1 - Declarative Management of Kubernetes Objects Using Configuration Files

Kubernetes objects can be created, updated, and deleted by storing multiple object configuration files in a directory and using kubectl apply to recursively create and update those objects as needed. This method retains writes made to live objects without merging the changes back into the object configuration files. kubectl diff also gives you a preview of what changes apply will make.

Before you begin

Install kubectl.

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

To check the version, enter kubectl version.

Trade-offs

The kubectl tool supports three kinds of object management:

  • Imperative commands
  • Imperative object configuration
  • Declarative object configuration

See Kubernetes Object Management for a discussion of the advantages and disadvantage of each kind of object management.

Overview

Declarative object configuration requires a firm understanding of the Kubernetes object definitions and configuration. Read and complete the following documents if you have not already:

Following are definitions for terms used in this document:

  • object configuration file / configuration file: A file that defines the configuration for a Kubernetes object. This topic shows how to pass configuration files to kubectl apply. Configuration files are typically stored in source control, such as Git.
  • live object configuration / live configuration: The live configuration values of an object, as observed by the Kubernetes cluster. These are kept in the Kubernetes cluster storage, typically etcd.
  • declarative configuration writer / declarative writer: A person or software component that makes updates to a live object. The live writers referred to in this topic make changes to object configuration files and run kubectl apply to write the changes.

How to create objects

Use kubectl apply to create all objects, except those that already exist, defined by configuration files in a specified directory:

kubectl apply -f <directory>/

This sets the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: '{...}' annotation on each object. The annotation contains the contents of the object configuration file that was used to create the object.

Note: Add the -R flag to recursively process directories.

Here's an example of an object configuration file:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  minReadySeconds: 5
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Run kubectl diff to print the object that will be created:

kubectl diff -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml
Note:

diff uses server-side dry-run, which needs to be enabled on kube-apiserver.

Since diff performs a server-side apply request in dry-run mode, it requires granting PATCH, CREATE, and UPDATE permissions. See Dry-Run Authorization for details.

Create the object using kubectl apply:

kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml

Print the live configuration using kubectl get:

kubectl get -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml -o yaml

The output shows that the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration annotation was written to the live configuration, and it matches the configuration file:

kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    # ...
    # This is the json representation of simple_deployment.yaml
    # It was written by kubectl apply when the object was created
    kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: |
      {"apiVersion":"apps/v1","kind":"Deployment",
      "metadata":{"annotations":{},"name":"nginx-deployment","namespace":"default"},
      "spec":{"minReadySeconds":5,"selector":{"matchLabels":{"app":nginx}},"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"app":"nginx"}},
      "spec":{"containers":[{"image":"nginx:1.14.2","name":"nginx",
      "ports":[{"containerPort":80}]}]}}}}      
  # ...
spec:
  # ...
  minReadySeconds: 5
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      # ...
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      # ...
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.14.2
        # ...
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
        # ...
      # ...
    # ...
  # ...

How to update objects

You can also use kubectl apply to update all objects defined in a directory, even if those objects already exist. This approach accomplishes the following:

  1. Sets fields that appear in the configuration file in the live configuration.
  2. Clears fields removed from the configuration file in the live configuration.
kubectl diff -f <directory>/
kubectl apply -f <directory>/
Note: Add the -R flag to recursively process directories.

Here's an example configuration file:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  minReadySeconds: 5
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Create the object using kubectl apply:

kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml
Note: For purposes of illustration, the preceding command refers to a single configuration file instead of a directory.

Print the live configuration using kubectl get:

kubectl get -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml -o yaml

The output shows that the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration annotation was written to the live configuration, and it matches the configuration file:

kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    # ...
    # This is the json representation of simple_deployment.yaml
    # It was written by kubectl apply when the object was created
    kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: |
      {"apiVersion":"apps/v1","kind":"Deployment",
      "metadata":{"annotations":{},"name":"nginx-deployment","namespace":"default"},
      "spec":{"minReadySeconds":5,"selector":{"matchLabels":{"app":nginx}},"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"app":"nginx"}},
      "spec":{"containers":[{"image":"nginx:1.14.2","name":"nginx",
      "ports":[{"containerPort":80}]}]}}}}      
  # ...
spec:
  # ...
  minReadySeconds: 5
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      # ...
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      # ...
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.14.2
        # ...
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
        # ...
      # ...
    # ...
  # ...

Directly update the replicas field in the live configuration by using kubectl scale. This does not use kubectl apply:

kubectl scale deployment/nginx-deployment --replicas=2

Print the live configuration using kubectl get:

kubectl get deployment nginx-deployment -o yaml

The output shows that the replicas field has been set to 2, and the last-applied-configuration annotation does not contain a replicas field:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    # ...
    # note that the annotation does not contain replicas
    # because it was not updated through apply
    kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: |
      {"apiVersion":"apps/v1","kind":"Deployment",
      "metadata":{"annotations":{},"name":"nginx-deployment","namespace":"default"},
      "spec":{"minReadySeconds":5,"selector":{"matchLabels":{"app":nginx}},"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"app":"nginx"}},
      "spec":{"containers":[{"image":"nginx:1.14.2","name":"nginx",
      "ports":[{"containerPort":80}]}]}}}}      
  # ...
spec:
  replicas: 2 # written by scale
  # ...
  minReadySeconds: 5
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      # ...
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      # ...
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.14.2
        # ...
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
      # ...

Update the simple_deployment.yaml configuration file to change the image from nginx:1.14.2 to nginx:1.16.1, and delete the minReadySeconds field:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.16.1 # update the image
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Apply the changes made to the configuration file:

kubectl diff -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/update_deployment.yaml
kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/update_deployment.yaml

Print the live configuration using kubectl get:

kubectl get -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/update_deployment.yaml -o yaml

The output shows the following changes to the live configuration:

  • The replicas field retains the value of 2 set by kubectl scale. This is possible because it is omitted from the configuration file.
  • The image field has been updated to nginx:1.16.1 from nginx:1.14.2.
  • The last-applied-configuration annotation has been updated with the new image.
  • The minReadySeconds field has been cleared.
  • The last-applied-configuration annotation no longer contains the minReadySeconds field.
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    # ...
    # The annotation contains the updated image to nginx 1.11.9,
    # but does not contain the updated replicas to 2
    kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: |
      {"apiVersion":"apps/v1","kind":"Deployment",
      "metadata":{"annotations":{},"name":"nginx-deployment","namespace":"default"},
      "spec":{"selector":{"matchLabels":{"app":nginx}},"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"app":"nginx"}},
      "spec":{"containers":[{"image":"nginx:1.16.1","name":"nginx",
      "ports":[{"containerPort":80}]}]}}}}      
    # ...
spec:
  replicas: 2 # Set by `kubectl scale`.  Ignored by `kubectl apply`.
  # minReadySeconds cleared by `kubectl apply`
  # ...
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      # ...
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      # ...
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.16.1 # Set by `kubectl apply`
        # ...
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
        # ...
      # ...
    # ...
  # ...
Warning: Mixing kubectl apply with the imperative object configuration commands create and replace is not supported. This is because create and replace do not retain the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration that kubectl apply uses to compute updates.

