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1.1.11 • Public • Published


Kittyhawk is the automated Kubernetes YAML generator for Penn Labs. With Kittyhawk, you can define an application's deployment configuration in Typescript using objects called constructs.

Getting Started

The easiest way to get started with a Kittyhawk project is by following the following steps or by copying one of our existing products. At the end of this README, you can also see a simple example typescript file using Kittyhawk.

1. Set up CDK8s Typescript Project

Create a k8s folder within your project. Inside the k8s folder, initialize a cdk8s typescript project. You can do that by following the official cdk8s instructions here.

2. Add Kittyhawk

Import the kittyhawk library (yarn add @pennlabs/kittyhawk) and start writing your deployment configuration in Typescript.

At the very top level, add to your main.ts file in the following format using the PennLabsChart.

export class MyChart extends PennLabsChart {
  constructor(scope: Construct) {

Within your chart, you can add various applications, cronjobs, and other configurations supported by kittyhawk, including the following custom constructs:

  • ReactApplication
  • DjangoApplication
  • CronJob
  • Redis

For more advanced custom constructs, please refer to our documentation


In many of our Penn Labs products, we use cronjobs to simplify our product tasks (e.g. loading courses, calculating office hours wait time).

cron-time-generator (npm link) is a package that allows for intuitive generation of cron job time expressions.

It is not required to use this, but it is a dependency for kittyhawk and better practice: instead of specifying the time of a cronjob that runs every 5 minutes as */5 * * * *, you can say cronTime.every(5).minutes().

For specifics of using cron-time-generator, refer to the documentation on npm or our code example at the bottom of this doc.

3. Incorporate Kittyhawk into CI

After the typescript constructs have been added and configured, the deployment yaml can be generated.

How yaml generation works (command line)

Note: You should NOT be generating yaml manually and adding the generated yaml to the repository. Instead, it's important to add the yaml generation to the github actions or the CI you have already built.

The following instructions are for local testing purposes only and if you want to understand what goes on under the hood.

To generate a yaml file, you must first change (cd) into the k8s/cdk directory. Then, you can generate the yaml by running yarn compile && yarn synth. The generated yaml file would appear in the dist folder (RELEASE_NAME.k8s.yaml).

For yaml generation to work properly, it's required to specify the following environment variables:

  • RELEASE_NAME: the name of the application being deploy (set to name of repository)
  • GIT_SHA: the sha of the latest commit

Adding Kittyhawk to the CI

The deploy job (DeployJob) in Kraken would handle the yaml file generation process. For more information, see the kraken documentation.


A sample main.ts file is included below, covering the more common use cases for Penn Labs products:

import { Construct } from 'constructs';
import { PennLabsChart, ReactApplication, DjangoApplication, RedisApplication, CronJob } from '@pennlabs/kittyhawk';

const cronTime = require('cron-time-generator');

export class ExampleChart extends PennLabsChart {
  constructor(scope: Construct) {

    const backendImage = 'pennlabs/example-backend';
    const frontendImage = 'pennlabs/examplefrontend';

    const secret = 'secret';
    const domain = 'domain';

    new RedisApplication(this, 'redis', {});

    new DjangoApplication(this, 'django-asgi', {
      deployment: {
        image: backendImage,
        cmd: ['/usr/local/bin/asgi-run'],
        replicas: 2,
        secret: secret,
        env: [
          { name: 'REDIS_HOST', value: 'redis' },
      djangoSettingsModule: 'example.settings.production',
      domains: [{ host: domain, paths: ['/api/ws'] }],

    new ReactApplication(this, 'react', {
      deployment: {
        image: frontendImage,
        replicas: 2,
      domain: { host: domain, paths: ['/'] },
      portEnv: '80',

    /** Cronjobs **/
    new CronJob(this, 'example-cronjob', {
      schedule: cronTime.everyDayAt(8),
      image: backendImage,
      secret: secret,
      cmd: ['your', 'command'],

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