Originally open sourced by Netflix in 2015, Spinnaker is a continuous delivery platform for releasing software changes rapidly and reliably. Spinnaker provides the flexibility to deploy applications on virtual machines running in the cloud or in your container platform of choice, such as Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) or Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS).

Keel is an optional microservice of Spinnaker that enables the GitOps experience. This happens by allowing users to declaratively define their desired end state of infrastructure resources and software components as the source of truth. Keel then reconciles the state of the deployed software to match the end state defined by users. Note that Keel is not a complete replacement for Spinnaker pipelines. Keel is an alternative to traditional Spinnaker pipeline with a focus on what users want to deploy, not how to get there.

In this post, we’ll walk through the process of deploying Spinnaker core microservices and Keel to a Kubernetes cluster and then deploying a sample Kubernetes application using Keel.


In this post, we will explain how to:

  • Set up an Amazon EKS cluster.
  • Generate Spinnaker configuration files using Kleat.
  • Create and customize Kubernetes Kustomization files for Spinnaker microservices.
  • Run Spinnaker with Keel on the Amazon EKS cluster.
  • Create and run an example Kubernetes service and deployment using Keel.


The following tools must be installed:

Setting up Spinnaker

Clone the GitHub repository

Run the following command to clone the setup repository to your local machine:

git clone https://github.com/aws-samples/spinnaker-keel-on-eks.git && cd keel-setup-guide

The commands used in the rest of this post are run from this repository’s root.

Set up an Amazon EKS cluster

Open eks/cluster.yaml in a text editor and examine the configuration options, which instructs eksctl to create the following resources:

  • An Amazon EKS cluster named keel-guide in the us-west-2 region.
  • An Amazon EKS managed node group, which will run Spinnaker workload.
  • Kubernetes service accounts with IAM roles associations for the Front50 microservice.

Create an Amazon EKS cluster by running the following command. Note that the --profile flag specifies which AWS CLI named profile to use.

eksctl --profile default create cluster -f eks/cluster.yaml

Set up an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket

Spinnaker requires a persistent storage location to store its applications and pipeline information. Various options are supported, but we use Amazon S3 in this guide. Follow one of the options in the “Creating a bucket” documentation to create an S3 bucket in the us-west-2 region.

Open halconfig.yaml file and update the persistentStorage.s3.bucket field with the name of the bucket just created.

Create a Kubernetes service account

We will use the Kubernetes cluster we created earlier to deploy Docker images for our example application. Run the following commands to create a service account and generate a kubeconfig file for Spinnaker to deploy Kubernetes resources. If you do not want to grant access to all namespace, follow Armory’s guide for creating namespace-specific permissions.

kubectl create ns keel
kubectl apply -f eks/deploy-sa.yaml

Run the following command to verify the newly generated kubeconfig file works. If it is generated correctly, it should return pods in all namespaces.

kubectl --kubeconfig spinnaker-config/overlays/keel/secrets/kubeconfig-deploy get pods -A

Deploy Spinnaker with Keel

Run the following command to make kleat generate configuration files for Spinnaker microservices:

kleat generate halconfig.yml spinnaker-config/base/kleat

The preceding command generates configuration files for each Spinnaker microservice under the spinnaker-config/base/kleat directory. These files are mounted as Kubernetes secrets on respective Spinnaker microservice pods.

Run the following command to deploy Spinnaker with Keel using kustomize:

kustomize build spinnaker-config/overlays/keel | kubectl apply -f -

The command creates the following deployments in your cluster:

  • Spinnaker microservices with Keel
  • Redis
  • MySQL, which is used by Keel to store application state information such as artifacts and environments

Wait for the Kubernetes resources to finish deploying, which should take approximately 10 minutes. Run the following command to verify it:

kubectl -n spinnaker get deployments

When it’s done deploying, all deployments should be shown in ready state.

Redeploy Spinnaker with accessible UI

Next, we need to redeploy Spinnaker and make Spinnaker aware of the load balancer URL to access the UI.

