Overview #

Kubernetes (k8s) does not have the notion of a resource “depending on” on another k8s resource, at least not in terms of the order in which these resources should be reconciled. Kubernetes operators typically need to reconcile resources in order because these resources’ state often depends on the state of other resources or cannot be processed until these other resources reach a given state or some condition holds true for them. Dealing with such scenarios are therefore rather common for operators and the purpose of the workflow feature of the Java Operator SDK (JOSDK) is to simplify supporting such cases in a declarative way. Workflows build on top of the dependent resources feature. While dependent resources focus on how a given secondary resource should be reconciled, workflows focus on orchestrating how these dependent resources should be reconciled.

Workflows describe how as a set of dependent resources (DR) depend on one another, along with the conditions that need to hold true at certain stages of the reconciliation process.

Elements of Workflow #

  • Dependent resource (DR) - are the resources being managed in a given reconciliation logic.
  • Depends-on relation - a B DR depends on another A DR if B needs to be reconciled after A.
  • Reconcile precondition - is a condition on a given DR that needs to be become true before the DR is reconciled. This also allows to define optional resources that would, for example, only be created if a flag in a custom resource .spec has some specific value.
  • Ready postcondition - is a condition on a given DR to prevent the workflow from proceeding until the condition checking whether the DR is ready holds true
  • Delete postcondition - is a condition on a given DR to check if the reconciliation of dependents can proceed after the DR is supposed to have been deleted

Defining Workflows #

Similarly to dependent resources, there are two ways to define workflows, in managed and standalone manner.

Managed #

Annotations can be used to declaratively define a workflow for a Reconciler. Similarly to how things are done for dependent resources, managed workflows execute before the reconcile method is called. The result of the reconciliation can be accessed via the Context object that is passed to the reconcile method.

The following sample shows a hypothetical use case to showcase all the elements: the primary TestCustomResource resource handled by our Reconciler defines two dependent resources, a Deployment and a ConfigMap. The ConfigMap depends on the Deployment so will be reconciled after it. Moreover, the Deployment dependent resource defines a ready post-condition, meaning that the ConfigMap will not be reconciled until the condition defined by the Deployment becomes true. Additionally, the ConfigMap dependent also defines a reconcile pre-condition, so it also won’t be reconciled until that condition becomes true. The ConfigMap also defines a delete post-condition, which means that the workflow implementation will only consider the ConfigMap deleted until that post-condition becomes true.

@ControllerConfiguration(dependents = {
    @Dependent(name = DEPLOYMENT_NAME, type = DeploymentDependentResource.class,
        readyPostcondition = DeploymentReadyCondition.class),
    @Dependent(type = ConfigMapDependentResource.class,
        reconcilePrecondition = ConfigMapReconcileCondition.class,
        deletePostcondition = ConfigMapDeletePostCondition.class,
        dependsOn = DEPLOYMENT_NAME)
public class SampleWorkflowReconciler implements Reconciler<TestCustomResource>,
    Cleaner<WorkflowAllFeatureCustomResource> {

  public static final String DEPLOYMENT_NAME = "deployment";

  public UpdateControl<WorkflowAllFeatureCustomResource> reconcile(
      WorkflowAllFeatureCustomResource resource,
      Context<WorkflowAllFeatureCustomResource> context) {

            context.managedDependentResourceContext()  // accessing workflow reconciliation results
    return UpdateControl.patchStatus(resource);

  public DeleteControl cleanup(WorkflowAllFeatureCustomResource resource,
      Context<WorkflowAllFeatureCustomResource> context) {
    // emitted code

    return DeleteControl.defaultDelete();

Standalone #

In this mode workflow is built manually using standalone dependent resources . The workflow is created using a builder, that is explicitly called in the reconciler (from web page sample):

    labelSelector = WebPageDependentsWorkflowReconciler.DEPENDENT_RESOURCE_LABEL_SELECTOR)
public class WebPageDependentsWorkflowReconciler
    implements Reconciler<WebPage>, ErrorStatusHandler<WebPage>, EventSourceInitializer<WebPage> {

  public static final String DEPENDENT_RESOURCE_LABEL_SELECTOR = "!low-level";
  private static final Logger log =

  private KubernetesDependentResource<ConfigMap, WebPage> configMapDR;
  private KubernetesDependentResource<Deployment, WebPage> deploymentDR;
  private KubernetesDependentResource<Service, WebPage> serviceDR;
  private KubernetesDependentResource<Ingress, WebPage> ingressDR;

  private Workflow<WebPage> workflow;

  public WebPageDependentsWorkflowReconciler(KubernetesClient kubernetesClient) {
    workflow = new WorkflowBuilder<WebPage>()
        .addDependentResource(ingressDR).withReconcilePrecondition(new ExposedIngressCondition())

  public Map<String, EventSource> prepareEventSources(EventSourceContext<WebPage> context) {
    return EventSourceInitializer.nameEventSources(

  public UpdateControl<WebPage> reconcile(WebPage webPage, Context<WebPage> context) {

    var result = workflow.reconcile(webPage, context);

    return UpdateControl.patchStatus(webPage);
  // omitted code

Workflow Execution #

This section describes how a workflow is executed in details, how the ordering is determined and how conditions and errors affect the behavior. The workflow execution is divided in two parts similarly to how Reconciler and Cleaner behavior are separated. Cleanup is executed if a resource is marked for deletion.