How to delete objects

There are two approaches to delete objects managed by kubectl apply.

Manually deleting objects using the imperative command is the recommended approach, as it is more explicit about what is being deleted, and less likely to result in the user deleting something unintentionally:

kubectl delete -f <filename>

Alternative: kubectl apply -f <directory/> --prune -l your=label

Only use this if you know what you are doing.

Warning: kubectl apply --prune is in alpha, and backwards incompatible changes might be introduced in subsequent releases.
Warning: You must be careful when using this command, so that you do not delete objects unintentionally.

As an alternative to kubectl delete, you can use kubectl apply to identify objects to be deleted after their configuration files have been removed from the directory. Apply with --prune queries the API server for all objects matching a set of labels, and attempts to match the returned live object configurations against the object configuration files. If an object matches the query, and it does not have a configuration file in the directory, and it has a last-applied-configuration annotation, it is deleted.

kubectl apply -f <directory/> --prune -l <labels>
Warning: Apply with prune should only be run against the root directory containing the object configuration files. Running against sub-directories can cause objects to be unintentionally deleted if they are returned by the label selector query specified with -l <labels> and do not appear in the subdirectory.

How to view an object

You can use kubectl get with -o yaml to view the configuration of a live object:

kubectl get -f <filename|url> -o yaml

How apply calculates differences and merges changes

Caution: A patch is an update operation that is scoped to specific fields of an object instead of the entire object. This enables updating only a specific set of fields on an object without reading the object first.

When kubectl apply updates the live configuration for an object, it does so by sending a patch request to the API server. The patch defines updates scoped to specific fields of the live object configuration. The kubectl apply command calculates this patch request using the configuration file, the live configuration, and the last-applied-configuration annotation stored in the live configuration.

Merge patch calculation

The kubectl apply command writes the contents of the configuration file to the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration annotation. This is used to identify fields that have been removed from the configuration file and need to be cleared from the live configuration. Here are the steps used to calculate which fields should be deleted or set:

  1. Calculate the fields to delete. These are the fields present in last-applied-configuration and missing from the configuration file.
  2. Calculate the fields to add or set. These are the fields present in the configuration file whose values don't match the live configuration.

Here's an example. Suppose this is the configuration file for a Deployment object:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.16.1 # update the image
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Also, suppose this is the live configuration for the same Deployment object:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    # ...
    # note that the annotation does not contain replicas
    # because it was not updated through apply
    kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: |
      {"apiVersion":"apps/v1","kind":"Deployment",
      "metadata":{"annotations":{},"name":"nginx-deployment","namespace":"default"},
      "spec":{"minReadySeconds":5,"selector":{"matchLabels":{"app":nginx}},"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"app":"nginx"}},
      "spec":{"containers":[{"image":"nginx:1.14.2","name":"nginx",
      "ports":[{"containerPort":80}]}]}}}}      
  # ...
spec:
  replicas: 2 # written by scale
  # ...
  minReadySeconds: 5
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      # ...
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      # ...
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.14.2
        # ...
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
      # ...

Here are the merge calculations that would be performed by kubectl apply:

  1. Calculate the fields to delete by reading values from last-applied-configuration and comparing them to values in the configuration file. Clear fields explicitly set to null in the local object configuration file regardless of whether they appear in the last-applied-configuration. In this example, minReadySeconds appears in the last-applied-configuration annotation, but does not appear in the configuration file. Action: Clear minReadySeconds from the live configuration.
  2. Calculate the fields to set by reading values from the configuration file and comparing them to values in the live configuration. In this example, the value of image in the configuration file does not match the value in the live configuration. Action: Set the value of image in the live configuration.
  3. Set the last-applied-configuration annotation to match the value of the configuration file.
  4. Merge the results from 1, 2, 3 into a single patch request to the API server.

Here is the live configuration that is the result of the merge:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    # ...
    # The annotation contains the updated image to nginx 1.11.9,
    # but does not contain the updated replicas to 2
    kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration: |
      {"apiVersion":"apps/v1","kind":"Deployment",
      "metadata":{"annotations":{},"name":"nginx-deployment","namespace":"default"},
      "spec":{"selector":{"matchLabels":{"app":nginx}},"template":{"metadata":{"labels":{"app":"nginx"}},
      "spec":{"containers":[{"image":"nginx:1.16.1","name":"nginx",
      "ports":[{"containerPort":80}]}]}}}}      
    # ...
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      # ...
      app: nginx
  replicas: 2 # Set by `kubectl scale`.  Ignored by `kubectl apply`.
  # minReadySeconds cleared by `kubectl apply`
  # ...
  template:
    metadata:
      # ...
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.16.1 # Set by `kubectl apply`
        # ...
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
        # ...
      # ...
    # ...
  # ...

How different types of fields are merged

How a particular field in a configuration file is merged with the live configuration depends on the type of the field. There are several types of fields:

  • primitive: A field of type string, integer, or boolean. For example, image and replicas are primitive fields. Action: Replace.

  • map, also called object: A field of type map or a complex type that contains subfields. For example, labels, annotations,spec and metadata are all maps. Action: Merge elements or subfields.

  • list: A field containing a list of items that can be either primitive types or maps. For example, containers, ports, and args are lists. Action: Varies.

When kubectl apply updates a map or list field, it typically does not replace the entire field, but instead updates the individual subelements. For instance, when merging the spec on a Deployment, the entire spec is not replaced. Instead the subfields of spec, such as replicas, are compared and merged.

Merging changes to primitive fields

Primitive fields are replaced or cleared.

Note: - is used for "not applicable" because the value is not used.
Field in object configuration fileField in live object configurationField in last-applied-configurationAction
YesYes-Set live to configuration file value.
YesNo-Set live to local configuration.
No-YesClear from live configuration.
No-NoDo nothing. Keep live value.

Merging changes to map fields

Fields that represent maps are merged by comparing each of the subfields or elements of the map:

Note: - is used for "not applicable" because the value is not used.
Key in object configuration fileKey in live object configurationField in last-applied-configurationAction
YesYes-Compare sub fields values.
YesNo-Set live to local configuration.
No-YesDelete from live configuration.
No-NoDo nothing. Keep live value.

Merging changes for fields of type list

Merging changes to a list uses one of three strategies:

  • Replace the list if all its elements are primitives.
  • Merge individual elements in a list of complex elements.
  • Merge a list of primitive elements.

The choice of strategy is made on a per-field basis.

Replace the list if all its elements are primitives

Treat the list the same as a primitive field. Replace or delete the entire list. This preserves ordering.

Example: Use kubectl apply to update the args field of a Container in a Pod. This sets the value of args in the live configuration to the value in the configuration file. Any args elements that had previously been added to the live configuration are lost. The order of the args elements defined in the configuration file is retained in the live configuration.

