --version v1alpha1 --kind MyApp --resource --controller

This command generates the following files:

  • api/v1alpha1/myapp_types.go: Defines the MyApp custom resource (CR)
  • controllers/myapp_controller.go: Implements the MyApp controller

Edit api/v1alpha1/myapp_types.go to define the MyApp CR spec and status:

package v1alpha1

import (
    metav1 "k8s.io/apimachinery/pkg/apis/meta/v1"

// MyAppSpec defines the desired state of MyApp
type MyAppSpec struct {
    // INSERT ADDITIONAL SPEC FIELDS - desired state of cluster
    // Important: Run "make" to regenerate code after modifying this file

    // Replicas is the number of replicas for the application
    Replicas int32 `json:"replicas"`

// MyAppStatus defines the observed state of MyApp
type MyAppStatus struct {
    // INSERT ADDITIONAL STATUS FIELD - define observed state of cluster
    // Important: Run "make" to regenerate code after modifying this file

    // ReadyReplicas is the number of ready replicas for the application
    ReadyReplicas int32 `json:"readyReplicas"`


// MyApp is the Schema for the myapps API
type MyApp struct {
    metav1.TypeMeta   `json:",inline"`
    metav1.ObjectMeta `json:"metadata,omitempty"`

    Spec   MyAppSpec   `json:"spec,omitempty"`
    Status MyAppStatus `json:"status,omitempty"`


// MyAppList contains a list of MyApp
type MyAppList struct {
    metav1.TypeMeta `json:",inline"`
    metav1.ListMeta `json:"metadata,omitempty"`
    Items           []MyApp `json:"items"`

func init() {
    SchemeBuilder.Register(&MyApp{}, &MyAppList{})

After defining the CRD, run the following command to update the generated code:

$ make generate

Implementing the Operator

Next, open the controllers/myapp_controller.go file to implement the MyApp controller. Start by importing the necessary packages at the top of the file:

import (

    appsv1 "k8s.io/api/apps/v1"
    corev1 "k8s.io/api/core/v1"
    metav1 "k8s.io/apimachinery/pkg/apis/meta/v1"
    ctrl "sigs.k8s.io/controller-runtime"

    appsv1alpha1 "github.com/example/my-operator/api/v1alpha1"

Implement the Reconcile method in the MyAppReconciler struct:

func (r *MyAppReconciler) Reconcile(ctx context.Context, req ctrl.Request) (ctrl.Result, error) {
    _ = r.Log.WithValues("myapp", req.NamespacedName)

    // Fetch the MyApp instance
    myApp := &appsv1alpha1.MyApp{}
    err := r.Get(ctx, req.NamespacedName, myApp)
    if err != nil {
        if errors.IsNotFound(err) {
            // Request object not found, could have been deleted after reconcile request.
            return ctrl.Result{}, nil
        // Error reading the object - requeue the request.
        return ctrl.Result{}, err

    // Implement your logic here
    // ...m

Now, implement the logic to create and manage your application’s Deployment and a Service. You can find examples in the official Kubernetes client-go example repository.

Deploying the Operator

Build and push the operator image:

$ make docker-build docker-push IMG=my-operator:latest

Deploy the operator to your cluster:

$ make deploy IMG=my-operator:latest

Testing the Operator

Create a sample MyApp custom resource:

apiVersion: apps.example.com/v1alpha1
kind: MyApp
  name: my-app
  replicas: 3

Save this as myapp-sample.yaml, then apply it to your cluster:

$ kubectl apply -f myapp-sample.yaml

Check if the operator creates the Deployment and Service for your application:

$ kubectl get deployments
$ kubectl get services


In this guide, you have learned how to create a Kubernetes operator using the Go programming language and the Kubernetes Operator SDK. You can now extend the Kubernetes API to manage complex applications and automate tasks on your cluster.


Faizan Bashir

Principal Engineer | Architecting and building distributed applications in the Cloud | Adventurer

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