Common Principles #

  • As complete as possible execution - when a workflow is reconciled, it tries to reconcile as many resources as possible. Thus if an error happens or a ready condition is not met for a resources, all the other independent resources will be still reconciled. This is the opposite to a fail-fast approach. The assumption is that eventually in this way the overall state will converge faster towards the desired state than would be the case if the reconciliation was aborted as soon as an error occurred.
  • Concurrent reconciliation of independent resources - the resources which doesn’t depend on others are processed concurrently. The level of concurrency is customizable, could be set to one if required. By default, workflows use the executor service from ConfigurationService

Reconciliation #

This section describes how a workflow is executed, considering first which rules apply, then demonstrated using examples:

Rules #

  1. A workflow is a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) build from the DRs and their associated depends-on relations.
  2. Root nodes, i.e. nodes in the graph that do not depend on other nodes are reconciled first, in a parallel manner.
  3. A DR is reconciled if it does not depend on any other DRs, or ALL the DRs it depends on are reconciled and ready. If a DR defines a reconcile pre-condition, then this condition must become true before the DR is reconciled.
  4. A DR is considered ready if it got successfully reconciled and any ready post-condition it might define is true.
  5. If a DR’s reconcile pre-condition is not met, this DR is deleted. All of the DRs that depend on the dependent resource being considered are also recursively deleted. This implies that DRs are deleted in reverse order compared the one in which they are reconciled. The reason for this behavior is (Will make a more detailed blog post about the design decision, much deeper than the reference documentation) The reasoning behind this behavior is as follows: a DR with a reconcile pre-condition is only reconciled if the condition holds true. This means that if the condition is false and the resource didn’t exist already, then the associated resource would not be created. To ensure idempotency (i.e. with the same input state, we should have the same output state), from this follows that if the condition doesn’t hold true anymore, the associated resource needs to be deleted because the resource shouldn’t exist/have been created.
  6. For a DR to be deleted by a workflow, it needs to implement the Deleter interface, in which case its delete method will be called, unless it also implements the GarbageCollected interface. If a DR doesn’t implement Deleter it is considered as automatically deleted. If a delete post-condition exists for this DR, it needs to become true for the workflow to consider the DR as successfully deleted.

Samples #

Notation: The arrows depicts reconciliation ordering, thus following the reverse direction of the
depends-on relation: 1 --> 2 mean DR 2 depends-on DR 1.

Reconcile Sample #

stateDiagram-v2 1 --> 2 1 --> 3 2 --> 4 3 --> 4
  • Root nodes (i.e. nodes that don’t depend on any others) are reconciled first. In this example, DR 1 is reconciled first since it doesn’t depend on others. After that both DR 2 and 3 are reconciled concurrently, then DR 4 once both are reconciled sucessfully.
  • If DR 2 had a ready condition and if it evaluated to as false, DR 4 would not be reconciled. However 1,2 and 3 would be.
  • If 1 had a false ready condition, neither 2,3 or 4 would be reconciled.
  • If 2’s reconciliation resulted in an error, 4 would not be reconciled, but 3 would be (and 1 as well, of course).

Sample with Reconcile Precondition #

stateDiagram-v2 1 --> 2 1 --> 3 3 --> 4 3 --> 5
  • If 3 has a reconcile pre-condition that is not met, 1 and 2 would be reconciled. However, DR 3,4,5 would be deleted: 4 and 5 would be deleted concurrently but 3 would only be deleted if 4 and 5 were deleted successfully (i.e. without error) and all existing delete post-conditions were met.
  • If 5 had a delete post-condition that was false, 3 would not be deleted but 4 would still be because they don’t depend on one another.
  • Similarly, if 5’s deletion resulted in an error, 3 would not be deleted but 4 would be.

Cleanup #

Cleanup works identically as delete for resources in reconciliation in case reconcile pre-condition is not met, just for the whole workflow.

Rules #

  1. Delete is called on a DR if there is no DR that depends on it
  2. If a DR has DRs that depend on it, it will only be deleted if all these DRs are successfully deleted without error and any delete post-condition is true.
  3. A DR is “manually” deleted (i.e. it’s Deleter.delete method is called) if it implements the Deleter interface but does not implement GarbageCollected. If a DR does not implement Deleter interface, it is considered as deleted automatically.

Sample #

stateDiagram-v2 1 --> 2 1 --> 3 2 --> 4 3 --> 4
  • The DRs are deleted in the following order: 4 is deleted first, then 2 and 3 are deleted concurrently, and, only after both are successfully deleted, 1 is deleted.
  • If 2 had a delete post-condition that was false, 1 would not be deleted. 4 and 3 would be deleted.
  • If 2 was in error, DR 1 would not be deleted. DR 4 and 3 would be deleted.
  • if 4 was in error, no other DR would be deleted.

Error Handling #

As mentioned before if an error happens during a reconciliation, the reconciliation of other dependent resources will still happen, assuming they don’t depend on the one that failed. If case multiple DRs fail, the workflow would throw an ‘AggregatedOperatorException’ containing all the related exceptions.

The exceptions can be handled by ErrorStatusHandler

Notes and Caveats #

  • Delete is almost always called on every resource during the cleanup. However, it might be the case that the resources were already deleted in a previous run, or not even created. This should not be a problem, since dependent resources usually cache the state of the resource, so are already aware that the resource does not exist and that nothing needs to be done if delete is called.
  • If a resource has owner references, it will be automatically deleted by the Kubernetes garbage collector if the owner resource is marked for deletion. This might not be desirable, to make sure that delete is handled by the workflow don’t use garbage collected kubernetes dependent resource, use for example CRUDNoGCKubernetesDependentResource .
  • No state is persisted regarding the workflow execution. Every reconciliation causes all the resources to be reconciled again, in other words the whole workflow is again evaluated.