# last-applied-configuration value
    args: ["a", "b"]

# configuration file value
    args: ["a", "c"]

# live configuration
    args: ["a", "b", "d"]

# result after merge
    args: ["a", "c"]

Explanation: The merge used the configuration file value as the new list value.

Merge individual elements of a list of complex elements:

Treat the list as a map, and treat a specific field of each element as a key. Add, delete, or update individual elements. This does not preserve ordering.

This merge strategy uses a special tag on each field called a patchMergeKey. The patchMergeKey is defined for each field in the Kubernetes source code: types.go When merging a list of maps, the field specified as the patchMergeKey for a given element is used like a map key for that element.

Example: Use kubectl apply to update the containers field of a PodSpec. This merges the list as though it was a map where each element is keyed by name.

# last-applied-configuration value
    containers:
    - name: nginx
      image: nginx:1.16
    - name: nginx-helper-a # key: nginx-helper-a; will be deleted in result
      image: helper:1.3
    - name: nginx-helper-b # key: nginx-helper-b; will be retained
      image: helper:1.3

# configuration file value
    containers:
    - name: nginx
      image: nginx:1.16
    - name: nginx-helper-b
      image: helper:1.3
    - name: nginx-helper-c # key: nginx-helper-c; will be added in result
      image: helper:1.3

# live configuration
    containers:
    - name: nginx
      image: nginx:1.16
    - name: nginx-helper-a
      image: helper:1.3
    - name: nginx-helper-b
      image: helper:1.3
      args: ["run"] # Field will be retained
    - name: nginx-helper-d # key: nginx-helper-d; will be retained
      image: helper:1.3

# result after merge
    containers:
    - name: nginx
      image: nginx:1.16
      # Element nginx-helper-a was deleted
    - name: nginx-helper-b
      image: helper:1.3
      args: ["run"] # Field was retained
    - name: nginx-helper-c # Element was added
      image: helper:1.3
    - name: nginx-helper-d # Element was ignored
      image: helper:1.3

Explanation:

  • The container named "nginx-helper-a" was deleted because no container named "nginx-helper-a" appeared in the configuration file.
  • The container named "nginx-helper-b" retained the changes to args in the live configuration. kubectl apply was able to identify that "nginx-helper-b" in the live configuration was the same "nginx-helper-b" as in the configuration file, even though their fields had different values (no args in the configuration file). This is because the patchMergeKey field value (name) was identical in both.
  • The container named "nginx-helper-c" was added because no container with that name appeared in the live configuration, but one with that name appeared in the configuration file.
  • The container named "nginx-helper-d" was retained because no element with that name appeared in the last-applied-configuration.

Merge a list of primitive elements

As of Kubernetes 1.5, merging lists of primitive elements is not supported.

Note: Which of the above strategies is chosen for a given field is controlled by the patchStrategy tag in types.go If no patchStrategy is specified for a field of type list, then the list is replaced.

Default field values

The API server sets certain fields to default values in the live configuration if they are not specified when the object is created.

Here's a configuration file for a Deployment. The file does not specify strategy:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  minReadySeconds: 5
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Create the object using kubectl apply:

kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml

Print the live configuration using kubectl get:

kubectl get -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/simple_deployment.yaml -o yaml

The output shows that the API server set several fields to default values in the live configuration. These fields were not specified in the configuration file.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
# ...
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  minReadySeconds: 5
  replicas: 1 # defaulted by apiserver
  strategy:
    rollingUpdate: # defaulted by apiserver - derived from strategy.type
      maxSurge: 1
      maxUnavailable: 1
    type: RollingUpdate # defaulted by apiserver
  template:
    metadata:
      creationTimestamp: null
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx:1.14.2
        imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent # defaulted by apiserver
        name: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
          protocol: TCP # defaulted by apiserver
        resources: {} # defaulted by apiserver
        terminationMessagePath: /dev/termination-log # defaulted by apiserver
      dnsPolicy: ClusterFirst # defaulted by apiserver
      restartPolicy: Always # defaulted by apiserver
      securityContext: {} # defaulted by apiserver
      terminationGracePeriodSeconds: 30 # defaulted by apiserver
# ...

In a patch request, defaulted fields are not re-defaulted unless they are explicitly cleared as part of a patch request. This can cause unexpected behavior for fields that are defaulted based on the values of other fields. When the other fields are later changed, the values defaulted from them will not be updated unless they are explicitly cleared.

For this reason, it is recommended that certain fields defaulted by the server are explicitly defined in the configuration file, even if the desired values match the server defaults. This makes it easier to recognize conflicting values that will not be re-defaulted by the server.

Example:

# last-applied-configuration
spec:
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

# configuration file
spec:
  strategy:
    type: Recreate # updated value
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

# live configuration
spec:
  strategy:
    type: RollingUpdate # defaulted value
    rollingUpdate: # defaulted value derived from type
      maxSurge : 1
      maxUnavailable: 1
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

# result after merge - ERROR!
spec:
  strategy:
    type: Recreate # updated value: incompatible with rollingUpdate
    rollingUpdate: # defaulted value: incompatible with "type: Recreate"
      maxSurge : 1
      maxUnavailable: 1
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Explanation:

  1. The user creates a Deployment without defining strategy.type.
  2. The server defaults strategy.type to RollingUpdate and defaults the strategy.rollingUpdate values.
  3. The user changes strategy.type to Recreate. The strategy.rollingUpdate values remain at their defaulted values, though the server expects them to be cleared. If the strategy.rollingUpdate values had been defined initially in the configuration file, it would have been more clear that they needed to be deleted.
  4. Apply fails because strategy.rollingUpdate is not cleared. The strategy.rollingupdate field cannot be defined with a strategy.type of Recreate.

Recommendation: These fields should be explicitly defined in the object configuration file:

  • Selectors and PodTemplate labels on workloads, such as Deployment, StatefulSet, Job, DaemonSet, ReplicaSet, and ReplicationController
  • Deployment rollout strategy

How to clear server-defaulted fields or fields set by other writers

Fields that do not appear in the configuration file can be cleared by setting their values to null and then applying the configuration file. For fields defaulted by the server, this triggers re-defaulting the values.

How to change ownership of a field between the configuration file and direct imperative writers

These are the only methods you should use to change an individual object field:

  • Use kubectl apply.
  • Write directly to the live configuration without modifying the configuration file: for example, use kubectl scale.

Changing the owner from a direct imperative writer to a configuration file

Add the field to the configuration file. For the field, discontinue direct updates to the live configuration that do not go through kubectl apply.

Changing the owner from a configuration file to a direct imperative writer

As of Kubernetes 1.5, changing ownership of a field from a configuration file to an imperative writer requires manual steps:

  • Remove the field from the configuration file.
  • Remove the field from the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration annotation on the live object.

Changing management methods

Kubernetes objects should be managed using only one method at a time. Switching from one method to another is possible, but is a manual process.

