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Init Containers

This page provides an overview of init containers: specialized containers that run before app containers in a PodThe smallest and simplest Kubernetes object. A Pod represents a set of running containers on your cluster. . Init containers can contain utilities or setup scripts not present in an app image.

You can specify init containers in the Pod specification alongside the containers array (which describes app containers).

Understanding init containers

A PodThe smallest and simplest Kubernetes object. A Pod represents a set of running containers on your cluster. can have multiple containers running apps within it, but it can also have one or more init containers, which are run before the app containers are started.

Init containers are exactly like regular containers, except:

If a Pod’s init container fails, Kubernetes repeatedly restarts the Pod until the init container succeeds. However, if the Pod has a restartPolicy of Never, Kubernetes does not restart the Pod.

To specify an init container for a Pod, add the initContainers field into the Pod specification, as an array of objects of type Container, alongside the app containers array. The status of the init containers is returned in .status.initContainerStatuses field as an array of the container statuses (similar to the .status.containerStatuses field).

Differences from regular containers

Init containers support all the fields and features of app containers, including resource limits, volumes, and security settings. However, the resource requests and limits for an init container are handled differently, as documented in Resources.

Also, init containers do not support readiness probes because they must run to completion before the Pod can be ready.

If you specify multiple init containers for a Pod, Kubelet runs each init container sequentially. Each init container must succeed before the next can run. When all of the init containers have run to completion, Kubelet initializes the application containers for the Pod and runs them as usual.

Using init containers

Because init containers have separate images from app containers, they have some advantages for start-up related code:

Examples

Here are some ideas for how to use init containers:

Init containers in use

This example defines a simple Pod that has two init containers. The first waits for myservice, and the second waits for mydb. Once both init containers complete, the Pod runs the app container from its spec section.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: myapp-pod
  labels:
    app: myapp
spec:
  containers:
  - name: myapp-container
    image: busybox:1.28
    command: ['sh', '-c', 'echo The app is running! && sleep 3600']
  initContainers:
  - name: init-myservice
    image: busybox:1.28
    command: ['sh', '-c', 'until nslookup myservice; do echo waiting for myservice; sleep 2; done;']
  - name: init-mydb
    image: busybox:1.28
    command: ['sh', '-c', 'until nslookup mydb; do echo waiting for mydb; sleep 2; done;']

The following YAML file outlines the mydb and myservice services:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: myservice
spec:
  ports:
  - protocol: TCP
    port: 80
    targetPort: 9376
---
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: mydb
spec:
  ports:
  - protocol: TCP
    port: 80
    targetPort: 9377

You can start this Pod by running:

kubectl apply -f myapp.yaml
pod/myapp-pod created

And check on its status with:

kubectl get -f myapp.yaml
NAME        READY     STATUS     RESTARTS   AGE
myapp-pod   0/1       Init:0/2   0          6m

or for more details:

kubectl describe -f myapp.yaml
Name:          myapp-pod
Namespace:     default
[...]
Labels:        app=myapp
Status:        Pending
[...]
Init Containers:
  init-myservice:
[...]
    State:         Running
[...]
  init-mydb:
[...]
    State:         Waiting
      Reason:      PodInitializing
    Ready:         False
[...]
Containers:
  myapp-container:
[...]
    State:         Waiting
      Reason:      PodInitializing
    Ready:         False
[...]
Events:
  FirstSeen    LastSeen    Count    From                      SubObjectPath                           Type          Reason        Message
  ---------    --------    -----    ----                      -------------                           --------      ------        -------
  16s          16s         1        {default-scheduler }                                              Normal        Scheduled     Successfully assigned myapp-pod to 172.17.4.201
  16s          16s         1        {kubelet 172.17.4.201}    spec.initContainers{init-myservice}     Normal        Pulling       pulling image "busybox"
  13s          13s         1        {kubelet 172.17.4.201}    spec.initContainers{init-myservice}     Normal        Pulled        Successfully pulled image "busybox"
  13s          13s         1        {kubelet 172.17.4.201}    spec.initContainers{init-myservice}     Normal        Created       Created container with docker id 5ced34a04634; Security:[seccomp=unconfined]
  13s          13s         1        {kubelet 172.17.4.201}    spec.initContainers{init-myservice}     Normal        Started       Started container with docker id 5ced34a04634

To see logs for the init containers in this Pod, run:

kubectl logs myapp-pod -c init-myservice # Inspect the first init container
kubectl logs myapp-pod -c init-mydb      # Inspect the second init container

At this point, those init containers will be waiting to discover Services named mydb and myservices.

Here’s a configuration you can use to make those Services appear:

---
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: myservice
spec:
  ports:
  - protocol: TCP
    port: 80
    targetPort: 9376
---
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: mydb
spec:
  ports:
  - protocol: TCP
    port: 80
    targetPort: 9377

To create the mydb and myservice services:

kubectl apply -f services.yaml
service/myservice created
service/mydb created

You’ll then see that those init containers complete, and that the myapp-pod Pod moves into the Running state:

kubectl get -f myapp.yaml
NAME        READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
myapp-pod   1/1       Running   0          9m

This simple example should provide some inspiration for you to create your own init containers. What’s next contains a link to a more detailed example.

Detailed behavior

During the startup of a Pod, each init container starts in order, after the network and volumes are initialized. Each container must exit successfully before the next container starts. If a container fails to start due to the runtime or exits with failure, it is retried according to the Pod restartPolicy. However, if the Pod restartPolicy is set to Always, the init containers use restartPolicy OnFailure.

A Pod cannot be Ready until all init containers have succeeded. The ports on an init container are not aggregated under a Service. A Pod that is initializing is in the Pending state but should have a condition Initializing set to true.

If the Pod restarts, or is restarted, all init containers must execute again.

Changes to the init container spec are limited to the container image field. Altering an init container image field is equivalent to restarting the Pod.

Because init containers can be restarted, retried, or re-executed, init container code should be idempotent. In particular, code that writes to files on EmptyDirs should be prepared for the possibility that an output file already exists.

Init containers have all of the fields of an app container. However, Kubernetes prohibits readinessProbe from being used because init containers cannot define readiness distinct from completion. This is enforced during validation.

Use activeDeadlineSeconds on the Pod and livenessProbe on the container to prevent init containers from failing forever. The active deadline includes init containers.

The name of each app and init container in a Pod must be unique; a validation error is thrown for any container sharing a name with another.

Resources

Given the ordering and execution for init containers, the following rules for resource usage apply:

Quota and limits are applied based on the effective Pod request and limit.

Pod level control groups (cgroups) are based on the effective Pod request and limit, the same as the scheduler.

Pod restart reasons

A Pod can restart, causing re-execution of init containers, for the following reasons:

What's next

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