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In Red Hat OpenShift, a build is the process of transforming source code and binaries into a container image that can run securely on a container platform. In this article, we'll introduce Project Shipwright, a framework for building container images on Kubernetes, and explore the future of builds in Red Hat OpenShift.

Note: Be sure to check out our session at Red Hat Summit 2021 (June 15 and 16), where we'll cover the topics in this article in more depth. 

A history of OpenShift builds

Kubernetes changed the unit of delivery for software developers from compiled binaries and scripts to container images. Assembling a container image is not a simple task, requiring deep knowledge of new tools and technologies. Red Hat OpenShift 3 greatly simplified this task with the Build API and Source-to-Image (S2I), allowing developers to build container images directly from code. However, much has changed since then, including the proliferation of container-based image-building tools.

The BuildConfig API

In Red Hat OpenShift 3, we introduced the BuildConfig API, enabling developers to define Kubernetes-styled resources that execute image build operations on a Red Hat OpenShift cluster, as shown in Figure 1.

Building a container image using OpenShift BuildConfig API
Figure 1: OpenShift's BuildConfig API lets developers deploy containerized applications from source code.

Red Hat OpenShift supports the following build strategies:

  • S2I
  • Dockerfile
  • Custom

We introduced the custom build strategy with flexibility as a design goal. This gives users the option to define their own DIY build strategy if their use case requires customizations that aren't satisfied by existing build strategies.

Evolving from Docker to Buildah

Not only has the Kubernetes community evolved with the introduction of new tools to build container images, but OpenShift builds have also gone through their share of transformation. The underlying implementation of the build process was changed from Docker in Red Hat OpenShift 3 to Buildah in Red Hat OpenShift 4. The power of a good API abstraction lies in shielding users from changes in the underlying implementation. We've been reasonably successful in doing so.

The case for an open framework

While OpenShift builds have been a huge success, we're aware of new strategies and tools for building container images that have emerged in the Kubernetes community (see Figure 2).

A list of popular tools to build container images, including Docker build, Buildah, Kaniko, S2I, Cloud Native Buildpacks, Buildkit, and JIB
Figure 1: Tools designed to build container images.

Now Kubernetes users and operators have options for the tools and strategies that convert source code and binaries into a container image. To address this, we wanted to accomplish the following design goals:

  • Allow users to give a minimalistic definition of what they wish to build.
  • Empower cluster operators to declaratively define and tinker with the how of one or more image-building processes in Kubernetes.

This is where Project Shipwright comes in.

Project Shipwright

Shipwright is an open framework powered by Tekton. It lets developers use a single Kubernetes API to assemble source code and binaries into a container image without being exposed to the underlying tooling details needed to build images. The project also offers a streamlined Kubernetes API that platform operators and build tool authors can use to define how an application image may be assembled.

At the heart of every build are the following components:

  • Source code: What you are trying to build.
  • Output image: Where you are trying to deliver your application.
  • Build strategy: How your application is assembled.
  • Invocation: When you want to build your application.

Developers who use Docker or Podman are familiar with this process:

  1. Clone the source from a Git-based repository (the “what”).
  2. Build the container image (the “when” and “how”):
    $ podman build -t registry.mycompany.com/myorg/myapp:latest .
  3. Push the container image to your registry (the “where”):
    $ podman push registry.mycompany.com/myorg/myapp:latest

The Shipwright project introduces Kubernetes-native APIs that drive image builds on Kubernetes—namely, Build, BuildRun, BuildStrategy, and ClusterBuildStrategy.

The BuildStrategy API

The Shipwright community maintains the following ready-to-use build strategies that may be used as-is:

  • Cloud Native Buildpacks
  • Kaniko
  • Buildah
  • S2I
  • Ko

Alternatively, users can create new build strategies or extend existing ones.

BuildStrategy and ClusterBuildStrategy are related APIs that define how a given tool should be used to assemble an application. They are distinguished by their scope: BuildStrategy objects are namespace-scoped, whereas ClusterBuildStrategy objects are cluster-scoped.

