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Java Operator SDK (JOSDK) is an open source project that aims to simplify the task of creating Kubernetes Operators using Java. The project was started by Container Solutions and Red Hat is now a major contributor.

The first article in this series introduced JOSDK and gave reasons for creating Operators in Java. The second article showed how the quarkus-operator-sdk extension for JOSDK, together with the Quarkus framework, facilitates the development experience by managing the custom resource definition automatically. This article focuses on adding the reconciliation logic.

Where things stand

You ended the second article having more or less established the model for your custom resource (CR). You developed it iteratively, thanks to the Quarkus extension for JOSDK. For reference, the CRs look similar to:

apiVersion: "halkyon.io/v1alpha1"
kind: ExposedApp
  name: <Name of your application>

  imageRef: <Docker image reference>

Let's now examine what's required to implement the second aspect of Operators: Writing a controller to handle your CRs. In JOSDK parlance, a Kubernetes controller is represented by a Reconciler implementation, and the association of a Reconciler implementation with its configuration is called a Controller.


Here's the implementation that the operator-sdk create api command generated for you when you ran it in the second article:

package io.halkyon;

import io.fabric8.kubernetes.client.KubernetesClient;
import io.javaoperatorsdk.operator.api.reconciler.Context;
import io.javaoperatorsdk.operator.api.reconciler.Reconciler;
import io.javaoperatorsdk.operator.api.reconciler.UpdateControl;

public class ExposedAppReconciler implements Reconciler<ExposedApp> {
    private final KubernetesClient client;

    public ExposedAppReconciler(KubernetesClient client) {
        this.client = client;

    // TODO Fill in the rest of the reconciler

    public UpdateControl<ExposedApp> reconcile(ExposedApp resource, Context context) {
        // TODO: fill in logic

        return UpdateControl.noUpdate();

As mentioned previously, your Reconciler implementation needs to be parameterized by your custom resource class (ExposedApp in this instance).

By default, you have to implement only one method, called reconcile(). This method takes two parameters: the resource for which the reconciliation was triggered, and a Context object that allows your reconciler to retrieve contextual information from the SDK.

If you are used to writing Operators in Go, you might be surprised: Where is the watcher or informer implementation, and where is the manager? JOSDK takes care of wiring everything together so that your reconciler implementation is called whenever there is a modification to a resource that the reconciler declares ownership of. The runtime extracts the resource in question and passes it to your reconcile() method automatically without you having to do anything specific. The Quarkus extension for JOSDK also simplifies things further by taking care of creating an Operator instance and registering your reconciler with it.

Controller configuration

Let's look at how to configure your reconciler before diving into the implementation of your reconciliation logic. As explained above, the Controller associates a Reconciler with its configuration. You rarely have to deal with Controllers directly, though, because a Controller instance is created automatically when you register your reconciler (or when the Quarkus extension does it automatically for you).

Looking at the logs of your Operator as it starts, you should see:

INFO  [io.jav.ope.Operator] (Quarkus Main Thread) Registered reconciler: 'exposedappreconciler' for resource: 'class io.halkyon.ExposedApp' for namespace(s): [all namespaces]

exposedappreconciler is the name that was automatically generated for your reconciler.

Also note that the reconciler is registered automatically to watch all namespaces in your cluster. The reconciler will therefore receive any event associated with your custom resources, wherever it might happen on the cluster. Although this might be convenient when developing your controller, it's not necessarily how you'd like your controller to operate when deployed to production. JOSDK offers several ways to control this particular aspect of association, and the Quarkus extension adds several more options as well.

Let's look at what's probably the most common option: The @ControllerConfiguration annotation, which allows you to configure which namespaces your reconciler will watch, among other features. You can use the option by setting the namespaces field of the annotation to a list of comma-separated namespace names. If the field is not set, which is the case by default, reconcilers are configured to watch all namespaces. An interesting option is to make the reconciler solely watch the namespace in which the Operator is deployed. This restriction is imposed by specifying the Constants.WATCH_CURRENT_NAMESPACE value for the namespaces field.

We won't go into the details of all the configuration options here, because that's not the topic of this article, but we'll mention that you can also configure your controller programmatically. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the application.properties file commonly used in Quarkus, as is typical when configuring Quarkus applications. The name of your reconciler is used in application.properties for configuration options that affect your controller specifically. While a name is automatically generated based on your reconciler's class name, it might be useful to provide one that makes more sense to you or that is easier to remember. You can specify a name using the name field of the @ControllerConfiguration annotation.

