System Logs

System component logs record events happening in cluster, which can be very useful for debugging. You can configure log verbosity to see more or less detail. Logs can be as coarse-grained as showing errors within a component, or as fine-grained as showing step-by-step traces of events (like HTTP access logs, pod state changes, controller actions, or scheduler decisions).


klog is the Kubernetes logging library. klog generates log messages for the Kubernetes system components.

Kubernetes is in the process of simplifying logging in its components. The following klog command line flags are deprecated starting with Kubernetes v1.23 and removed in Kubernetes v1.26:

  • --add-dir-header
  • --alsologtostderr
  • --log-backtrace-at
  • --log-dir
  • --log-file
  • --log-file-max-size
  • --logtostderr
  • --one-output
  • --skip-headers
  • --skip-log-headers
  • --stderrthreshold

Output will always be written to stderr, regardless of the output format. Output redirection is expected to be handled by the component which invokes a Kubernetes component. This can be a POSIX shell or a tool like systemd.

In some cases, for example a distroless container or a Windows system service, those options are not available. Then the kube-log-runner binary can be used as wrapper around a Kubernetes component to redirect output. A prebuilt binary is included in several Kubernetes base images under its traditional name as /go-runner and as kube-log-runner in server and node release archives.

This table shows how kube-log-runner invocations correspond to shell redirection:

UsagePOSIX shell (such as bash)kube-log-runner <options> <cmd>
Merge stderr and stdout, write to stdout2>&1kube-log-runner (default behavior)
Redirect both into log file1>>/tmp/log 2>&1kube-log-runner -log-file=/tmp/log
Copy into log file and to stdout2>&1 | tee -a /tmp/logkube-log-runner -log-file=/tmp/log -also-stdout
Redirect only stdout into log file>/tmp/logkube-log-runner -log-file=/tmp/log -redirect-stderr=false

Klog output

An example of the traditional klog native format:

I1025 00:15:15.525108       1 httplog.go:79] GET /api/v1/namespaces/kube-system/pods/metrics-server-v0.3.1-57c75779f-9p8wg: (1.512ms) 200 [pod_nanny/v0.0.0 (linux/amd64) kubernetes/$Format]

The message string may contain line breaks:

I1025 00:15:15.525108       1 example.go:79] This is a message
which has a line break.

Structured Logging

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.23 [beta]

Structured logging introduces a uniform structure in log messages allowing for programmatic extraction of information. You can store and process structured logs with less effort and cost. The code which generates a log message determines whether it uses the traditional unstructured klog output or structured logging.

The default formatting of structured log messages is as text, with a format that is backward compatible with traditional klog:

<klog header> "<message>" <key1>="<value1>" <key2>="<value2>" ...


I1025 00:15:15.525108       1 controller_utils.go:116] "Pod status updated" pod="kube-system/kubedns" status="ready"

Strings are quoted. Other values are formatted with %+v, which may cause log messages to continue on the next line depending on the data.

I1025 00:15:15.525108       1 example.go:116] "Example" data="This is text with a line break\nand \"quotation marks\"." someInt=1 someFloat=0.1 someStruct={StringField: First line,
second line.}

Contextual Logging

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.30 [beta]

Contextual logging builds on top of structured logging. It is primarily about how developers use logging calls: code based on that concept is more flexible and supports additional use cases as described in the Contextual Logging KEP.

If developers use additional functions like WithValues or WithName in their components, then log entries contain additional information that gets passed into functions by their caller.

For Kubernetes 1.30, this is gated behind the ContextualLogging feature gate and is enabled by default. The infrastructure for this was added in 1.24 without modifying components. The component-base/logs/example command demonstrates how to use the new logging calls and how a component behaves that supports contextual logging.

$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ go run . --help
      --feature-gates mapStringBool  A set of key=value pairs that describe feature gates for alpha/experimental features. Options are:
                                     AllAlpha=true|false (ALPHA - default=false)
                                     AllBeta=true|false (BETA - default=false)
                                     ContextualLogging=true|false (BETA - default=true)
$ go run . --feature-gates ContextualLogging=true
I0222 15:13:31.645988  197901 example.go:54] "runtime" logger="example.myname" foo="bar" duration="1m0s"
I0222 15:13:31.646007  197901 example.go:55] "another runtime" logger="example" foo="bar" duration="1h0m0s" duration="1m0s"

The logger key and foo="bar" were added by the caller of the function which logs the runtime message and duration="1m0s" value, without having to modify that function.

