Instructions for migrating an Helm-based operator built prior to v1.0.0 to use a Kubebuilder-style.


The motivations for the new layout are related to bringing more flexibility to users and part of the process to Integrating Kubebuilder and Operator SDK. Because of this integration you may be referred to the Kubebuilder documentation for more information about certain topics. When using this document just remember to replace $ kubebuilder <command> with $ operator-sdk <command>.

Note: It is recommended that you have your project upgraded to the latest SDK v1.y release version before following the steps in this guide to migrate to the new layout. However, the steps might work from previous versions as well. In this case, if you find an issue which is not covered here then check the previous Migration Guides which might help out.

What was changed

  • The deploy directory was replaced with the config directory including a new layout of Kubernetes manifests files:

    • CRD manifests in deploy/crds/ are now in config/crd/bases
    • CR manifests in deploy/crds/ are now in config/samples
    • Controller manifest deploy/operator.yaml is now in config/manager/manager.yaml
    • RBAC manifests in deploy are now in config/rbac/
  • build/Dockerfile is moved to Dockerfile in the project root directory

What is new

Scaffolded projects now use:

  • kustomize to manage Kubernetes resources needed to deploy your operator
  • A Makefile with helpful targets for build, test, and deployment, and to give you flexibility to tailor things to your project’s needs
  • Updated metrics configuration using kube-auth-proxy, a --metrics-bind-address flag, and kustomize-based deployment of a Kubernetes Service and prometheus operator ServiceMonitor
  • Preliminary support for CLI plugins. For more info see the [plugins design document][plugins-phase1-design-doc]
  • A PROJECT configuration file to store information about GVKs, plugins, and help the CLI make decisions

Generated files with the default API versions:

  • apiextensions/v1 for generated CRDs (apiextensions/v1beta1 was deprecated in Kubernetes 1.16 and will be removed in 1.22)
  • for webhooks ( was deprecated in Kubernetes 1.16 and will be removed in 1.22 )

How to migrate

The easy migration path is to initialize a new project, re-recreate APIs, then copy pre-v1.0.0 configuration files into the new project.


  • Go through the installation guide.
  • Make sure your user is authorized with cluster-admin permissions.
  • An accessible image registry for various operator images (ex., and be logged in to your command line environment.
    • is used as the registry Docker Hub namespace in these examples. Replace it with another value if using a different registry or namespace.
    • Authentication and certificates if the registry is private or uses a custom CA.

Creating a new project

In Kubebuilder-style projects, CRD groups are defined using two different flags (--group and --domain).

When we initialize a new project, we need to specify the domain that all APIs in our project will share, so before creating the new project, we need to determine which domain we’re using for the APIs in our existing project.

To determine the domain, look at the field in your CRDs in the deploy/crds directory.

The domain is everything after the first DNS segment. Using as an example, the --domain would be

So let’s create a new project with the same domain (

mkdir nginx-operator
cd nginx-operator
operator-sdk init --plugins=helm

Now that we have our new project initialized, we need to re-create each of our APIs. Using our API example from earlier (, we’ll use demo for the --group flag.

For --version and --kind, we use spec.versions[0].name and spec.names.kind, respectively.

For each API in the existing project, run:

operator-sdk create api \
    --group=demo \
    --version=<version> \
    --kind=<Kind> \

Migrating your Custom Resource samples

Update the CR manifests in config/samples with the values of the CRs in your existing project which are in deploy/crds/<group>_<version>_<kind>_cr.yaml

Migrating watches.yaml

Check if you have custom options in the watches.yaml file of your existing project. If so, update the new watches.yaml file to match. In our example, it will look like:

# Use the 'create api' subcommand to add watches to this file.
- group:
  version: v1alpha1
  kind: Nginx
  chart: helm-charts/nginx

NOTE: Do not remove the +kubebuilder:scaffold:watch marker. It allows the tool to update the watches file when new APIs are created.

Checking RBAC Permissions

In your new project, roles are automatically generated in config/rbac/role.yaml. If you modified these permissions manually in deploy/role.yaml in your existing project, you need to re-apply them in config/rbac/role.yaml.

New projects are configured to watch all namespaces by default, so they need a ClusterRole to have the necessary permissions. Ensure that config/rbac/role.yaml remains a ClusterRole if you want to retain the default behavior of the new project conventions.

The following rules were used in earlier versions of helm-operator to automatically create and manage services and servicemonitors for metrics collection. If your operator’s charts don’t require these rules, they can safely be left out of the new config/rbac/role.yaml file:

  - apiGroups:
    - servicemonitors
    - get
    - create
  - apiGroups:
    - apps
    - nginx-operator
    - deployments/finalizers
    - update
Updating your ServiceAccount

New Helm projects come with a ServiceAccount controller-manager in config/rbac/service_account.yaml. Your project’s RoleBinding and ClusterRoleBinding subjects, and Deployments spec.template.spec.serviceAccountName that reference a ServiceAccount already refer to this new name. When you run make deploy, your project’s name will be prepended to controller-manager, making it unique within a namespace, much like your old deploy/service_account.yaml. If you wish to use the old ServiceAccount, make sure to update all RBAC bindings and your manager Deployment.

Configuring your Operator

If your existing project has customizations in deploy/operator.yaml, they need to be ported to config/manager/manager.yaml. If you are passing custom arguments in your deployment, make sure to also update config/default/auth_proxy_patch.yaml.

Note that the following environment variables are no longer used.

  • OPERATOR_NAME is deprecated. It is used to define the name for a leader election config map. Operator authors should begin using --leader-election-id instead.
  • POD_NAME was used to enable a particular pod to hold the leader election lock when the Helm operator used the leader for life mechanism. Helm operator now uses controller-runtime’s leader with lease mechanism, and POD_NAME is no longer necessary.

Exporting metrics

If you are using metrics and would like to keep them exported you will need to configure it in the config/default/kustomization.yaml. Please see the metrics doc to know how you can perform this setup.

The default port used by the metric endpoint binds to was changed from :8383 to :8080. To continue using port 8383, specify --metrics-bind-address=:8383 when you start the operator.

Verify the migration

The project can now be deployed on cluster by running the command:

make deploy

You can troubleshoot your deployment by checking container logs:

kubectl logs deployment.apps/nginx-operator-controller-manager -n nginx-operator-system -c manager

For further steps regarding the deployment of the operator, creation of custom resources, and cleaning up of resources, see the tutorial.