Package managers like dnf and apt increase the convenience of installing, updating, and maintaining applications on operating systems. For developers, a package manager provides a standardized way of packaging and distributing their applications.

Helm is a package manager for Kubernetes. It is implemented in Go and installed as a binary helm. It interacts with the Kubernetes cluster using Kubernetes API.


Helm distributes Kubernetes-based applications in a format called Chart.
Charts can deploy all kinds of Kubernetes resources such as Deployments, Pods, Services, Persistent Volumes, etc.

Structure of a Helm Chart

Chart’s directory contains the following files and sub-directories:

  • Chart.yaml contains the chart’s metadata
  • charts/ directory contains dependencies (other charts)
  • crds/ directory contains the custom resources required by the chart
  • templates/ stores the templates for Kubernetes resources
  • values.yaml stores the configuration values for templates


The chart’s metadata includes

  • Chart’s name
  • Application’s version
  • Chart’s type (application or library)
    • application charts package Kubernetes applications that could be installed directly on the cluster.
    • library charts are used by other charts to extend their functionality.
  • Compatible Kubernetes versions
  • Keywords related to the chart, its homepage, and link to the chart’s source code
  • Dependencies
  • Contact information of chart’s maintainers

templates and values

Resource templates are based on the Go template convention. Example of a Deployment resource template

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: nginx-deployment
    app: nginx
  replicas: {{ .Values.replicaNum }}
      app: nginx
        app: nginx
      - name: {{ .Values.containerName }}
        image: {{ .Values.containerImage }}
        - containerPort: {{ .Values.containerPort }}

The values to be substituted in this template will be provided from values.yaml file in the chart’s root directory. Example of a values.yaml file for the template

replicaNum: "3"
containerName: "nginx-test"
containerImage: ""
containerPort: "80"

The structure of the values.yaml file is defined in values.schema.json. Chart developers can also define the datatype of each value. Example of a values.schema.json file

  "$schema": "",
  "properties": {
    "replicaNum": {
      "type": "string"
    "containerName": {
      "type": "string"
    "containerImage": {
      "type": "string"
    "containerPort": {
      "type": "string"
  "required": [
  "title": "Values",
  "type": "object"


Custom Resources (CRs) are installed before any other resource is created by the helm chart. Some limitations imposed on the CRs created by the helm charts:

  • YAML manifests of CRs could not be templated for values.
  • CRs would not be reinstalled with a chart.
  • Upgrades and rollbacks do not impact the CRs installed by the chart.
  • Helm doesn’t delete CRs upon uninstallation.

Chart Repository

Helm charts are distributed through HTTP servers called Repositories. The metadata of available charts in the repository is stored in index.yaml.

A repository could be added using

helm repo add jenkins-x 

Here jenkins-x is the name of the helm chart repository and is the link to the repository.

Once a repository is added, it is recommended to update the information of available charts in the local cache.

helm repo update

The repo command also provides list and remove for listing and removing repositories respectively.

Searching Helm Charts in Repositories and ArtifactHub

To search a helm chart within the added repositories the search command could be used

helm search repo tekton

ArtifactHub is a web platform that provides access to multiple Kubernetes-based applications including helm charts. helm search can also be used for searching packages in ArtifactHub

helm search hub tekton

Installing Helm Charts

Each instance of a helm chart installation is called a Release.

A release will be created after executing the following command.

helm install tekton-pipelines jenkins-x/tekton

Here, tekton-pipelines is the name of the release and jenkins-x/tekton is the name of the helm chart to be installed.

To install a local helm chart, the chart name will be substituted with the path to the chart’s directory or archive

helm install test-helm-chart ./test-helm-chart

Configuration values are passed from a file using the --values flag.

During development, if developers want to inspect the manifests created during release and avoid installing the chart on a cluster then they can run the install command with --debug and --dry-run flags.

Upgrading and Rolling Back Releases

Helm performs the least invasive upgrades on chart releases i.e. updates only the changed resources. The upgrade command is used to upgrade a chart release

helm upgrade -f newValues.yaml test-helm-chart ./test-helm-chart

Release test-helm-chart will be updated with values in newValues.yaml.

On every upgrade, the chart release’s revision number will be incremented by 1. To view the history of releases with their respective revision numbers

helm history test-helm-chart

For some reason, if the chart upgrade doesn’t go as planned it could be rolled back to a previous revision number.

helm rollback test-helm-chart 1

will rollback the test-helm-chart release to its first revision.

Uninstalling Helm Chart

The uninstall command will remove all the resources created by the helm chart release from the Kubernetes cluster (except CRs). It will also wipe the history of the release, to retain history the --keep-history flag could be used with the command.

helm uninstall test-helm-chart

Example of a Helm Chart: Grafana Helm Chart

Grafana is an analytics tool that provides utilities for creating dashboards with graphs and alerts. Using Grafana developers can create dashboards for monitoring services, presenting business metrics, etc.

Grafana’s Helm Chart will perform the following changes to the Kubernetes cluster

  • Create pods and other workload resources required by Grafana
  • Create services and security policies
  • Create ConfigMaps and Secrets for pods
  • Create PersistentVolumes
  • Create RBAC resources

Creating Helm Charts

The boilerplate code for helm charts is generated using create command.

helm create test-helm-chart

will create a directory test-helm-chart containing basic chart resources (Chart.yaml, charts/, templates/, values.yaml, etc.).

Testing a Helm Chart

Developers can define tests for their helm charts in the templates directory (or templates/tests for better organization).

Tests are defined as Kubernetes Pods with the following annotation.

    "": test

Test pods should finish with exit code 0 to be marked successful.

To execute tests defined with a release

helm test test-helm-chart

Packaging Helm Charts

Charts are packaged as GZIP compressed archives with extension tgz. The package subcommand will create the archive from the chart’s directory

helm package ./test-helm-chart

The archive could be signed (--sign) by its developer using a key passed with a --key flag.

Distributing Helm Charts

Chart Repositories

The chart repository server contains

  • an index.yaml containing chart’s metadata
  • charts packaged as archives (for example test-helm-chart-0.0.1.tgz)
  • chart’s provenance files (test-helm-chart-0.0.1.tgz.prov) containing integrity and validation data

A publicly available helm chart repository could be created using GitHub pages. Public helm chart repositories could also be added to ArtifactHub.

OCI-based registries

Some OCI-based registries like DockerHub support helm chart distribution. To distribute a chart through DockerHub the user has to login to the registry through helm

helm registry login -u bovem

Here bovem is the DockerHub username and is the link to the DockerHub registry. To push the chart to DockerHub it has to be packaged as an archive

helm push test-helm-chart-0.0.1.tgz oci://

Similarly, a specific version of the chart could be pulled from DockerHub using the pull command.

helm pull oci:// --version 0.0.1

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Using the DNF software package manager
Helm Architecture
Installing Helm
The Chart Repository Guide
Tekton’s Helm Chart
Grafana’s Helm Chart