Last modified January 28, 2022

The Giant Swarm App Platform

A large image with the words “The Giant Swarm App Platform” prominently visible over a screenshot of a list of apps

The Giant Swarm App Platform refers to a set of features and concepts that allow you to browse, install and manage the configurations of apps (such as Prometheus) from a single place; the management cluster.

We fully support Helm as a general tool to deploy your applications as well as for our general App Catalog. Apps are packaged as Helm charts and can be configured with values. We provide a recommended app configuration which you can override to meet your needs.

Using this platform, we are providing a collection of curated Apps. These Apps are grouped into App Catalogs, which are browsable through our web interface. We also use app platform to install the apps that are pre-installed in your cluster (such as CoreDNS).

In short: the Giant Swarm App Platform refers to the whole feature, and an App Catalog is a collection of Apps.

We provide two App Catalogs, the Giant Swarm Catalog and the Giant Swarm Playground. You are able to set up your own additional catalog(s) to provide for any needs you have at the enterprise level.

What makes up the Giant Swarm App Platform

Technically the App Platform is implemented as a set of operators running on your management cluster and workload clusters. These operators watch various Custom Resources, some created by us, and others created by you. Together, they make up the desired state of the App Platform.

For example, this “App” Custom Resource indicates that you want Kong installed on a specific workload cluster. We default some additional values for the workload cluster you select.

kind: App
  name: "my-kong"
  namespace: "x7jwz"
  catalog: "giantswarm"
      name: "x7jwz-cluster-values"
      namespace: "x7jwz"
  name: "kong-app"
  namespace: "kong"
  version: "0.7.2"
     inCluster: false
      name: "kong-user-values"
      namespace: "x7jwz"

Below you can see a high level overview of the components and resources that work together to enable the features of the Giant Swarm App Platform:

A diagram showing an overview of various components and concepts that make up the Giant Swarm App Platform

What kind of App Catalogs are there

By default you will have the Giant Swarm Catalog and the Giant Swarm Playground installed on your management clusters.

The Giant Swarm Catalog

This catalog contains our stable, fully managed apps, with SLA (e.g. the NGINX Ingress Controller). It also contain apps that we are developing towards that level of commitment (e.g. Kong, EFK).

Maturity levels of apps in this catalog are expressed through semantic versioning as follows:

  • Version with -alpha or -beta suffix - the application is only at a basic maturity level. There is no stable release. It is supported on a best effort basis,
  • Version with -rc* suffix - the application is at a preview maturity level. This allows customers to preview a new release of an application and evaluate new features. It is supported on a best effort basis.
  • version >= v1.0.0 with no suffix - the specified version of the application is at a stable maturity level. It is available to our customers as a managed offering with support and SLA.

The Giant Swarm Playground

This is our go-to place to create and try out things. Mainly, this contains apps that we have added in order help you with a certain issue. Additionally, you will find some apps that we created for non-commercial purposes (e.g. for a blog post or a workshop).

Bear in mind that we do NOT support these apps and they won’t be worked on with priority. These apps might not ever make it into the Giant Swarm Catalog. What you will get, is an app at a basic maturity level at a specific point in time.

We encourage you to try out this playground catalog and the different apps offered there. As always, feedback is welcome.

Installing your own App Catalog

It’s possible to create your own App Catalog. This is useful if you want to create a set of apps available to your company. Currently, this functionality is only available through direct access to the Giant Swarm Management API. You can request access from your Account Engineer. Prerequisite for this is a standard Helm chart repository. It should be served through HTTP and accessible to the management cluster and your workload clusters.

How can I interact with the Giant Swarm App Platform

You can interact with the Giant Swarm App Platform through creating App custom resources using the Management API, our web interface, and our REST API.

Both our web interface and REST API are used to create (or update) a set of App Custom Resources on your Kubernetes management cluster.

As we are giving you direct access to the Management API you can also interact with the above mentioned resources using kubectl, and automate them just as you have been automating other parts of your stack. And as Kubernetes resources and especially some CRDs require lots of boilerplate and conventions, we built a kubectl plugin to help you with that.