Note: It is OK to use imperative deletion with declarative management.

Migrating from imperative command management to declarative object configuration

Migrating from imperative command management to declarative object configuration involves several manual steps:

  1. Export the live object to a local configuration file:

    kubectl get <kind>/<name> -o yaml > <kind>_<name>.yaml
    
  2. Manually remove the status field from the configuration file.

    Note: This step is optional, as kubectl apply does not update the status field even if it is present in the configuration file.
  3. Set the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration annotation on the object:

    kubectl replace --save-config -f <kind>_<name>.yaml
    
  4. Change processes to use kubectl apply for managing the object exclusively.

Migrating from imperative object configuration to declarative object configuration

  1. Set the kubectl.kubernetes.io/last-applied-configuration annotation on the object:

    kubectl replace --save-config -f <kind>_<name>.yaml
    
  2. Change processes to use kubectl apply for managing the object exclusively.

Defining controller selectors and PodTemplate labels

Warning: Updating selectors on controllers is strongly discouraged.

The recommended approach is to define a single, immutable PodTemplate label used only by the controller selector with no other semantic meaning.

Example:

selector:
  matchLabels:
      controller-selector: "apps/v1/deployment/nginx"
template:
  metadata:
    labels:
      controller-selector: "apps/v1/deployment/nginx"

What's next

2 - Declarative Management of Kubernetes Objects Using Kustomize

Kustomize is a standalone tool to customize Kubernetes objects through a kustomization file.

Since 1.14, Kubectl also supports the management of Kubernetes objects using a kustomization file. To view Resources found in a directory containing a kustomization file, run the following command:

kubectl kustomize <kustomization_directory>

To apply those Resources, run kubectl apply with --kustomize or -k flag:

kubectl apply -k <kustomization_directory>

Before you begin

Install kubectl.

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

To check the version, enter kubectl version.

Overview of Kustomize

Kustomize is a tool for customizing Kubernetes configurations. It has the following features to manage application configuration files:

  • generating resources from other sources
  • setting cross-cutting fields for resources
  • composing and customizing collections of resources

Generating Resources

ConfigMaps and Secrets hold configuration or sensitive data that are used by other Kubernetes objects, such as Pods. The source of truth of ConfigMaps or Secrets are usually external to a cluster, such as a .properties file or an SSH keyfile. Kustomize has secretGenerator and configMapGenerator, which generate Secret and ConfigMap from files or literals.

configMapGenerator

To generate a ConfigMap from a file, add an entry to the files list in configMapGenerator. Here is an example of generating a ConfigMap with a data item from a .properties file:

# Create a application.properties file
cat <<EOF >application.properties
FOO=Bar
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
configMapGenerator:
- name: example-configmap-1
  files:
  - application.properties
EOF

The generated ConfigMap can be examined with the following command:

kubectl kustomize ./

The generated ConfigMap is:

apiVersion: v1
data:
  application.properties: |
        FOO=Bar
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  name: example-configmap-1-8mbdf7882g

To generate a ConfigMap from an env file, add an entry to the envs list in configMapGenerator. Here is an example of generating a ConfigMap with a data item from a .env file:

# Create a .env file
cat <<EOF >.env
FOO=Bar
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
configMapGenerator:
- name: example-configmap-1
  envs:
  - .env
EOF

The generated ConfigMap can be examined with the following command:

kubectl kustomize ./

The generated ConfigMap is:

apiVersion: v1
data:
    FOO=Bar
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  name: example-configmap-1-8mbdf7882g
Note: Each variable in the .env file becomes a separate key in the ConfigMap that you generate. This is different from the previous example which embeds a file named .properties (and all its entries) as the value for a single key.

ConfigMaps can also be generated from literal key-value pairs. To generate a ConfigMap from a literal key-value pair, add an entry to the literals list in configMapGenerator. Here is an example of generating a ConfigMap with a data item from a key-value pair:

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
configMapGenerator:
- name: example-configmap-2
  literals:
  - FOO=Bar
EOF

The generated ConfigMap can be checked by the following command:

kubectl kustomize ./

The generated ConfigMap is:

apiVersion: v1
data:
  FOO: Bar
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  name: example-configmap-2-g2hdhfc6tk

To use a generated ConfigMap in a Deployment, reference it by the name of the configMapGenerator. Kustomize will automatically replace this name with the generated name.

This is an example deployment that uses a generated ConfigMap:

# Create a application.properties file
cat <<EOF >application.properties
FOO=Bar
EOF

cat <<EOF >deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-app
  labels:
    app: my-app
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: my-app
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: my-app
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: app
        image: my-app
        volumeMount:
        - name: config
          mountPath: /config
      volumes:
      - name: config
        configMap:
          name: example-configmap-1
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml
configMapGenerator:
- name: example-configmap-1
  files:
  - application.properties
EOF

Generate the ConfigMap and Deployment:

kubectl kustomize ./

The generated Deployment will refer to the generated ConfigMap by name:

apiVersion: v1
data:
  application.properties: |
        FOO=Bar
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  name: example-configmap-1-g4hk9g2ff8
---
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  labels:
    app: my-app
  name: my-app
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: my-app
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: my-app
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: my-app
        name: app
        volumeMount:
        - mountPath: /config
          name: config
      volumes:
      - configMap:
          name: example-configmap-1-g4hk9g2ff8
        name: config

secretGenerator

You can generate Secrets from files or literal key-value pairs. To generate a Secret from a file, add an entry to the files list in secretGenerator. Here is an example of generating a Secret with a data item from a file:

# Create a password.txt file
cat <<EOF >./password.txt
username=admin
password=secret
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
secretGenerator:
- name: example-secret-1
  files:
  - password.txt
EOF

The generated Secret is as follows:

apiVersion: v1
data:
  password.txt: dXNlcm5hbWU9YWRtaW4KcGFzc3dvcmQ9c2VjcmV0Cg==
kind: Secret
metadata:
  name: example-secret-1-t2kt65hgtb
type: Opaque

To generate a Secret from a literal key-value pair, add an entry to literals list in secretGenerator. Here is an example of generating a Secret with a data item from a key-value pair:

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
secretGenerator:
- name: example-secret-2
  literals:
  - username=admin
  - password=secret
EOF

The generated Secret is as follows:

apiVersion: v1
data:
  password: c2VjcmV0
  username: YWRtaW4=
kind: Secret
metadata:
  name: example-secret-2-t52t6g96d8
type: Opaque

Like ConfigMaps, generated Secrets can be used in Deployments by refering to the name of the secretGenerator:

# Create a password.txt file
cat <<EOF >./password.txt
username=admin
password=secret
EOF

cat <<EOF >deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-app
  labels:
    app: my-app
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: my-app
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: my-app
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: app
        image: my-app
        volumeMount:
        - name: password
          mountPath: /secrets
      volumes:
      - name: password
        secret:
          secretName: example-secret-1
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml
secretGenerator:
- name: example-secret-1
  files:
  - password.txt
EOF

generatorOptions

The generated ConfigMaps and Secrets have a content hash suffix appended. This ensures that a new ConfigMap or Secret is generated when the contents are changed. To disable the behavior of appending a suffix, one can use generatorOptions. Besides that, it is also possible to specify cross-cutting options for generated ConfigMaps and Secrets.

