Introducing Plugins for Spinnaker (Beta)

Intro

Software is written with a particular purpose in mind, e.g., text editing, payment processing, chatting, etc. Despite having automation via software, historically we have still had to manually integrate disparate components. For example, when a build is ready, it is a manual process to install it to a server. Over the past decade, there has been a growing trend towards integrating your software with other systems.

While it may seem commonplace these days, that green "build passing” sign in your favorite project’s repo is one of those integrations that saves us countless hours of time:

Automation via system integration is more important than ever, as seen by these projects:

  • Build Systems (Jenkins)
  • Chat Applications (Slack, Teams)
  • Agile Project Planning (Jira, Trello)
  • Cloud Hosting (Heroku)
  • etc.

In the context of Spinnaker, integrating with other systems is challenging. Traditionally, integration required either:

  • Adding new functionality into open source, or
  • Extending and maintaining individual Spinnaker services

In order to make extending Spinnaker functionality easier to do, we're working on the ability to create and use plugins for the Spinnaker ecosystem.

Motivation

Everyone who runs Spinnaker has slightly different needs, and that is one of the great things about Spinnaker — it will meet you where you are. One great example of this is the built-in ability to use many different cloud providers. Currently, Spinnaker packages up the functionality to interact with every supported cloud provider, whether users use them or not.

This unused functionality leads to bloated binaries and a larger threat surface. Ideally, you'd be able to customize your Spinnaker installation to include only what you need. In the case of Spinnaker's Clouddriver microservice, it would be great to configure and include functionality only for the clouds you interact with. Playing this idea forward, you might even want to split up each Clouddriver microservice to interact with one cloud provider at a time, so you can scale Clouddriver instances independently for each cloud.

Stripping out unnecessary and unused pieces of code turns Spinnaker into a project with a lean core. With the addition of Plugins, we provide the basis for an expansive ecosystem. By moving Spinnaker towards being a project with a lean core and expansive ecosystem, users will be able to customize their own Spinnaker faster and have a lower barrier to entry for contributing to the Spinnaker ecosystem. Plugins also help deliver new features to Spinnaker users without requiring a version update. After talking with numerous customers about this feature, we heard about the following use cases:

  • Add features without requiring an update
  • Smaller binaries for large scale Spinnaker deployments and reduced threat surface
  • Enable Spinnaker to interact with their custom infrastructure, in a native way

Do you have any use cases you’d like to share? Reach out to us at plugins@armory.io!

How to Use it

All that sounds great, but how do we get there? Version 1.16 of Spinnaker includes the ability to add custom stages via plugins, as seen in this demo video.

 

Adding a new stage is as simple as creating a package that implements an interface in Java and configuring your Spinnaker installation to use your new plugin! This significantly lowers the barrier to entry to customizing Spinnaker to integrate with custom environments.

Once you’ve packaged up your plugin (or use an off-the-shelf plugin), then you can use Halyard to update the Spinnaker configs and re-deploy the necessary Spinnaker services with the configured plugin(s). In the case of custom stages, the services that are re-deployed are Orca and Deck.

Future Goals

This is just the start of the plugin ecosystem for Spinnaker. Future plans include a registry, since a plugin ecosystem isn’t complete without a way to discover and download your favorite plugins. We’d love to see both OSS and Enterprise members contribute to the plugin ecosystem and we plan to help facilitate that.

If you have any questions or use cases, please don’t hesitate to contact us at plugins@armory.io!