With contextual logging disable, WithValues and WithName do nothing and log calls go through the global klog logger. Therefore this additional information is not in the log output anymore:

$ go run . --feature-gates ContextualLogging=false
I0222 15:14:40.497333  198174 example.go:54] "runtime" duration="1m0s"
I0222 15:14:40.497346  198174 example.go:55] "another runtime" duration="1h0m0s" duration="1m0s"

JSON log format

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.19 [alpha]

The --logging-format=json flag changes the format of logs from klog native format to JSON format. Example of JSON log format (pretty printed):

   "ts": 1580306777.04728,
   "v": 4,
   "msg": "Pod status updated",
      "name": "nginx-1",
      "namespace": "default"
   "status": "ready"

Keys with special meaning:

  • ts - timestamp as Unix time (required, float)
  • v - verbosity (only for info and not for error messages, int)
  • err - error string (optional, string)
  • msg - message (required, string)

List of components currently supporting JSON format:

Log verbosity level

The -v flag controls log verbosity. Increasing the value increases the number of logged events. Decreasing the value decreases the number of logged events. Increasing verbosity settings logs increasingly less severe events. A verbosity setting of 0 logs only critical events.

Log location

There are two types of system components: those that run in a container and those that do not run in a container. For example:

  • The Kubernetes scheduler and kube-proxy run in a container.
  • The kubelet and container runtime do not run in containers.

On machines with systemd, the kubelet and container runtime write to journald. Otherwise, they write to .log files in the /var/log directory. System components inside containers always write to .log files in the /var/log directory, bypassing the default logging mechanism. Similar to the container logs, you should rotate system component logs in the /var/log directory. In Kubernetes clusters created by the script, log rotation is configured by the logrotate tool. The logrotate tool rotates logs daily, or once the log size is greater than 100MB.

Log query

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.30 [beta]

To help with debugging issues on nodes, Kubernetes v1.27 introduced a feature that allows viewing logs of services running on the node. To use the feature, ensure that the NodeLogQuery feature gate is enabled for that node, and that the kubelet configuration options enableSystemLogHandler and enableSystemLogQuery are both set to true. On Linux the assumption is that service logs are available via journald. On Windows the assumption is that service logs are available in the application log provider. On both operating systems, logs are also available by reading files within /var/log/.

Provided you are authorized to interact with node objects, you can try out this feature on all your nodes or just a subset. Here is an example to retrieve the kubelet service logs from a node:

# Fetch kubelet logs from a node named node-1.example
kubectl get --raw "/api/v1/nodes/node-1.example/proxy/logs/?query=kubelet"

You can also fetch files, provided that the files are in a directory that the kubelet allows for log fetches. For example, you can fetch a log from /var/log on a Linux node:

kubectl get --raw "/api/v1/nodes/<insert-node-name-here>/proxy/logs/?query=/<insert-log-file-name-here>"

The kubelet uses heuristics to retrieve logs. This helps if you are not aware whether a given system service is writing logs to the operating system's native logger like journald or to a log file in /var/log/. The heuristics first checks the native logger and if that is not available attempts to retrieve the first logs from /var/log/<servicename> or /var/log/<servicename>.log or /var/log/<servicename>/<servicename>.log.

The complete list of options that can be used are:

bootboot show messages from a specific system boot
patternpattern filters log entries by the provided PERL-compatible regular expression
queryquery specifies services(s) or files from which to return logs (required)
sinceTimean RFC3339 timestamp from which to show logs (inclusive)
untilTimean RFC3339 timestamp until which to show logs (inclusive)
tailLinesspecify how many lines from the end of the log to retrieve; the default is to fetch the whole log

Example of a more complex query:

# Fetch kubelet logs from a node named node-1.example that have the word "error"
kubectl get --raw "/api/v1/nodes/node-1.example/proxy/logs/?query=kubelet&pattern=error"

What's next

Last modified February 22, 2024 at 3:16 PM PST: contextual logging: document promotion to beta (4f0dc7ad36)