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
configMapGenerator:
- name: example-configmap-3
  literals:
  - FOO=Bar
generatorOptions:
  disableNameSuffixHash: true
  labels:
    type: generated
  annotations:
    note: generated
EOF

Runkubectl kustomize ./ to view the generated ConfigMap:

apiVersion: v1
data:
  FOO: Bar
kind: ConfigMap
metadata:
  annotations:
    note: generated
  labels:
    type: generated
  name: example-configmap-3

Setting cross-cutting fields

It is quite common to set cross-cutting fields for all Kubernetes resources in a project. Some use cases for setting cross-cutting fields:

  • setting the same namespace for all Resources
  • adding the same name prefix or suffix
  • adding the same set of labels
  • adding the same set of annotations

Here is an example:

# Create a deployment.yaml
cat <<EOF >./deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
  labels:
    app: nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
namespace: my-namespace
namePrefix: dev-
nameSuffix: "-001"
commonLabels:
  app: bingo
commonAnnotations:
  oncallPager: 800-555-1212
resources:
- deployment.yaml
EOF

Run kubectl kustomize ./ to view those fields are all set in the Deployment Resource:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  annotations:
    oncallPager: 800-555-1212
  labels:
    app: bingo
  name: dev-nginx-deployment-001
  namespace: my-namespace
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: bingo
  template:
    metadata:
      annotations:
        oncallPager: 800-555-1212
      labels:
        app: bingo
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx
        name: nginx

Composing and Customizing Resources

It is common to compose a set of Resources in a project and manage them inside the same file or directory. Kustomize offers composing Resources from different files and applying patches or other customization to them.

Composing

Kustomize supports composition of different resources. The resources field, in the kustomization.yaml file, defines the list of resources to include in a configuration. Set the path to a resource's configuration file in the resources list. Here is an example of an NGINX application comprised of a Deployment and a Service:

# Create a deployment.yaml file
cat <<EOF > deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
EOF

# Create a service.yaml file
cat <<EOF > service.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
  labels:
    run: my-nginx
spec:
  ports:
  - port: 80
    protocol: TCP
  selector:
    run: my-nginx
EOF

# Create a kustomization.yaml composing them
cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml
- service.yaml
EOF

The Resources from kubectl kustomize ./ contain both the Deployment and the Service objects.

Customizing

Patches can be used to apply different customizations to Resources. Kustomize supports different patching mechanisms through patchesStrategicMerge and patchesJson6902. patchesStrategicMerge is a list of file paths. Each file should be resolved to a strategic merge patch. The names inside the patches must match Resource names that are already loaded. Small patches that do one thing are recommended. For example, create one patch for increasing the deployment replica number and another patch for setting the memory limit.

# Create a deployment.yaml file
cat <<EOF > deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
EOF

# Create a patch increase_replicas.yaml
cat <<EOF > increase_replicas.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  replicas: 3
EOF

# Create another patch set_memory.yaml
cat <<EOF > set_memory.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  template:
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        resources:
          limits:
            memory: 512Mi
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml
patchesStrategicMerge:
- increase_replicas.yaml
- set_memory.yaml
EOF

Run kubectl kustomize ./ to view the Deployment:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  replicas: 3
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx
        name: my-nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
        resources:
          limits:
            memory: 512Mi

Not all Resources or fields support strategic merge patches. To support modifying arbitrary fields in arbitrary Resources, Kustomize offers applying JSON patch through patchesJson6902. To find the correct Resource for a Json patch, the group, version, kind and name of that Resource need to be specified in kustomization.yaml. For example, increasing the replica number of a Deployment object can also be done through patchesJson6902.

# Create a deployment.yaml file
cat <<EOF > deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
EOF

# Create a json patch
cat <<EOF > patch.yaml
- op: replace
  path: /spec/replicas
  value: 3
EOF

# Create a kustomization.yaml
cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml

patchesJson6902:
- target:
    group: apps
    version: v1
    kind: Deployment
    name: my-nginx
  path: patch.yaml
EOF

Run kubectl kustomize ./ to see the replicas field is updated:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  replicas: 3
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: nginx
        name: my-nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

In addition to patches, Kustomize also offers customizing container images or injecting field values from other objects into containers without creating patches. For example, you can change the image used inside containers by specifying the new image in images field in kustomization.yaml.

cat <<EOF > deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml
images:
- name: nginx
  newName: my.image.registry/nginx
  newTag: 1.4.0
EOF

Run kubectl kustomize ./ to see that the image being used is updated:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  replicas: 2
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - image: my.image.registry/nginx:1.4.0
        name: my-nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

Sometimes, the application running in a Pod may need to use configuration values from other objects. For example, a Pod from a Deployment object need to read the corresponding Service name from Env or as a command argument. Since the Service name may change as namePrefix or nameSuffix is added in the kustomization.yaml file. It is not recommended to hard code the Service name in the command argument. For this usage, Kustomize can inject the Service name into containers through vars.

# Create a deployment.yaml file
cat <<EOF > deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
        command: ["start", "--host", "$(MY_SERVICE_NAME)"]
EOF

# Create a service.yaml file
cat <<EOF > service.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
  labels:
    run: my-nginx
spec:
  ports:
  - port: 80
    protocol: TCP
  selector:
    run: my-nginx
EOF

cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
namePrefix: dev-
nameSuffix: "-001"

resources:
- deployment.yaml
- service.yaml

vars:
- name: MY_SERVICE_NAME
  objref:
    kind: Service
    name: my-nginx
    apiVersion: v1
EOF

Run kubectl kustomize ./ to see that the Service name injected into containers is dev-my-nginx-001:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: dev-my-nginx-001
spec:
  replicas: 2
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - command:
        - start
        - --host
        - dev-my-nginx-001
        image: nginx
        name: my-nginx

Bases and Overlays

Kustomize has the concepts of bases and overlays. A base is a directory with a kustomization.yaml, which contains a set of resources and associated customization. A base could be either a local directory or a directory from a remote repo, as long as a kustomization.yaml is present inside. An overlay is a directory with a kustomization.yaml that refers to other kustomization directories as its bases. A base has no knowledge of an overlay and can be used in multiple overlays. An overlay may have multiple bases and it composes all resources from bases and may also have customization on top of them.

