Updated: Dockershim Removal FAQ

This supersedes the original Dockershim Deprecation FAQ article, published in late 2020. The article includes updates from the v1.24 release of Kubernetes.

This document goes over some frequently asked questions regarding the removal of dockershim from Kubernetes. The removal was originally announced as a part of the Kubernetes v1.20 release. The Kubernetes v1.24 release actually removed the dockershim from Kubernetes.

For more on what that means, check out the blog post Don't Panic: Kubernetes and Docker.

To determine the impact that the removal of dockershim would have for you or your organization, you can read Check whether dockershim removal affects you.

In the months and days leading up to the Kubernetes 1.24 release, Kubernetes contributors worked hard to try to make this a smooth transition.

Why was the dockershim removed from Kubernetes?

Early versions of Kubernetes only worked with a specific container runtime: Docker Engine. Later, Kubernetes added support for working with other container runtimes. The CRI standard was created to enable interoperability between orchestrators (like Kubernetes) and many different container runtimes. Docker Engine doesn't implement that interface (CRI), so the Kubernetes project created special code to help with the transition, and made that dockershim code part of Kubernetes itself.

The dockershim code was always intended to be a temporary solution (hence the name: shim). You can read more about the community discussion and planning in the Dockershim Removal Kubernetes Enhancement Proposal. In fact, maintaining dockershim had become a heavy burden on the Kubernetes maintainers.

Additionally, features that were largely incompatible with the dockershim, such as cgroups v2 and user namespaces are being implemented in these newer CRI runtimes. Removing the dockershim from Kubernetes allows further development in those areas.

Are Docker and containers the same thing?

Docker popularized the Linux containers pattern and has been instrumental in developing the underlying technology, however containers in Linux have existed for a long time. The container ecosystem has grown to be much broader than just Docker. Standards like OCI and CRI have helped many tools grow and thrive in our ecosystem, some replacing aspects of Docker while others enhance existing functionality.

Will my existing container images still work?

Yes, the images produced from docker build will work with all CRI implementations. All your existing images will still work exactly the same.

What about private images?

Yes. All CRI runtimes support the same pull secrets configuration used in Kubernetes, either via the PodSpec or ServiceAccount.

Can I still use Docker Engine in Kubernetes 1.23?

Yes, the only thing changed in 1.20 is a single warning log printed at kubelet startup if using Docker Engine as the runtime. You'll see this warning in all versions up to 1.23. The dockershim removal occurred in Kubernetes 1.24.

If you're running Kubernetes v1.24 or later, see Can I still use Docker Engine as my container runtime?. (Remember, you can switch away from the dockershim if you're using any supported Kubernetes release; from release v1.24, you must switch as Kubernetes no longer includes the dockershim).

Which CRI implementation should I use?

That’s a complex question and it depends on a lot of factors. If Docker Engine is working for you, moving to containerd should be a relatively easy swap and will have strictly better performance and less overhead. However, we encourage you to explore all the options from the CNCF landscape in case another would be an even better fit for your environment.

Can I still use Docker Engine as my container runtime?

First off, if you use Docker on your own PC to develop or test containers: nothing changes. You can still use Docker locally no matter what container runtime(s) you use for your Kubernetes clusters. Containers make this kind of interoperability possible.

Mirantis and Docker have committed to maintaining a replacement adapter for Docker Engine, and to maintain that adapter even after the in-tree dockershim is removed from Kubernetes. The replacement adapter is named cri-dockerd.

You can install cri-dockerd and use it to connect the kubelet to Docker Engine. Read Migrate Docker Engine nodes from dockershim to cri-dockerd to learn more.

Are there examples of folks using other runtimes in production today?

All Kubernetes project produced artifacts (Kubernetes binaries) are validated with each release.

Additionally, the kind project has been using containerd for some time and has seen an improvement in stability for its use case. Kind and containerd are leveraged multiple times every day to validate any changes to the Kubernetes codebase. Other related projects follow a similar pattern as well, demonstrating the stability and usability of other container runtimes. As an example, OpenShift 4.x has been using the CRI-O runtime in production since June 2019.

For other examples and references you can look at the adopters of containerd and CRI-O, two container runtimes under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

People keep referencing OCI, what is that?

OCI stands for the Open Container Initiative, which standardized many of the interfaces between container tools and technologies. They maintain a standard specification for packaging container images (OCI image-spec) and running containers (OCI runtime-spec). They also maintain an actual implementation of the runtime-spec in the form of runc, which is the underlying default runtime for both containerd and CRI-O. The CRI builds on these low-level specifications to provide an end-to-end standard for managing containers.

What should I look out for when changing CRI implementations?

While the underlying containerization code is the same between Docker and most CRIs (including containerd), there are a few differences around the edges. Some common things to consider when migrating are:

  • Logging configuration
  • Runtime resource limitations
  • Node provisioning scripts that call docker or use Docker Engine via its control socket
  • Plugins for kubectl that require the docker CLI or the Docker Engine control socket
  • Tools from the Kubernetes project that require direct access to Docker Engine (for example: the deprecated kube-imagepuller tool)
  • Configuration of functionality like registry-mirrors and insecure registries
  • Other support scripts or daemons that expect Docker Engine to be available and are run outside of Kubernetes (for example, monitoring or security agents)
  • GPUs or special hardware and how they integrate with your runtime and Kubernetes

If you use Kubernetes resource requests/limits or file-based log collection DaemonSets then they will continue to work the same, but if you've customized your dockerd configuration, you’ll need to adapt that for your new container runtime where possible.

Another thing to look out for is anything expecting to run for system maintenance or nested inside a container when building images will no longer work. For the former, you can use the crictl tool as a drop-in replacement (see mapping from docker cli to crictl) and for the latter you can use newer container build options like img, buildah, kaniko, or buildkit-cli-for-kubectl that don’t require Docker.

For containerd, you can start with their documentation to see what configuration options are available as you migrate things over.

For instructions on how to use containerd and CRI-O with Kubernetes, see the Kubernetes documentation on Container Runtimes.

What if I have more questions?

If you use a vendor-supported Kubernetes distribution, you can ask them about upgrade plans for their products. For end-user questions, please post them to our end user community forum: https://discuss.kubernetes.io/.

You can discuss the decision to remove dockershim via a dedicated GitHub issue.

You can also check out the excellent blog post Wait, Docker is deprecated in Kubernetes now? a more in-depth technical discussion of the changes.

Is there any tooling that can help me find dockershim in use?

Yes! The Detector for Docker Socket (DDS) is a kubectl plugin that you can install and then use to check your cluster. DDS can detect if active Kubernetes workloads are mounting the Docker Engine socket (docker.sock) as a volume. Find more details and usage patterns in the DDS project's README.

Can I have a hug?

Yes, we're still giving hugs as requested. 🤗🤗🤗