Creating External Plugins


Kubebuilder’s functionality can be extended through the use of external plugins.

An external plugin is an executable (can be written in any language) that implements an execution pattern that Kubebuilder knows how to interact with.

The Kubebuilder CLI loads the external plugin in the specified path and interacts with it through stdin & stdout.

When is it useful?

  • If you want to create helpers or addons on top of the scaffolds done by Kubebuilder’s default scaffolding.

  • If you design customized layouts and want to take advantage of functions from Kubebuilder library.

  • If you are looking for implementing plugins in a language other than Go.

How to write it?

The inter-process communication between your external plugin and Kubebuilder is through the standard I/O.

Your external plugin can be written in any language, given it adheres to the PluginRequest and PluginResponse type structures.

PluginRequest encompasses all the data Kubebuilder collects from the CLI and previously executed plugins in the plugin chain. Kubebuilder conveys the marshaled PluginRequest (a JSON object) to the external plugin over stdin.

Below is a sample JSON object of the PluginRequest type, triggered by kubebuilder init --plugins sampleexternalplugin/v1 --domain my.domain:

    "apiVersion": "v1alpha1",
    "args": ["--domain", "my.domain"],
    "command": "init",
    "universe": {}

PluginResponse represents the updated state of the project, as modified by the plugin. This data structure is serialized into JSON and sent back to Kubebuilder via stdout.

Here is a sample JSON representation of the PluginResponse type:

    "apiVersion": "v1alpha1",
    "command": "init",
    "metadata": {
        "description": "The `init` subcommand is meant to initialize a project via Kubebuilder. It scaffolds a single file: `initFile`",
        "examples": "kubebuilder init --plugins sampleexternalplugin/v1 --domain my.domain"
    "universe": {
        "initFile": "A simple file created with the `init` subcommand"
    "error": false,
    "errorMsgs": []

In this example, the init command of the plugin has created a new file called initFile.

The content of this file is: A simple file created with the init subcommand, which is recorded in the universe field of the response.

This output is then sent back to Kubebuilder, allowing it to incorporate the changes made by the plugin into the project.

How to use it?


  • kubebuilder CLI > 3.11.0

  • An executable for the external plugin.

    This could be a plugin that you’ve created yourself, or one from an external source.

  • Configuration of the external plugin’s path.

    This can be done by setting the ${EXTERNAL_PLUGINS_PATH} environment variable, or by placing the plugin in a path that follows a group-like name and version scheme:

# for Linux

# for OSX
~/Library/Application Support/kubebuilder/plugins/${name}/${version}/${name}

As an example, if you’re on Linux and you want to use v2 of an external plugin called, you’d place the executable in the folder $HOME/.config/kubebuilder/plugins/ with a file name that also matches the plugin name up to an (optional) file extension. In other words, passing the flag to kubebuilder would find the plugin at either of these locations

  • $HOME/.config/kubebuilder/plugins/
  • $HOME/.config/kubebuilder/plugins/
  • $HOME/.config/kubebuilder/plugins/
  • etc…


The external plugin supports the same subcommands as kubebuilder already provides:

  • init: project initialization.
  • create api: scaffold Kubernetes API definitions.
  • create webhook: scaffold Kubernetes webhooks.
  • edit: update the project configuration.

Also, there are Optional subcommands for a better user experience:

  • metadata: add customized plugin description and examples when a --help flag is specified.
  • flags: specify valid flags for Kubebuilder to pass to the external plugin.


You can configure your plugin path with a ENV VAR $EXTERNAL_PLUGINS_PATH to tell Kubebuilder where to search for the plugin binary, such as:

export EXTERNAL_PLUGINS_PATH = <custom-path>

Otherwise, Kubebuilder would search for the plugins in a default path based on your OS.

Now, you can using it by calling the CLI commands:

# Initialize a new project with the external plugin named `sampleplugin`
kubebuilder init --plugins sampleplugin/v1

# Display help information of the `init` subcommand of the external plugin
kubebuilder init --plugins sampleplugin/v1 --help

# Create a new API with the above external plugin with a customized flag `number`
kubebuilder create api --plugins sampleplugin/v1 --number 2

# Create a webhook with the above external plugin with a customized flag `hooked`
kubebuilder create webhook --plugins sampleplugin/v1 --hooked

# Update the project configuration with the above external plugin
kubebuilder edit --plugins sampleplugin/v1

# Create new APIs with external plugins v1 and v2 by respecting the plugin chaining order
kubebuilder create api --plugins sampleplugin/v1,sampleplugin/v2

# Create new APIs with the go/v4 plugin and then pass those files to the external plugin by respecting the plugin chaining order
kubebuilder create api --plugins go/v4,sampleplugin/v1

Further resources