How to add and maintain App in an App Catalog

How to create, manage and release an App into an App Catalog

Table of Contents


This document is meant to be a comprehensive guide and description of the process we use to maintain and release managed apps. The idea is that you should use this process by default and it fits 90% of use cases. For the other 10%, common sense applies, as for the first 90% as well :)

In the App Platform, Apps are defined as Helm chart packages. App Catalogs are stored as Helm repositories. Packaging and pushing Apps into an App Catalog is automated using CircleCI and architect orb’s push-to-app-catalog job.

For an overview of the App Platform, Apps, and App Catalogs, please read The Giant Swarm App Platform

The workflow process

Our apps are currently based on Helm charts only. Here’s how we work on an app, from the very beginning to making a release.

1. Creating repository structure

This part of work involves following steps:

  • creating and setting up a new repository for an application
  • now either:
    • getting sources from an upstream project, making required changes and maintaining it
    • writing chart from scratch

Check below for more details about the bullets above.

1.1. Create and configure a repo for the App

Use the following template repo to generate the basic skeleton for your app’s repo:

Once created:

  1. Go to and make sure Allow merge commits box is unchecked and Automatically delete head branches box is checked.
  2. Go to and add giantswarm/bots with Write access and giantswarm/employees with Admin access.

Note: By convention, we name app repos [APP-NAME]-app. Adding the topic app to the GitHub repository is also useful. This helps the user distinguish the type of repo.

However, it is no longer required nor advisable to name your app and helm chart (step 2 & 3 below) with the -app suffix.

So for myexample app, the app’s name is myexample and the repo is

If you need a Go project skeleton, start with this template instead:

2. Providing chart sources

2.1. Getting the sources from upstream

This is the most frequent (so far: only) use case. The hard part is to be able to easily synchronize with upstream sources while also keeping our local changes. Please read our guide about it: how to track upstream repositories using the git-subtree method.

2.2. Writing a chart from scratch

This includes a rare situation when there’s no upstream chart for the app we want. So far, it didn’t actually happen.

3. Ensuring quality of the chart

When we provide a chart, we want to be sure that some best practices are met to avoid problems we have already seen in the past. The list of these practices is below.

3.1. Providing all the necessary data and metadata in Chart.yaml

We extensively use Chart.yaml properties to provide information about the chart to our platform and thus our users. Please make sure to check this sample Chart.yaml for an example of what we expect to be provided in the Chart.yaml. Please note, that if you’re using abs (see below) to build your chart, our annotations will be automatically set for you.

If you fail to set the supported properties, the generated metadata won’t contain information that can help users deploy and configure the app.

For basic properties listen in Chart.yaml, remember to:

  • Ensure Chart.yaml has all required fields, including appVersion which is usually optional. See:
  • Ensure Chart.yaml has all fields needed so the app displays nicely in Happa.
  • If your templates contain empty values (i.e not defined with defaults in values.yaml), you can provide multiple value files for validation by creating yaml files (*-values.yaml) inside helm/[APP-NAME]/ci. For an example, see the pull request #42 for ignition-operator.

3.2. Retagging and copying images to our registries

To avoid problems when upstream registries are down or when our apps are deployed to China, we use our own image registries and you need to copy any upstream images used to our repos. To do that, we have the retagger tool. Add your images to the config file in its repo, push the changes and the images will be synchronized for you.

More information about our registries can be found below:

3.3. Adjust chart for custom image registries

Because images are held in other registries than upstream, we have to account for that in the values.yaml configuration file. It is important to keep this configuration format, because the registry part of it is set automatically to the best registry depending on installation’s location (Aliyun in China, Quay elsewhere).

So, your values.yaml should have the following top-level section:

    repository: giantswarm/my-app
    tag: 0.1.1

You need to use these values in the chart to configure images for Deployments and such.

3.4. Providing validation schema for values.yaml

We provide a YAML schema for validating values.yaml file that is provided at installation time by a user. That way we can prevent the user from a wide range of typos and misconfiguration errors.

Our detailed documentation about generating the schema is available on the intranet

3.5. The quality bars checklist

For charts we support for our customers, we have additional “quality bar” checklists. Please note, that currently they need a revamp and you should them as suggestions, not hard requirements. Still, please run the checklists before you publish a chart.

4. Making the chart available in an app catalog

More detailed information about how to push app to app-catalog is available on the intranet.

The very minimal circle CI configuration file that does the job using abs (see below) looks like this:

version: 2.1
  architect: giantswarm/architect@2.7.0

      - architect/push-to-app-catalog:
          context: "architect"
          executor: "app-build-suite"
          name: "package and push loki chart"
          app_catalog: "giantswarm-catalog"
          app_catalog_test: "giantswarm-test-catalog"
          chart: "YOUR_CHART"
          # Trigger job on git tag.
              only: /^v.*/

Personalize the README and CircleCI config with your app’s name. For enabling CircleCI builds, check the CircleCI Intranet page.

Find the latest ARCHITECT_ORB_VERSION here:, then update the CircleCi config with it.

Also, adjust push-to-app-catalog jobs to your needs:

  • Replace chart parameter to reflect the chart name. For myexample it has to be myexample.
  • If adding App to a different App Catalog, change target app_catalog and app_catalog_test

If you want automatic metadata generation, set executor: "app-build-suite" (see <#building-validating-and-testing-the-chart>) in the push-to-app-catalog CircleCI configuration (architect-orb docs). This packages your new app with app-build-suite, enabling metadata integration and packaging (Spec and more information about metadata). You’ll need to modify the main.yaml in the .abs/ directory to match your desired app-build-suite configuration options. Rename helm/APP-NAME directory with your app’s name, then add your Helm chart to this directory.

With the default CircleCI project setup from the template-app, commits to branches will trigger the build. If successful, a chart package will be pushed to giantswarm-playground-test-catalog.


  • Test Catalogs are not exposed to customers.
  • Our API does some caching - it takes a few minutes for new releases to show up in Happa

5. Building, validating and testing the chart

In order to make the application build process more streamlined and repeatable across developer’s desktop and CI/CD systems, we have created app-build-suite (a.k.a. abs).

To get started with abs, please check the quick start section of the docs or check the full tutorial.

Currently, abs also handles application testing, but we intend to change that in the future. Again, please check the tutorial for more details.

6. Add your repository to giantswarm/github and “Changes and Releases”

Open a PR in giantswarm/github to add your repository to repositories/meta.yaml. Ensure flavour is set to app (the required value for repositories which contain just a Helm chart). This ensures certain files are kept in sync across our repos. Once merged, architectbot will open a PR in your repository to add the necessary files.

Open a PR to add your app to giantswarm/docs. When you make a release, it automatically updates “Changes and Releases” with your app’s changes in our external docs.

7. Releasing the App in Giantswarm Catalog

In order to include your App in the Giantswarm catalog, you need to create a release.

Please follow How to release a project in order to do that.