The spec consists of a buildSteps object, which looks and feels like a Kubernetes container specification. The following is an example spec for Kaniko, which can build an image from a Dockerfile within a container:

apiVersion: shipwright.io/v1alpha1
kind: ClusterBuildStrategy
  name: kaniko
    - name: build-and-push
      image: gcr.io/kaniko-project/executor:v1.6.0
      workingDir: $(params.shp-source-root)
        runAsUser: 0
            - CHOWN
            - DAC_OVERRIDE
            - FOWNER
            - SETGID
            - SETUID
            - SETFCAP
            - KILL
        - name: DOCKER_CONFIG
          value: /tekton/home/.docker
        - name: AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID
          value: NOT_SET
        - name: AWS_SECRET_KEY
          value: NOT_SET
        - /kaniko/executor
        - --skip-tls-verify=true
        - --dockerfile=$(build.dockerfile)
        - --context=$(params.shp-source-context)
        - --destination=$(params.shp-output-image)
        - --oci-layout-path=/kaniko/oci-image-layout
        - --snapshotMode=redo
        - --push-retry=3
          cpu: 500m
          memory: 1Gi
          cpu: 250m
          memory: 65Mi
        - name: layout
          mountPath: /kaniko/oci-image-layout
    - name: results
      image: registry.access.redhat.com/ubi8/ubi-minimal
        - /bin/bash
        - -c
        - |
          set -euo pipefail
          # Store the image digest
          grep digest /kaniko/oci-image-layout/index.json | sed -E 's/.*sha256([^"]*).*/sha256\1/' | tr -d '\n' > "$(results.shp-image-digest.path)"

          # Store the image size
          du -b -c /kaniko/oci-image-layout/blobs/sha256/* | tail -1 | sed 's/\s*total//' | tr -d '\n' > "$(results.shp-image-size.path)"
          cpu: 100m
          memory: 128Mi
          cpu: 100m
          memory: 128Mi
        - name: layout
          mountPath: /kaniko/oci-image-layout

The Build API

The Build object provides a playbook on how to assemble your specific application. The most straightforward build consists of a Git source, a build strategy, and an output image:

apiVersion: shipwright.io/v1alpha1
kind: Build
  name: kaniko-golang-build
    build.build.dev/build-run-deletion: "true"
    url: https://github.com/sbose78/taxi
    name: kaniko
    kind: ClusterBuildStrategy
    image: registry.mycompany.com/my-org/taxi-app:latest

Each BuildRun object invokes a build on your cluster. You can think of these as Kubernetes jobs or Tekton TaskRuns—they represent a workload on your cluster, ultimately resulting in a running pod.

apiVersion: shipwright.io/v1alpha1
kind: BuildRun
  name: kaniko-golang-buildrun
    name: kaniko-golang-build

As the build runs, the status of the BuildRun object is updated with the current progress.

What's new in OpenShift builds

Shipwright forms the basis of OpenShift builds version 2, which will introduce support for popular build strategies such as Cloud Native Buildpacks on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.

Using the flexibility offered by the Shipwright APIs, we will offer supported ready-to-use build strategies on OpenShift Container Platform, namely:

  • Cloud Native Buildpacks
  • Buildah
  • S2I

Additionally, cluster operators will be able to define enterprise build strategies and offer them to users on the cluster.

How to install Shipwright

You can install Shipwright in one of two ways:

If your cluster has Operator Lifecycle Manager (OLM) installed, option 2 is the recommended approach. OLM will take care of installing Tekton as well as Shipwright.

The samples contain build strategies for container-based image build tools like Kaniko, Buildah, S2I, and Cloud Native Buildpacks.

Get involved with Project Shipwright

Project Shipwright, an open source project, is being actively developed by engineers from Red Hat and IBM CodeEngine. Please visit github.com/shipwright-io for more information. We are actively looking for contribution in the following areas:

  • Shipwright controllers.
  • Command-line interface.
  • Installation via OperatorHub or Helm chart.
  • Documentation website.
  • Event-driven builds and integration with Tekton triggers.

Also, look for talks from the maintainers of Project Shipwright at cdCon 2021: Introduction to Shipwright and Project Shipwright in Depth.

Last updated: September 19, 2023