Here is an example of a base:

# Create a directory to hold the base
mkdir base
# Create a base/deployment.yaml
cat <<EOF > base/deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
EOF

# Create a base/service.yaml file
cat <<EOF > base/service.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
  labels:
    run: my-nginx
spec:
  ports:
  - port: 80
    protocol: TCP
  selector:
    run: my-nginx
EOF
# Create a base/kustomization.yaml
cat <<EOF > base/kustomization.yaml
resources:
- deployment.yaml
- service.yaml
EOF

This base can be used in multiple overlays. You can add different namePrefix or other cross-cutting fields in different overlays. Here are two overlays using the same base.

mkdir dev
cat <<EOF > dev/kustomization.yaml
bases:
- ../base
namePrefix: dev-
EOF

mkdir prod
cat <<EOF > prod/kustomization.yaml
bases:
- ../base
namePrefix: prod-
EOF

How to apply/view/delete objects using Kustomize

Use --kustomize or -k in kubectl commands to recognize Resources managed by kustomization.yaml. Note that -k should point to a kustomization directory, such as

kubectl apply -k <kustomization directory>/

Given the following kustomization.yaml,

# Create a deployment.yaml file
cat <<EOF > deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: my-nginx
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        run: my-nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
EOF

# Create a kustomization.yaml
cat <<EOF >./kustomization.yaml
namePrefix: dev-
commonLabels:
  app: my-nginx
resources:
- deployment.yaml
EOF

Run the following command to apply the Deployment object dev-my-nginx:

> kubectl apply -k ./
deployment.apps/dev-my-nginx created

Run one of the following commands to view the Deployment object dev-my-nginx:

kubectl get -k ./
kubectl describe -k ./

Run the following command to compare the Deployment object dev-my-nginx against the state that the cluster would be in if the manifest was applied:

kubectl diff -k ./

Run the following command to delete the Deployment object dev-my-nginx:

> kubectl delete -k ./
deployment.apps "dev-my-nginx" deleted

Kustomize Feature List

FieldTypeExplanation
namespacestringadd namespace to all resources
namePrefixstringvalue of this field is prepended to the names of all resources
nameSuffixstringvalue of this field is appended to the names of all resources
commonLabelsmap[string]stringlabels to add to all resources and selectors
commonAnnotationsmap[string]stringannotations to add to all resources
resources[]stringeach entry in this list must resolve to an existing resource configuration file
configMapGenerator[]ConfigMapArgsEach entry in this list generates a ConfigMap
secretGenerator[]SecretArgsEach entry in this list generates a Secret
generatorOptionsGeneratorOptionsModify behaviors of all ConfigMap and Secret generator
bases[]stringEach entry in this list should resolve to a directory containing a kustomization.yaml file
patchesStrategicMerge[]stringEach entry in this list should resolve a strategic merge patch of a Kubernetes object
patchesJson6902[]PatchEach entry in this list should resolve to a Kubernetes object and a Json Patch
vars[]VarEach entry is to capture text from one resource's field
images[]ImageEach entry is to modify the name, tags and/or digest for one image without creating patches
configurations[]stringEach entry in this list should resolve to a file containing Kustomize transformer configurations
crds[]stringEach entry in this list should resolve to an OpenAPI definition file for Kubernetes types

What's next

3 - Managing Kubernetes Objects Using Imperative Commands

Kubernetes objects can quickly be created, updated, and deleted directly using imperative commands built into the kubectl command-line tool. This document explains how those commands are organized and how to use them to manage live objects.

Before you begin

Install kubectl.

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

To check the version, enter kubectl version.

Trade-offs

The kubectl tool supports three kinds of object management:

  • Imperative commands
  • Imperative object configuration
  • Declarative object configuration

See Kubernetes Object Management for a discussion of the advantages and disadvantage of each kind of object management.

How to create objects

The kubectl tool supports verb-driven commands for creating some of the most common object types. The commands are named to be recognizable to users unfamiliar with the Kubernetes object types.

  • run: Create a new Pod to run a Container.
  • expose: Create a new Service object to load balance traffic across Pods.
  • autoscale: Create a new Autoscaler object to automatically horizontally scale a controller, such as a Deployment.

The kubectl tool also supports creation commands driven by object type. These commands support more object types and are more explicit about their intent, but require users to know the type of objects they intend to create.

  • create <objecttype> [<subtype>] <instancename>

Some objects types have subtypes that you can specify in the create command. For example, the Service object has several subtypes including ClusterIP, LoadBalancer, and NodePort. Here's an example that creates a Service with subtype NodePort:

kubectl create service nodeport <myservicename>

In the preceding example, the create service nodeport command is called a subcommand of the create service command.

You can use the -h flag to find the arguments and flags supported by a subcommand:

kubectl create service nodeport -h

How to update objects

The kubectl command supports verb-driven commands for some common update operations. These commands are named to enable users unfamiliar with Kubernetes objects to perform updates without knowing the specific fields that must be set:

  • scale: Horizontally scale a controller to add or remove Pods by updating the replica count of the controller.
  • annotate: Add or remove an annotation from an object.
  • label: Add or remove a label from an object.

The kubectl command also supports update commands driven by an aspect of the object. Setting this aspect may set different fields for different object types:

  • set <field>: Set an aspect of an object.
Note: In Kubernetes version 1.5, not every verb-driven command has an associated aspect-driven command.

The kubectl tool supports these additional ways to update a live object directly, however they require a better understanding of the Kubernetes object schema.

  • edit: Directly edit the raw configuration of a live object by opening its configuration in an editor.
  • patch: Directly modify specific fields of a live object by using a patch string. For more details on patch strings, see the patch section in API Conventions.

How to delete objects

You can use the delete command to delete an object from a cluster:

  • delete <type>/<name>
Note: You can use kubectl delete for both imperative commands and imperative object configuration. The difference is in the arguments passed to the command. To use kubectl delete as an imperative command, pass the object to be deleted as an argument. Here's an example that passes a Deployment object named nginx:
kubectl delete deployment/nginx

How to view an object

There are several commands for printing information about an object:

  • get: Prints basic information about matching objects. Use get -h to see a list of options.
  • describe: Prints aggregated detailed information about matching objects.
  • logs: Prints the stdout and stderr for a container running in a Pod.

Using set commands to modify objects before creation

There are some object fields that don't have a flag you can use in a create command. In some of those cases, you can use a combination of set and create to specify a value for the field before object creation. This is done by piping the output of the create command to the set command, and then back to the create command. Here's an example:

kubectl create service clusterip my-svc --clusterip="None" -o yaml --dry-run=client | kubectl set selector --local -f - 'environment=qa' -o yaml | kubectl create -f -
  1. The kubectl create service -o yaml --dry-run=client command creates the configuration for the Service, but prints it to stdout as YAML instead of sending it to the Kubernetes API server.
  2. The kubectl set selector --local -f - -o yaml command reads the configuration from stdin, and writes the updated configuration to stdout as YAML.
  3. The kubectl create -f - command creates the object using the configuration provided via stdin.

Using --edit to modify objects before creation

You can use kubectl create --edit to make arbitrary changes to an object before it is created. Here's an example:

kubectl create service clusterip my-svc --clusterip="None" -o yaml --dry-run=client > /tmp/srv.yaml
kubectl create --edit -f /tmp/srv.yaml
  1. The kubectl create service command creates the configuration for the Service and saves it to /tmp/srv.yaml.
  2. The kubectl create --edit command opens the configuration file for editing before it creates the object.

