draft up

For my next few posts, I thought I’d pick on some of the technologies that Jenkins X uses under the covers. The first of these is Draft, originally from Deis but it went with them to Microsoft. Draft’s aim is to streamline the process of developing code that runs on Kubernetes. It’s evolved a bit since it was originally released: having started with a client-server architecture, it is now entirely client based. There are many good reasons for this although one of the things that differentiated Draft originally was that it didn’t need anything on the developer’s machine other than Draft itself: not even Docker.

The part of Draft that Jenkins X uses is the ability to add a Dockerfile and Helm chart to an existing project. The combination of Dockerfile and Helm chart is stored in what Draft calls a ‘pack’. On running a draft create, Draft does some nifty analysis to detect the language being used in the project in order to select the appropriate pack to use. As you and I know though, language alone is not going to tell me whether I’m, say, running an executable JAR or providing a WAR file to run on an app server. Fortunately, there’s a --pack option so I can tell Draft which pack to use. The pack mechanism is nicely extensible with the ability to specify new repositories (simply a Git repo containing a packs folder). The packs used by Jenkins X (which include one for Liberty even if it isn’t very good) can be found here. Draft is also clever enough to know that, if I already have a Dockerfile or chart, I probably don’t want the one from the pack instead.

Once I have a Dockerfile and chart, the next step is to deploy my application using draft up. Draft’s expecting to find the Kubernetes context and Helm already set-up. It’ll build the Docker image and if a registry is configured push the image there. The latter isn’t compulsory though so if I’m using Docker Desktop (the new name for Docker for Mac/Windows) or have my Docker client pointing at my Minikube Docker daemon then I can just use the image out of the cache. It will then use Helm to deploy the application, passing through overrides for image.repository and image.tag to reference the image that’s just been built (using a unique tag). It will even set up an imagePullSecret if necessary. You can use draft logs to see the output from the build and deploy.

Originally, Draft came with a ‘watch’ mode where it would attempt to detect file updates and automatically rebuild. Thankfully that now seems to have been dropped as, with a completely unoptimised build cycle, it really wasn’t practical. The Java pack is particularly bad as the provided Dockerfile doesn’t even attempt to cache the Maven dependencies. Now you simply run draft up again to trigger a rebuild (which you could hook up to your editor’s save option if you really wished).

The last part of the Draft developer experience is draft connect which pipes the logs from any deployed containers to your terminal, along with setting up port forwarding. Sensibly, it allows you configure the local ports that you want to forward to and this, along with other configuration, can be stored in a draft.toml file with your application. (The authors have to be congratulated for breaking with the current trend and using TOML rather than YAML!)

There are a few extra niceties in that you can define additional plugins (arbitrary commands that share the Draft meta-data via environment variables) and you can define tasks for a project that execute pre-up, post-deploy, and on cleanup. If, like me, you left wondering where these are documented, check out the Draft Enhancement Proposals where they were introduced.

All-in-all, there is nothing here that couldn’t be achieved here by scripting together a few standard commands but just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful. It’s one of many projects that are attempting to reduce developer friction when deploying to Kubernetes, and you can expect a few more posts covering others…

Leave a Reply