Let's rename your reconciler and configure it to watch only the current namespace:

@ControllerConfiguration(namespaces = Constants.WATCH_CURRENT_NAMESPACE, name = "exposedapp")
public class ExposedAppReconciler implements Reconciler<ExposedApp> {
// rest of the code here

Since the configuration has changed, the Quarkus extension restarts your Operator and shows that the new configuration has indeed been taken into account:

INFO  [io.jav.ope.Operator] (Quarkus Main Thread) Registered reconciler: 'exposedapp' for resource: 'class io.halkyon.ExposedApp' for namespace(s): [default]

If you wanted to watch only the foo, bar, and baz namespaces, you could modify application.properties to change the namespaces configuration as follows, using the newly configured name for your reconciler:


Reconciliation logic

Now that you have configured your controller, it's time to implement the reconciliation logic. Whenever you create an ExposedApp CR, your Operator needs to create three dependent resources: a Deployment, a Service, and an Ingress. This concept of dependent resources is central to writing Operators: The desired state that you're targeting, as materialized by your CR, very often requires managing the state of several other resources either within Kubernetes or completely external to the cluster. Managing this state is what the reconcile() method is all about.

Kubernetes doesn't offer explicit ways to manage such related resources together, so it's up to controllers to identify and manage resources of interest. One common way to specify that resources belong together is to use labels. The use of labels is so common that there is a set of recommended labels to help you manage the resources associated with your applications.

Since the goal of the Operator you're developing here is to expose an application, it makes sense to add some of these labels to all the resources associated with your application, at least to be able to visualize them. Because the goal of this article is not to create a production-ready Operator, here you add only the app.kubernetes.io/name label and set its value to the name of your CR.

One aspect that Kubernetes can take care of automatically, though, is the lifecycle of dependent resources. More specifically, it often makes sense to remove all dependent resources when the primary resource is removed from the cluster. Removing the dependent resources make sense particularly in this use case: If you remove your ExposedApp CR from the cluster, you don't want to have to manually delete all the associated resources that your Operator created.

Of course, it's perfectly possible for your Operator to react to a deletion event of your CR by programmatically deleting the associated resources. However, if Kubernetes can do it automatically for you, you should definitely take advantage of this feature. You can ask Kubernetes to take care of this deletion by adding an owner reference pointing to your CR in all your dependent resources. This lets Kubernetes know that your primary resource (ExposedApp in this example) owns a set of associated dependent resources, so Kubernetes will automatically clean those up when the owner is deleted.

Both labels and owner references are part of a metadata resource field.

But enough theory. Let's look at the reconciler skeleton the operator-sdk tool generated for you:

public class ExposedAppReconciler implements Reconciler<ExposedApp> {
    private final KubernetesClient client;

    public ExposedAppReconciler(KubernetesClient client) {
        this.client = client;

    // TODO Fill in the rest of the reconciler

    public UpdateControl<ExposedApp> reconcile(ExposedApp exposedApp, Context context) {
        // TODO: fill in logic

        return UpdateControl.noUpdate();

The generated code gives you access to a KubernetesClient field. It's an automatically injected instance of the Kubernetes client provided by the Fabric8 project. You automatically get an instance configured to access the cluster you're connected to. You can, of course, configure the client using the configuration options provided by the Quarkus Kubernetes client extension, if necessary. This client was chosen because it offers an interface that is very natural for Java developers, providing a fluent API to interact with the Kubernetes API. Each Kubernetes API group is represented by a specific interface, guiding the user during their interaction with the cluster.

For example, to operate on Kubernetes Deployments, which are defined in the apps API group, retrieve the interface specific to a Deployment by calling client.apps().deployments(), where client is your Kubernetes client instance. To interact with CRDs in version v1, defined in the apiextensions.k8s.io group, call client.apiextensions().v1().customResourceDefinitions(), etc.

The logic of your Operator is implemented in the following method:

    public UpdateControl<ExposedApp> reconcile(ExposedApp exposedApp, Context context) {

This method gets triggered automatically by JOSDK whenever an ExposedApp is created or modified on the cluster. The resource that triggered the method is provided: That's the exposedApp parameter in the previous snippet. The context parameter provides, quite logically, contextual information about the current reconciliation. You'll learn more about this parameter in greater detail later.

The function has to return an UpdateControl instance. This return value tells JOSDK what needs to be done with your resource after the reconciliation is finished. Typically, you want to change the status of the resource, in which case you return UpdateControl.updateStatus, passing it your updated resource. If you want to enrich your resource with added metadata, return UpdateControl.updateResource. Return UpdateControl.noUpdate if no changes at all are needed on your resource.

