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What’s in a controller?

Controllers are the core of Kubernetes, and of any operator.

It’s a controller’s job to ensure that, for any given object, the actual state of the world (both the cluster state, and potentially external state like running containers for Kubelet or loadbalancers for a cloud provider) matches the desired state in the object. Each controller focuses on one root Kind, but may interact with other Kinds.

We call this process reconciling.

In controller-runtime, the logic that implements the reconciling for a specific kind is called a Reconciler. A reconciler takes the name of an object, and returns whether or not we need to try again (e.g. in case of errors or periodic controllers, like the HorizontalPodAutoscaler).

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First, we start out with some standard imports. As before, we need the core controller-runtime library, as well as the client package, and the package for our API types.

package controllers

import (

	ctrl ""

	batchv1 ""

Next, kubebuilder has scaffolded a basic reconciler struct for us. Pretty much every reconciler needs to log, and needs to be able to fetch objects, so these are added out of the box.

// CronJobReconciler reconciles a CronJob object
type CronJobReconciler struct {
	Scheme *runtime.Scheme

Most controllers eventually end up running on the cluster, so they need RBAC permissions, which we specify using controller-tools RBAC markers. These are the bare minimum permissions needed to run. As we add more functionality, we’ll need to revisit these.


The ClusterRole manifest at config/rbac/role.yaml is generated from the above markers via controller-gen with the following command:

// make manifests

NOTE: If you receive an error, please run the specified command in the error and re-run make manifests.

Reconcile actually performs the reconciling for a single named object. Our Request just has a name, but we can use the client to fetch that object from the cache.

We return an empty result and no error, which indicates to controller-runtime that we’ve successfully reconciled this object and don’t need to try again until there’s some changes.

Most controllers need a logging handle and a context, so we set them up here.

The context is used to allow cancellation of requests, and potentially things like tracing. It’s the first argument to all client methods. The Background context is just a basic context without any extra data or timing restrictions.

The logging handle lets us log. controller-runtime uses structured logging through a library called logr. As we’ll see shortly, logging works by attaching key-value pairs to a static message. We can pre-assign some pairs at the top of our reconcile method to have those attached to all log lines in this reconciler.

func (r *CronJobReconciler) Reconcile(ctx context.Context, req ctrl.Request) (ctrl.Result, error) {
	_ = log.FromContext(ctx)

	// your logic here

	return ctrl.Result{}, nil

Finally, we add this reconciler to the manager, so that it gets started when the manager is started.

For now, we just note that this reconciler operates on CronJobs. Later, we’ll use this to mark that we care about related objects as well.

func (r *CronJobReconciler) SetupWithManager(mgr ctrl.Manager) error {
	return ctrl.NewControllerManagedBy(mgr).

Now that we’ve seen the basic structure of a reconciler, let’s fill out the logic for CronJobs.