Spinnaker Operator vs. Halyard for Managing Spinnaker on EKS

Aditya Deshmukh , Sanket Jain  15th March 2024 - 6 mins read

Deploying containerized applications on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) is a common practice. To further streamline this process, many organizations turn to Spinnaker, a continuous delivery platform known for its flexibility and feature-rich ecosystem. Spinnaker is a continuous delivery platform, originally developed by Netflix, for releasing software changes rapidly and reliably. Spinnaker makes it easier for developers to focus on writing code without having to worry about the underlying cloud infrastructure. It integrates seamlessly with Jenkins and other popular build tools.


In this blog we will discuss on two primary options When it comes to managing Spinnaker on EKS: Spinnaker Operator and Halyard. Choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and preferences. Let's dive into a detailed comparison, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each method

A. Halyard

1. What is Halyard and Why Was it Built?

Halyard is the traditional way to manage Spinnaker. It is a command-line tool that allows you to install, configure, and upgrade Spinnaker. Halyard was built with the following goals in mind:

  • Flexibility: Halyard can be used to deploy Spinnaker on a variety of platforms, including bare metal, virtual machines, and Kubernetes.
  • Extensibility: Halyard allows you to extend Spinnaker with custom plugins and services.
  • Simplicity: Halyard is a relatively simple tool to learn and use

2. What Are the Main Benefits of Halyard?

  • Mature and well-tested: Halyard has been around for many years and is a mature and well-tested tool.
  • Highly configurable:Halyard gives you a lot of control over Spinnaker's configuration.
  • Supports multiple platforms: Halyard can be used to deploy Spinnaker on a variety of platforms.

3. What Are the Main Disadvantages of Halyard?

  • Manual configuration: Halyard requires you to manually configure Spinnaker, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.
  • Not declarative: Halyard is not a declarative tool, which means that your configuration files can become complex and difficult to manage.
  • Difficult to update: Updating Spinnaker with Halyard can be a complex process that requires careful planning and execution

4. Key Use Cases:

  • Deploying Spinnaker on various platforms (bare metal, virtual machines, Kubernetes)
  • Customizing Spinnaker extensively with plugins and services
  • Maintaining fine-grained control over Spinnaker's configuration

5. Problems it Solves:

  • Facilitates Spinnaker installation, configuration, and management across diverse environments
  • Provides flexibility for customization and integration with other tools/li>
  • Enables granular control over Spinnaker's settings for specific requirements

6. How Does it Work?

Halyard takes a manual, command-line approach to managing Spinnaker. Here's the basic workflow:

1. Configuration Files: You define Spinnaker's configuration using YAML files like clouddriver.yml and gate.yml.

2. Validation and Generation: Halyard validates your configuration files against known settings and generates additional configuration files based on your choices.

Deployment Options: You can choose to deploy Spinnaker:

  • Locally: Halyard generates deployment scripts for your local machine.
  • Remotely: Halyard uploads configuration files and scripts to your target environment (e.g., Google Cloud Storage) and triggers deployment actions.

4. Management: You update Spinnaker by modifying configuration files and re-running deployment commands.

B. Spinnaker Operator

1. What is the Spinnaker Operator and What Problems Does it Solve?

The Spinnaker Operator is a Kubernetes operator that can be used to deploy and manage Spinnaker on EKS. The Spinnaker Operator was built to address the limitations of Halyard by providing a:

  • Declarative: The Spinnaker Operator uses Kubernetes Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs) to define Spinnaker's desired state. This makes it easier to manage and update Spinnaker's configuration.
  • Automated: The Spinnaker Operator can automatically install, configure, and upgrade Spinnaker. This makes it less time-consuming and error-prone than Halyard.
  • Integrated with EKS: The Spinnaker Operator is tightly integrated with EKS, which makes it easier to manage Spinnaker alongside your other Kubernetes applications.

2. What Are the Main Benefits of the Spinnaker Operator?

  • Declarative configuration: The Spinnaker Operator makes it easy to manage and update Spinnaker's configuration.
  • Automated operations: The Spinnaker Operator can automatically install, configure, and upgrade Spinnaker.
  • Integration with EKS: The Spinnaker Operator is tightly integrated with EKS, which makes it easier to manage Spinnaker alongside your other Kubernetes applications.

3. What Are the Main Disadvantages of the Spinnaker Operator?

  • Newer and less mature: The Spinnaker Operator is a newer tool than Halyard and is less mature.
  • Limited platform support: The Spinnaker Operator only supports deployment on EKS.
  • Less flexibility: T·The Spinnaker Operator gives you less control over Spinnaker's configuration than Halyard.

4. Key Use Cases:

  • Streamlining Spinnaker deployment and management on EKS
  • Leveraging declarative configuration for easier maintenance and updates
  • Automating Spinnaker operations for reduced manual effort and errors
  • Integrating Spinnaker seamlessly with the Kubernetes ecosystem

5. Problems it Solves:

  • Simplifies Spinnaker configuration and updates using Kubernetes CRDs
  • Automates Spinnaker installation, configuration, and upgrades
  • Enhances consistency and reliability through automated operations
  • Fosters tighter integration between Spinnaker and EKS for a cohesive experience

6. How Does it Work?

The Spinnaker Operator leverages Kubernetes capabilities to manage Spinnaker declaratively

  • Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs): You define Spinnaker's desired state using YAML files representing Spinnaker CRDs.
  • Kubernetes Reconciliation: The Spinnaker Operator continuously monitors the CRDs and compares them to the actual Spinnaker state on EKS.
  • Automatic Reconciliation: If there's a difference, the Operator applies the desired state by deploying or adjusting Spinnaker resources within the Kubernetes cluster.
  • Management: You update Spinnaker by modifying the CRD YAML files, triggering an automatic reconciliation process.

Which one is Better for Which Scenario?

Deciding between Halyard and the Spinnaker Operator boils down to prioritizing flexibility and control versus automation and ease of use. Here's a deeper dive into specific scenarios to help you choose:

Halyard is the better choice for you if:

  • You're a multi-cloud environment: Halyard supports deploying Spinnaker on various platforms, not just EKS, giving you flexibility across diverse infrastructure.
  • Customization is paramount: Halyard offers granular control over Spinnaker's configuration. If you have specific needs outside the standard feature set, Halyard gives you the freedom to fine-tune it.
  • You're comfortable with manual configuration: Halyard requires manual configuration, which can be advantageous for experienced users who prefer detailed control and understanding of the inner workings.

However, consider the downsides of Halyard:

  • You're solely focused on EKS: The Operator seamlessly integrates with EKS, making deployment, configuration, and updates smooth and streamlined.
  • Automation is your mantra: The Operator automates most tasks, reducing manual configuration overhead and promoting consistency.
  • Declarative configuration simplifies management: Defining Spinnaker's desired state through CRDs makes maintaining complex setups easier and more collaborative.

However, be aware of the Operator's limitations:

  • Limited platform support currently restricts it to EKS deployments, offering less flexibility.
  • It's a relatively new tool compared to Halyard, with potentially less community support and documentation.
  • Less granular control over configuration might not be ideal for highly customized setups.


Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific needs and priorities.

  • For flexibility, control, and multi-cloud deployments, Halyard remains a reliable option.
  • If ease of use, automation, and tight EKS integration are crucial, the Spinnaker Operator is a compelling choice.

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