While it's technically possible to even change the spec field of your resource, remember that this field represents the desired state specified by the user, and shouldn't be changed unduly by the Operator.

Now let's see what you need to do to create the Deployment associated with your ExposedApp CR:

final var name=exposedApp.getMetadata().getName();
final var spec=exposedApp.getSpec();
final var imageRef=spec.getImageRef();

var deployment =new DeploymentBuilder()
    .withMetadata(createMetadata(exposedApp, labels))


Let's go through this code. First, assuming that exposedApp is the instance of your ExposedApp CR that JOSDK provides you with when it triggers your reconcile() method, you retrieve its name and extract the imageRef value from its spec. Remember that this field records the image reference of the application you want to expose. You will use that information to build a Deployment using the Fabric8 client's DeploymentBuilder class.

The fluent interface makes the code reads almost like English: you create the metadata from the labels, use these labels to create a selector, and create a new template for spawned containers. These containers are named after the CR (its name is used as the container's name), and the image is specified quite logically by the imageRef value extracted from the CR spec. In this example, the port information is hardcoded, but you could extend the CR to add that information as well.

Finally, after retrieving the Deployment-specific interface, the method calls createOrReplace(), which, as its name implies, either creates the Deployment on the cluster or replaces it with the new values if the Deployment already exists. Easy enough.

The createMetadata() method is in charge of setting the labels, but also needs to set the owner reference on your dependent resources:

private ObjectMeta createMetadata(ExposedApp resource, Map<String, String> labels){
    final var metadata=resource.getMetadata();
    return new ObjectMetaBuilder()

The Service is created in a similar fashion:

client.services().createOrReplace(new ServiceBuilder()
        .withMetadata(createMetadata(exposedApp, labels))

The Ingress is slightly more complex because it depends on which Ingress controller is deployed on your cluster. In this example, you're configuring the Ingress specifically for the NGINX controller. If your cluster uses a different controller, the configuration would probably be different:

final var metadata = createMetadata(exposedApp, labels);
    "nginx.ingress.kubernetes.io/rewrite-target", "/",
    "kubernetes.io/ingress.class", "nginx"

client.network().v1().ingresses().createOrReplace(new IngressBuilder()

And that's about it for this very simple reconciliation algorithm. The only thing left to do is return an UpdateControl to let JOSDK know what to do with your CR after it's reconciled. In this case, you're not modifying the CR in any form, so you simply return UpdateControl.noUpdate(). JOSDK now knows that it doesn't need to send an updated version of your CR to the cluster and can update its internal state accordingly.

At this point, your Operator should still be running using Quarkus dev mode. If you create an ExposedApp resource and apply it to the cluster using kubectl apply, your Operator should now create the associated resources, as you can see by running the following command:

$ kubectl get all -l app.kubernetes.io/name=<name of your CR>

If everything worked well, you should indeed see that a Pod, a Service, a Deployment, and a ReplicaSet have all been created for your application. The Ingress is not part of the resources displayed by the kubectl get all command, so you need a separate command to check on your Ingress:

$ kubectl get ingresses.networking.k8s.io -l app.kubernetes.io/name=<name of your CR>

When writing this article, I created a hello-quarkus project with an ExposedApp that exposes a simple "Hello World" Quarkus application, and got the following result:

$ kubectl get ingresses.networking.k8s.io -l app.kubernetes.io/name=hello-quarkus
hello-quarkus <none>  *     localhost 80    9m40s

This application exposes a hello endpoint, and visiting http://localhost/hello resulted in the expected greeting. For your convenience, we put the code of this operator in the exposedapp-rhdblog GitHub repository. Future installments of this series will add more to this code, but the version specific to this installment will always be accessible via the part-3 tag.


This concludes part 3 of our series. You've finally implemented a very simple Operator and learned more about JOSDK in the process.

In part 1, you learned that one interesting aspect of Operators is that they enable users to deal with a Kubernetes cluster via the lens of an API customized to their needs and comfort level with Kubernetes clusters. In the use case we chose for this series, this simplified view is materialized by the ExposedApp API. However, this article has demonstrated that, although the tools you've used have made it easier to expose an application via only its image reference, knowing where to access the application is not trivial.

Similarly, checking whether things are working properly requires knowing about labels and how to retrieve associated resources from the cluster. The process is not difficult, but your Operator currently fulfills only one part of its contract. Thus, the next article in this series will look into adding that information to your CR so that your users really need to deal only with your Kubernetes extension and nothing else.

Last updated: February 11, 2024