In halconfig.yml, navigate to security.apiSecurity.overrideBaseUrl. Replace the placeholder value with the value returned by the following command:

kubectl -n spinnaker get svc gate -o jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].hostname}'

In the same file, navigate to security.uiSecurity.overrideBaseUrl. Replace the placeholder value with the value returned by the following command:

kubectl -n spinnaker get svc deck -o jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].hostname}'

Note that the following steps will expose your Spinnaker UI to the world, and it should be used for testing purposes only.

If you would like to restrict access based on IP range, add spec.loadBalancerSourceRanges to gate and deck services. Refer to spinnaker-config/overlays/keel/patch-gate.yml and spinnaker-config/overlays/keel/patch-gate.yml for more detail.

Redeploy Spinnaker:

kleat generate halconfig.yml spinnaker-config/base/kleat
kustomize build spinnaker-config/overlays/keel | kubectl apply -f -

Wait for new pods to finish deploying and verify that the new pods are deployed:

kubectl -n spinnaker rollout status deployment kubectl -n spinnaker get pods 

Once new pods are ready, navigate to the address returned by kubectl -en spinnaker get deck gate -o jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].hostname}'

The Spinnaker UI should now be shown with an empty list of applications.

Create a Keel-enabled application

The Spinnaker deployment does not have any applications in it. Let’s create a sample application with the following configuration features:

  • Consists of a Kubernetes service and deployment.
  • New container images are automatically deployed.
  • Rollback changes when the container image is bad.

Create a GitHub repository

Spinnaker needs a Git repository to store application delivery configuration information. Create a repository by following GitHub’s guide.

Create a GitHub token

Spinnaker needs to be able to pull application delivery configuration from the repository. GitHub requires an access token to retrieve repository information.

  1. Create an access token for GitHub and assign the repo scope. McCloskey Spinnaker keel F1
  2. Open the halconfig.yml file in a text editor.
  3. Navigate to artifacts.github.enabled and set the value to true.
  4. Navigate to artifacts.github.accounts. Replace the placeholder token value <TOKEN> with the access token generated in step 1.
  5. Open spinnaker-config/overlays/keel/secrets/igor-local.yml in a text editor.
  6. Update the accessToken field with the token generated in step 1.

Create a GitHub Webhook

We need to notify Spinnaker when there is a change to the repository. We will use GitHub’s webhook capability for this guide.

    1. Navigate to your repository’s settings page.
    2. In settings select Add webhook.McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F2
    3. In the webhook configuration page, specify the Spinnaker webhook URL, http://${GATE_URL}/webhooks/git/github. The GATE_URL value can be found by running:
      kubectl -n spinnaker get svc gate -o jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].hostname}
    4. Select application/json as the context type.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F3

  1. Select the Add Webhook button to finish creating webhook.

Configure a Docker Hub repository

We will also create a public Docker Hub repository to pull available images for deployment.

  1. Create a public Docker Hub repository by following the Docker repositories guide.
  2. Create an image to use for our example application; replace <CHANGEME> with your repository name.
docker build -t <CHANGEME>:0.0.1 .
docker push <CHANGEME>:0.0.1
  1. In halconfig.yml navigate to providers.dockerRegistry.accounts. Replace REPO_NAME with your repository name you just created.
  2. In the same file, set providers.dockerRegistry.enabled value to true.

Reconfigure Spinnaker microservices

  1. Run the following command to make kleat regenerate configuration files for Spinnaker microservices:
    kleat generate halconfig.yml spinnaker-config/base/kleat
  2. Redeploy Spinnaker to apply configuration changes:
    kustomize build spinnaker-config/overlays/keel | kubectl apply -f -
  3. Check deployment status with the following command:
    kubectl -n spinnaker get pods

Create a service account

Keel needs a Spinnaker service account to manage delivery configurations for the sample application.

