K8S Tiller/Helm History Cleanup

K8S Tiller/Helm History Cleanup

GitHub Project: https://github.com/atkaper/k8s-tiller-history-cleanup


WARNING: This is about helm 2, in the old days… (2019) Please move to helm 3+, and do not use this old cleanup anymore 😉 Article just kept for historic purposes.

In our on premise Kubernetes cluster, we use Helm for a big part of our application / micro-services deployments. Helm uses an engine called Tiller (which is a deployment in the cluster). It executes the installs / updates / deletes, and it stores the results of deployments in the system as config maps.

While migrating our applications to a new K8S cluster, we saw that we forgot to set a limit on the history which is kept by Helm/Tiller. Oops… unlimited history is the default.

Of course it’s easy to change the history setting in Tiller from unlimited to for example 5. But it seems changing the value does not pro-actively cleanup the old data (or at least not in the version we use). It does cleanup the history for a single named release, when deploying a new version of such a release.

To execute a pro-active cleanup, I did write a small shell script. The script actually does more than just truncate the history. It also scans the cluster for active artifacts from Helm deployments. If none are found, then the complete history for it is removed.

If you use Helm to do your artifact deletions (with purge option), this would not be needed. In our case however, we create lots of temporary namespaces. One for each Jira ticket number for which a code change needs to be tested. And these namespaces are deleted (using “kubectl delete namespace <###>”) by a cronjob when the Jira ticket changes it’s status to resolved or closed. But of course this leaves you the Helm history entries, without the actual deployments being there.

Running the script

Let’s first start setting up the proper history length in the already installed Tiller deployment. For our cluster, I could do that using the following command:

kubectl edit deploy -n kube-system tiller-deploy

Your “favourite” editor will open, and then you can set the history size in the environment variable section, like this:

      - env:
        - name: TILLER_NAMESPACE
          value: kube-system
        - name: TILLER_HISTORY_MAX
          value: "5"Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

After this, you get the cleanup script from the TILLER_NAMESPACE=kube-system TILLER_HISTORY_MAX=5

If you then run the script without parameters, you will get a little help text:

Usage: ./tiller-cleanup.sh [-f | -n]
Use -n for a dry-run to show what would be deleted
Use -f to execute a run with actual deletesCode language: JavaScript (javascript)

This should be pretty clear now. Just run it the first time with the “-n” option, and if you trust the output of things it would delete, then repeat the run with the “-f” option to execute it with real deletes.

Note: the way this script finds active Helm installed components , is by scanning for all K8S items labeled with “heritage=Tiller”, and taking the “release” label as the Helm release name.

Note: the script needs a working “kubectl” command line interface, with properly setup cluster context. It does not actually need the “helm” command, it finds and deletes everything using just kubectl.

We are running this in our old Kubernetes cluster, using helm v2.8.2 and Kubernetes 1.8.x. If we try this one on our new 1.13+ Kubernetes cluster, I might update this post to let you know if that works 😉


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