What is an add-on?

Open-cluster-management has a built-in mechanism named addon-framework to help developers to develop an extension based on the foundation components for the purpose of working with multiple clusters in custom cases. A typical addon should consist of two kinds of components:

  • Addon Agent: A kubernetes controller in the managed cluster that manages the managed cluster for the hub admins. A typical addon agent is expected to be working by subscribing the prescriptions (e.g. in forms of CustomResources) from the hub cluster and then consistently reconcile the state of the managed cluster like an ordinary kubernetes operator does.

  • Addon Manager: A kubernetes controller in the hub cluster that applies manifests to the managed clusters via the ManifestWork api. In addition to resource dispatching, the manager can optionally manage the lifecycle of CSRs for the addon agents or even the RBAC permission bond to the CSRs’ requesting identity.

In general, if a management tool working inside the managed cluster needs to discriminate configuration for each managed cluster, it will be helpful to model its implementation as a working addon agent. The configurations for each agent are supposed to be persisted in the hub cluster, so the hub admin will be able to prescribe the agent to do its job in a declarative way. In abstraction, via the addon we will be decoupling a multi-cluster control plane into (1) strategy dispatching and (2) execution. The addon manager doesn’t actually apply any changes directly to the managed cluster, instead it just places its prescription to a dedicated namespace allocated for the accepted managed cluster. Then the addon agent pulls the prescriptions consistently and does the execution.

In addition to dispatching configurations before the agents, the addon manager will be automatically doing some fiddly preparation before the agent bootstraps, such as:

  • CSR applying, approving and signing.
  • Injecting and managing client credentials used by agents to access the hub cluster.
  • The RBAC permission for the agents both in the hub cluster or the managed cluster.
  • Installing strategy.


The following architecture graph shows how the coordination between addon manager and addon agent works.

Addon Architecture

Add-on enablement

From a user’s perspective, to install the addon to the hub cluster the hub admin should register a globally-unique ClusterManagementAddon resource as a singleton placeholder in the hub cluster. For instance, the helloworld add-on can be registered to the hub cluster by creating:

kind: ClusterManagementAddOn
  name: helloworld
    displayName: helloworld

The addon manager running on the hub is taking responsibility of configuring the installation of addon agents for each managed cluster. When a user wants to enable the add-on for a certain managed cluster, the user should create a ManagedClusterAddOn resource on the cluster namespace. The name of the ManagedClusterAddOn should be the same name of the corresponding ClusterManagementAddon. For instance, the following example enables helloworld add-on in “cluster1”:

kind: ManagedClusterAddOn
  name: helloworld
  namespace: cluster1
  installNamespace: helloworld

Last but not least, a neat uninstallation of the addon is also supported by simply deleting the corresponding ClusterManagementAddon resource from the hub cluster which is the “root” of the whole addon. The OCM platform will automatically sanitize the hub cluster for you after the uninstalling by removing all the components either in the hub cluster or in the manage clusters.

Add-on healthiness

The healthiness of the addon instances are visible when we list the addons via kubectl:

$ kubectl get managedclusteraddon -A
<cluster>   <addon>                  True                   

The addon agent are expected to report its healthiness periodically as long as it’s running. Also the versioning of the addon agent can be reflected in the resources optionally so that we can control the upgrading the agents progressively.


Here’s a few examples of cases where we will need add-ons:

  1. A tool to collect alert events in the managed cluster, and send to the hub cluster.
  2. A network solution that uses the hub to share the network info and establish connection among managed clusters. See cluster-proxy
  3. A tool to spread security policies to multiple clusters.

Add-on framework

Add-on framework provides a library for developers to develop an add-ons in open-cluster-management more easily. Take a look at the helloworld example to understand how the add-on framework can be used.

Custom signers

The original Kubernetes CSR api only supports three built-in signers:

  • “”
  • “”
  • “”

However in some cases, we need to sign additional custom certificates for the addon agents which is not used for connecting any kube-apiserver. The addon manager can be serving as a custom CSR signer controller based on the addon-framework’s extensibility by implementing the signing logic. Note that after successfully signing the certificates, the framework will also keep rotating the certificates automatically for the addon.

Hub credential injection

The addon manager developed base on addon-framework will automatically persist the signed certificates as secret resource to the managed clusters after signed by either original Kubernetes CSR controller or custom signers. The injected secrets will be:

  • For “” signer, the name will be “ -hub-kubeconfig” with properties:
    • “kubeconfig”: a kubeconfig file for accessing hub cluster with the addon’s identity.
    • “tls.crt”: the signed certificate.
    • “tls.key”: the private key.
  • For custom signer, the name will be “--client-cert” with properties:
    • “tls.crt”: the signed certificate.
    • “tls.key”: the private key.

Auto-install by cluster discovery

The addon manager can automatically install an addon to the managed clusters upon discovering new clusters by setting the InstallStrategy from the addon-framework. On the other hand, the admin can also manually install the addon for the clusters by applying ManagedClusterAddOn into their cluster namespace.