about the operator framework

About the Operator Framework

The Operator Framework is an open source toolkit to manage Kubernetes native applications, called Operators, in an effective, automated, and scalable way.

You may be familiar with Operators from the concept’s introduction in 2016. An Operator is a method of packaging, deploying and managing a Kubernetes application. A Kubernetes application is an application that is both deployed on Kubernetes and managed using the Kubernetes APIs and kubectl tooling. To be able to make the most of Kubernetes, you need a set of cohesive APIs to extend in order to service and manage your applications that run on Kubernetes. You can think of Operators as the runtime that manages this type of application on Kubernetes.

Conceptually, an Operator takes human operational knowledge and encodes it into software that is more easily packaged and shared with consumers. Think of an Operator as an extension of the software vendor’s engineering team that watches over your Kubernetes environment and uses its current state to make decisions in milliseconds. Operators follow a maturity model that ranges from basic functionality to having specific logic for an application. Advanced Operators are designed to handle upgrades seamlessly, react to failures automatically, and not take shortcuts, like skipping a software backup process to save time.

The pieces that are now being launched as the Operator Framework are the culmination of the years of work and experience of our team in building Operators. We’ve seen that Operators’ capabilities differ in sophistication depending on how much intelligence has been added into the implementation logic of the Operator itself. We’ve also learned that the creation of an Operator typically starts by automating an application’s installation and self-service provisioning capabilities, and then evolves to take on more complex automation.

We believe that the new Operator Framework represents the next big step for Kubernetes by using a baseline of leading practices to help lower the application development barrier on Kubernetes. The project delivers a software development kit (SDK) and the ability to manage app installs and updates by using the lifecycle management mechanism, while enabling administrators to exercise Operator capabilities on any Kubernetes cluster.

The 3 pillars

Operator SDK

The Operator SDK provides the tools to build, test and package Operators. Initially, the SDK facilitates the marriage of an application’s business logic (for example, how to scale, upgrade, or backup) with the Kubernetes API to execute those operations. Over time, the SDK can allow engineers to make applications smarter and have the user experience of cloud services. Leading practices and code patterns that are shared across Operators are included in the SDK to help prevent reinventing the wheel.

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Build, test, iterate.

Operator Lifecycle manager

Once built, Operators need to be deployed on a Kubernetes cluster. The Operator Lifecycle Manager is the backplane that facilitates management of operators on a Kubernetes cluster. With it, administrators can control what Operators are available in what namespaces and who can interact with running Operators. They can also manage the overall lifecycle of Operators and their resources, such as triggering updates to both an Operator and its resources or granting a team access to an Operator for their slice of the cluster.

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install, manage, update.


At OperatorHub.io, developers and Kubernetes administrators can find curated Operator-backed services for a base level of documentation, active communities or vendor-backing to show maintenance commitments, basic testing, and packaging for optimized life-cycle management on Kubernetes.

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Publish & share.