  1. Port forward the Front50 service by running the following command:
    kubectl -n spinnaker port-forward svc/front50 8080
  2. In a different terminal session, run the following command to create a service account:
    curl localhost:8080/serviceAccounts
  3. Verify the account was created:
    curl localhost:8080/serviceAccounts

Create an application

Navigate to the Applications tab and select the Create Application button. Enter an application name and an email address. The email address does not need to be valid.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F4

Once the application is created, select the Config tab, check the Environments checkbox, and Save Changes.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F5 1

Create a sample pipeline

Naviagate to the Pipelines tab on the left, select Create Pipeline, enter a name for the pipeline, then select Create. Choose the Pipeline Actions button on the upper right, and then select Edit as JSON.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F6

In the new window, paste the following, and be sure to update these values:

  • The slug field should reference your GitHub repository name. For example, use clouddriver for github.com/spinnaker/clouddriver.
  • The project field should reference your GitHub user name or organization name. For example, use spinnaker for github.com/spinnaker/clouddriver.
  • The secret value must match the secret value specified when creating the webhook for the pipeline.
{ "appConfig": {}, "expectedArtifacts": [], "keepWaitingPipelines": false, "lastModifiedBy": "an", "limitConcurrent": true, "spelEvaluator": "v4", "stages": [ { "name": "Import Delivery Config", "refId": "2", "requisiteStageRefIds": [], "type": "importDeliveryConfig" } ], "triggers": [ { "branch": "main", "enabled": true, "expectedArtifactIds": [], "project": "CHANGEME", "runAsUser": "keeldemo-service-account", "secret": "SuperSecret", "slug": "CHANGEME", "source": "github", "type": "git" } ], "updateTs": "1612981078000"

This will create a pipeline with one stage, Import Delivery Config, which instructs Keel to manage specified resources. Save the pipeline configuration by selecting the Save Changes button.

Keel in action

The application is now ready to be deployed. We will commit the delivery config file, which Keel uses to deploy the application to the Kubernetes cluster.

Create a service config file

Clone your GitHub repository to your local machine. Copy spinnaker.yml file to .spinnaker/spinnaker.yml in your repository. Be sure to replace <CHANGEME> with your Docker Hub repository name.

The file defines the following Keel resources:

  • Deployment environments: Dev and Prod.
  • Kubernetes manifests for the sample application.
  • Dependency constrains.

Commit the file and push to GitHub.

git add .spinnaker/spinnaker.yml &amp;&amp; git commit -m 'initial commit' &amp;&amp; git push

Testing Keel example application

As soon as the file is committed to your repository, the pipeline is being executed in your application. Click on the Tasks tab and you should see Kubernetes resources being provisioned.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F7

To verify Kubernetes resources are deployed, run the following commands:

kubectl -n keel get deployments
kubectl -n keel get svc

In the Spinnaker application, navigate to the Environments tab. There should be 0.0.1 version of the artifact available, and this version is deployed to Dev and Prod environments. In this case, available versions are dictated by the Docker image tags available in the Docker Hub repository.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F8

When a new image version is pushed to the repository, Keel will automatically deploy it to the Kubernetes cluster.

To see automatic deployment in action, run the following commands to create and push a new version of artifact:

echo -e "Hello version is 0.0.2" > index.html
docker build docker build -t <CHANGEME>:0.0.2 . && docker push <CHANGEME>:0.0.2 .

Once the new Docker image finishes pushing, a new version is available in your Spinnaker environment, and new deployments into prod and dev environments will start.

Verify that the new image was pushed by running these commands:

kubectl -n keel port-forward svc/keeldemo 8080
curl localhost:8080

A particular version of an artifact can be pinned to an environment. When an artifact is pinned to an environment, no version of the artifact can be deployed to the environment until the pin is removed.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F9

Artifacts can also be marked as bad. Bad artifacts are removed from the environment and the previous version is deployed to the environment instead.

McCloskey Spinnaker Keel F10

There are more actions, constraints, and delivery config options available than what we covered in this post. Check out the official documentation to learn more.

Clean up

Remove all Spinnaker microservices workloads and its resources.

kustomize build spinnaker-config/overlays/keel | kubectl delete -f -
eksctl delete cluster -f eks/cluster.yaml


Spinnaker Keel allows you to operate in GitOps mode by providing ways to declaratively define infrastructure and software delivery. To learn more, refer to the official documentation and FAQ.

Get involved

The Spinnaker Keel project is an open source project. We would love for you to join the community and start contributing. Join us on Slack and GitHub.