What's next

4 - Imperative Management of Kubernetes Objects Using Configuration Files

Kubernetes objects can be created, updated, and deleted by using the kubectl command-line tool along with an object configuration file written in YAML or JSON. This document explains how to define and manage objects using configuration files.

Before you begin

Install kubectl.

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

To check the version, enter kubectl version.

Trade-offs

The kubectl tool supports three kinds of object management:

  • Imperative commands
  • Imperative object configuration
  • Declarative object configuration

See Kubernetes Object Management for a discussion of the advantages and disadvantage of each kind of object management.

How to create objects

You can use kubectl create -f to create an object from a configuration file. Refer to the kubernetes API reference for details.

  • kubectl create -f <filename|url>

How to update objects

Warning: Updating objects with the replace command drops all parts of the spec not specified in the configuration file. This should not be used with objects whose specs are partially managed by the cluster, such as Services of type LoadBalancer, where the externalIPs field is managed independently from the configuration file. Independently managed fields must be copied to the configuration file to prevent replace from dropping them.

You can use kubectl replace -f to update a live object according to a configuration file.

  • kubectl replace -f <filename|url>

How to delete objects

You can use kubectl delete -f to delete an object that is described in a configuration file.

  • kubectl delete -f <filename|url>
Note:

If configuration file has specified the generateName field in the metadata section instead of the name field, you cannot delete the object using kubectl delete -f <filename|url>. You will have to use other flags for deleting the object. For example:

kubectl delete <type> <name>
kubectl delete <type> -l <label>

How to view an object

You can use kubectl get -f to view information about an object that is described in a configuration file.

  • kubectl get -f <filename|url> -o yaml

The -o yaml flag specifies that the full object configuration is printed. Use kubectl get -h to see a list of options.

Limitations

The create, replace, and delete commands work well when each object's configuration is fully defined and recorded in its configuration file. However when a live object is updated, and the updates are not merged into its configuration file, the updates will be lost the next time a replace is executed. This can happen if a controller, such as a HorizontalPodAutoscaler, makes updates directly to a live object. Here's an example:

  1. You create an object from a configuration file.
  2. Another source updates the object by changing some field.
  3. You replace the object from the configuration file. Changes made by the other source in step 2 are lost.

If you need to support multiple writers to the same object, you can use kubectl apply to manage the object.

Creating and editing an object from a URL without saving the configuration

Suppose you have the URL of an object configuration file. You can use kubectl create --edit to make changes to the configuration before the object is created. This is particularly useful for tutorials and tasks that point to a configuration file that could be modified by the reader.

kubectl create -f <url> --edit

Migrating from imperative commands to imperative object configuration

Migrating from imperative commands to imperative object configuration involves several manual steps.

  1. Export the live object to a local object configuration file:

    kubectl get <kind>/<name> -o yaml > <kind>_<name>.yaml
    
  2. Manually remove the status field from the object configuration file.

  3. For subsequent object management, use replace exclusively.

    kubectl replace -f <kind>_<name>.yaml
    

Defining controller selectors and PodTemplate labels

Warning: Updating selectors on controllers is strongly discouraged.

The recommended approach is to define a single, immutable PodTemplate label used only by the controller selector with no other semantic meaning.

Example label:

selector:
  matchLabels:
      controller-selector: "apps/v1/deployment/nginx"
template:
  metadata:
    labels:
      controller-selector: "apps/v1/deployment/nginx"

What's next

5 - Update API Objects in Place Using kubectl patch

Use kubectl patch to update Kubernetes API objects in place. Do a strategic merge patch or a JSON merge patch.

This task shows how to use kubectl patch to update an API object in place. The exercises in this task demonstrate a strategic merge patch and a JSON merge patch.

Before you begin

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

To check the version, enter kubectl version.

Use a strategic merge patch to update a Deployment

Here's the configuration file for a Deployment that has two replicas. Each replica is a Pod that has one container:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: patch-demo
spec:
  replicas: 2
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: patch-demo-ctr
        image: nginx
      tolerations:
      - effect: NoSchedule
        key: dedicated
        value: test-team

Create the Deployment:

kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/deployment-patch.yaml

View the Pods associated with your Deployment:

kubectl get pods

The output shows that the Deployment has two Pods. The 1/1 indicates that each Pod has one container:

NAME                        READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
patch-demo-28633765-670qr   1/1       Running   0          23s
patch-demo-28633765-j5qs3   1/1       Running   0          23s

Make a note of the names of the running Pods. Later, you will see that these Pods get terminated and replaced by new ones.

At this point, each Pod has one Container that runs the nginx image. Now suppose you want each Pod to have two containers: one that runs nginx and one that runs redis.

Create a file named patch-file.yaml that has this content:

spec:
  template:
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: patch-demo-ctr-2
        image: redis

Patch your Deployment:


kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch "$(cat patch-file.yaml)"


kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch $(Get-Content patch-file.yaml -Raw)

View the patched Deployment:

kubectl get deployment patch-demo --output yaml

The output shows that the PodSpec in the Deployment has two Containers:

containers:
- image: redis
  imagePullPolicy: Always
  name: patch-demo-ctr-2
  ...
- image: nginx
  imagePullPolicy: Always
  name: patch-demo-ctr
  ...

View the Pods associated with your patched Deployment:

kubectl get pods

The output shows that the running Pods have different names from the Pods that were running previously. The Deployment terminated the old Pods and created two new Pods that comply with the updated Deployment spec. The 2/2 indicates that each Pod has two Containers:

NAME                          READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
patch-demo-1081991389-2wrn5   2/2       Running   0          1m
patch-demo-1081991389-jmg7b   2/2       Running   0          1m

Take a closer look at one of the patch-demo Pods:

kubectl get pod <your-pod-name> --output yaml

The output shows that the Pod has two Containers: one running nginx and one running redis:

containers:
- image: redis
  ...
- image: nginx
  ...

Notes on the strategic merge patch

The patch you did in the preceding exercise is called a strategic merge patch. Notice that the patch did not replace the containers list. Instead it added a new Container to the list. In other words, the list in the patch was merged with the existing list. This is not always what happens when you use a strategic merge patch on a list. In some cases, the list is replaced, not merged.

With a strategic merge patch, a list is either replaced or merged depending on its patch strategy. The patch strategy is specified by the value of the patchStrategy key in a field tag in the Kubernetes source code. For example, the Containers field of PodSpec struct has a patchStrategy of merge:

type PodSpec struct {
  ...
  Containers []Container `json:"containers" patchStrategy:"merge" patchMergeKey:"name" ...`

You can also see the patch strategy in the OpenApi spec:

"io.k8s.api.core.v1.PodSpec": {
    ...
     "containers": {
      "description": "List of containers belonging to the pod. ...
      },
      "x-kubernetes-patch-merge-key": "name",
      "x-kubernetes-patch-strategy": "merge"
     },

And you can see the patch strategy in the Kubernetes API documentation.

