What is Helm ?

This article describes helm in detail

3/24/20242 min read

Helm is a package manager for Kubernetes, akin to what Apt is to Ubuntu or Yum is to CentOS. It was created to simplify the deployment of applications on Kubernetes clusters. Helm allows users to package, configure, and deploy applications onto Kubernetes clusters in a consistent and manageable way. This packaging of applications is known as charts in Helm's terminology.

Why Helm is Important

Kubernetes has become the de facto standard for deploying and managing containerized applications at scale. However, managing Kubernetes resources can be complex, involving multiple YAML files for deploying even simple applications. Helm simplifies this complexity by allowing developers and system administrators to package these configurations into a single Helm chart. This chart can then be versioned, shared, and reused, making deployments more consistent and manageable.

Helm Charts: The Basics

A Helm chart is a collection of files that describe a related set of Kubernetes resources. A single chart might be used to deploy something simple, like a memcached pod, or something complex, like a full web app stack with HTTP servers, databases, caches, and so on.

Charts are created as a structured directory of files and directories, including:

- A `Chart.yaml` file that contains metadata about the chart.

- Templates for Kubernetes YAML files, which are dynamically filled in with values from a `values.yaml` file or from custom values provided at the time of deployment.

- A `values.yaml` file that provides default configuration values for the chart.

- Optionally, charts can include hooks and tests to run lifecycle events and to validate the deployment.

How Helm Works

Helm operates through a client-server architecture with two main components:

- The Helm client (`helm`), which is a command-line tool that the user interacts with to initiate chart searches, installations, updates, and other actions.

- The Tiller server (deprecated since Helm 3), which used to interact with the Kubernetes API server to install, upgrade, query, and remove Kubernetes resources. Since Helm 3, Helm operates without Tiller, directly interacting with the Kubernetes API, which significantly improves security and operation simplicity.

Helm in DevOps Practices

Helm charts support complex deployments, which can include all dependencies and configuration needed to deploy an application. This supports DevOps practices by:

- Versioning: Charts are versioned, and Helm tracks the deployment, making rollback to an earlier chart version straightforward.

- Collaboration: Charts can be shared through Helm chart repositories, which could be public or private. This facilitates collaboration among teams and also the use of public charts for common software packages.

- Automation: Helm can be integrated into continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, automating the deployment of applications.

Advantages of Using Helm

- Simplification: Helm abstracts Kubernetes resources' complexity, allowing for easier deployments.

- Consistency: By using charts, teams ensure consistent deployments, even across different environments.

- Management: Helm provides an easy way to manage and update deployed applications.

- Community: A vast repository of existing Helm charts for popular applications allows users to leverage community expertise and reduce the time to go live.

Best Practices with Helm

- Secure Chart Repositories: Always use secure and trusted repositories to avoid security risks.

- Minimal Permissions: Apply the principle of least privilege to your deployments, granting only necessary permissions.

- Custom Values: Customize charts using `values.yaml` to avoid modifying the original chart, facilitating easy updates.

- Regular Updates: Keep both Helm and your charts up to date to benefit from security patches and new features.


Helm has become an indispensable tool in the Kubernetes ecosystem, significantly simplifying the deployment and management of applications. By abstracting the complexity of Kubernetes resources into manageable charts, Helm enables developers and operators to deploy applications quickly, consistently, and safely. As the cloud-native landscape continues to evolve, tools like Helm play a pivotal role in enhancing productivity and promoting best practices in cloud-native development.

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