Create a file named patch-file-tolerations.yaml that has this content:

spec:
  template:
    spec:
      tolerations:
      - effect: NoSchedule
        key: disktype
        value: ssd

Patch your Deployment:

kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch "$(cat patch-file-tolerations.yaml)"

View the patched Deployment:

kubectl get deployment patch-demo --output yaml

The output shows that the PodSpec in the Deployment has only one Toleration:

tolerations:
      - effect: NoSchedule
        key: disktype
        value: ssd

Notice that the tolerations list in the PodSpec was replaced, not merged. This is because the Tolerations field of PodSpec does not have a patchStrategy key in its field tag. So the strategic merge patch uses the default patch strategy, which is replace.

type PodSpec struct {
  ...
  Tolerations []Toleration `json:"tolerations,omitempty" protobuf:"bytes,22,opt,name=tolerations"`

Use a JSON merge patch to update a Deployment

A strategic merge patch is different from a JSON merge patch. With a JSON merge patch, if you want to update a list, you have to specify the entire new list. And the new list completely replaces the existing list.

The kubectl patch command has a type parameter that you can set to one of these values:

Parameter valueMerge type
jsonJSON Patch, RFC 6902
mergeJSON Merge Patch, RFC 7386
strategicStrategic merge patch

For a comparison of JSON patch and JSON merge patch, see JSON Patch and JSON Merge Patch.

The default value for the type parameter is strategic. So in the preceding exercise, you did a strategic merge patch.

Next, do a JSON merge patch on your same Deployment. Create a file named patch-file-2.yaml that has this content:

spec:
  template:
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: patch-demo-ctr-3
        image: gcr.io/google-samples/node-hello:1.0

In your patch command, set type to merge:

kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --type merge --patch "$(cat patch-file-2.yaml)"

View the patched Deployment:

kubectl get deployment patch-demo --output yaml

The containers list that you specified in the patch has only one Container. The output shows that your list of one Container replaced the existing containers list.

spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google-samples/node-hello:1.0
    ...
    name: patch-demo-ctr-3

List the running Pods:

kubectl get pods

In the output, you can see that the existing Pods were terminated, and new Pods were created. The 1/1 indicates that each new Pod is running only one Container.

NAME                          READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
patch-demo-1307768864-69308   1/1       Running   0          1m
patch-demo-1307768864-c86dc   1/1       Running   0          1m

Use strategic merge patch to update a Deployment using the retainKeys strategy

Here's the configuration file for a Deployment that uses the RollingUpdate strategy:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: retainkeys-demo
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  strategy:
    rollingUpdate:
      maxSurge: 30%
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: retainkeys-demo-ctr
        image: nginx

Create the deployment:

kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/deployment-retainkeys.yaml

At this point, the deployment is created and is using the RollingUpdate strategy.

Create a file named patch-file-no-retainkeys.yaml that has this content:

spec:
  strategy:
    type: Recreate

Patch your Deployment:


kubectl patch deployment retainkeys-demo --patch "$(cat patch-file-no-retainkeys.yaml)"


kubectl patch deployment retainkeys-demo --patch $(Get-Content patch-file-no-retainkeys.yaml -Raw)

In the output, you can see that it is not possible to set type as Recreate when a value is defined for spec.strategy.rollingUpdate:

The Deployment "retainkeys-demo" is invalid: spec.strategy.rollingUpdate: Forbidden: may not be specified when strategy `type` is 'Recreate'

The way to remove the value for spec.strategy.rollingUpdate when updating the value for type is to use the retainKeys strategy for the strategic merge.

Create another file named patch-file-retainkeys.yaml that has this content:

spec:
  strategy:
    $retainKeys:
    - type
    type: Recreate

With this patch, we indicate that we want to retain only the type key of the strategy object. Thus, the rollingUpdate will be removed during the patch operation.

Patch your Deployment again with this new patch:


kubectl patch deployment retainkeys-demo --patch "$(cat patch-file-retainkeys.yaml)"


kubectl patch deployment retainkeys-demo --patch $(Get-Content patch-file-retainkeys.yaml -Raw)

Examine the content of the Deployment:

kubectl get deployment retainkeys-demo --output yaml

The output shows that the strategy object in the Deployment does not contain the rollingUpdate key anymore:

spec:
  strategy:
    type: Recreate
  template:

Notes on the strategic merge patch using the retainKeys strategy

The patch you did in the preceding exercise is called a strategic merge patch with retainKeys strategy. This method introduces a new directive $retainKeys that has the following strategies:

  • It contains a list of strings.
  • All fields needing to be preserved must be present in the $retainKeys list.
  • The fields that are present will be merged with live object.
  • All of the missing fields will be cleared when patching.
  • All fields in the $retainKeys list must be a superset or the same as the fields present in the patch.

The retainKeys strategy does not work for all objects. It only works when the value of the patchStrategy key in a field tag in the Kubernetes source code contains retainKeys. For example, the Strategy field of the DeploymentSpec struct has a patchStrategy of retainKeys:

type DeploymentSpec struct {
  ...
  // +patchStrategy=retainKeys
  Strategy DeploymentStrategy `json:"strategy,omitempty" patchStrategy:"retainKeys" ...`

You can also see the retainKeys strategy in the OpenApi spec:

"io.k8s.api.apps.v1.DeploymentSpec": {
   ...
  "strategy": {
    "$ref": "#/definitions/io.k8s.api.apps.v1.DeploymentStrategy",
    "description": "The deployment strategy to use to replace existing pods with new ones.",
    "x-kubernetes-patch-strategy": "retainKeys"
  },

And you can see the retainKeys strategy in the Kubernetes API documentation.

Alternate forms of the kubectl patch command

The kubectl patch command takes YAML or JSON. It can take the patch as a file or directly on the command line.

Create a file named patch-file.json that has this content:

{
   "spec": {
      "template": {
         "spec": {
            "containers": [
               {
                  "name": "patch-demo-ctr-2",
                  "image": "redis"
               }
            ]
         }
      }
   }
}

The following commands are equivalent:

kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch "$(cat patch-file.yaml)"
kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch 'spec:\n template:\n  spec:\n   containers:\n   - name: patch-demo-ctr-2\n     image: redis'

kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch "$(cat patch-file.json)"
kubectl patch deployment patch-demo --patch '{"spec": {"template": {"spec": {"containers": [{"name": "patch-demo-ctr-2","image": "redis"}]}}}}'

Summary

In this exercise, you used kubectl patch to change the live configuration of a Deployment object. You did not change the configuration file that you originally used to create the Deployment object. Other commands for updating API objects include kubectl annotate, kubectl edit, kubectl replace, kubectl scale, and kubectl apply.

Note: Strategic merge patch is not supported for custom resources.

What's next