Chapter 4. Troubleshooting Kubernetes

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4.1. Overview


Procedures and software described in this chapter for manually configuring and using Kubernetes are deprecated and, therefore, no longer supported. For information on which software and documentation are impacted, see the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host Release Notes. For information on Red Hat’s officially supported Kubernetes-based products, refer to Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, OpenShift Online, OpenShift Dedicated,, Container Development Kit or Development Suite.

Kubernetes is a utility that makes it possible to deploy and manage sets of docker-formatted containers that run applications. This topic explains how to troubleshoot problems that arise when creating and managing Kubernetes pods, replication controllers, services, and containers.

For the purpose of illustrating troubleshooting techniques, this topic uses the containers and configuration deployed in the Get Started Orchestrating Containers with Kubernetes chapter. Techniques described here should apply to Kubernetes running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server and RHEL Atomic Host systems.

4.2. Understanding Kubernetes Troubleshooting

Before you begin troubleshooting Kubernetes, you should have an understanding of the Kubernetes components being investigated. These include:

  • Master: The system from which you manage your Kubernetes environment.
  • Nodes: One or more systems on which containers are deployed by Kubernetes (nodes were previously called minions).
  • Pods: A pod defines one or more containers to run, as well as options to the docker run command for each container and labels to define the location of services.
  • Services: A service allows a container within a Kubernetes environment to find an application provided by another container by name (label), without knowing its IP address.
  • Replication controllers: A replication controller lets you designate that a certain number of pods should be running. (New pods are started until the required number is reached and if a pod dies, a new pod is run to replace it.)
  • Networking (flanneld): The flanneld service lets you configure IP address ranges and related setting to be used by Kubernetes. This feature is optional. yaml and json files: The Kubernetes elements we’ll work with are actually created from configuration files in yaml or json formats. this topic focuses primarily on yaml-formatted files.

You will troubleshoot the components just described using these commands in particular:

  • kubectl: The kubectl command (run from the master) lets you create, delete, get (list information) and perform other actions on Kubernetes pods, services and replication controllers. You’ll use this command to test your yaml/json files, as well as see the state of the different Kubernetes components.
  • systemctl: Specific systemd services must be configured with Kubernetes to facilitate communications between master and nodes. Those services must also be active and enabled.
  • journalctl: You can use the journalctl command to check Kubernetes systemd services to follow the processing of those services. You can run it on both the master and nodes to check for Kubernetes failures on those systems. All daemon logging in kubernetes uses the systemd journal.
  • etcdctl or curl: The etcd daemon manages the storage of information for the Kubernetes cluster. This service can run on the master or on some other system. You can use the etcdctl command in RHEL or RHEL Atomic Host systems to query that information. You also can use the curl command instead to query the etcd service.

4.3. Preparing Containerized Applications for Kubernetes

Some of the things you should consider before deploying an application to Kubernetes are described below.

4.3.1. Networking Constraints

All Applications are not equally kuberizable, because there are limitations on the type of applications that can be run as Kubernetes services. In Kubernetes, a service is a load balanced proxy whose IP address is injected into the iptables of clients of that service. Therefore, you should verify that the application you intend to "kuberize":

  • Can support network address translation or NAT-ing across its subprocesses.
  • Does not require forward and reverse DNS lookup. Kubernetes does not provide forward or reverse DNS lookup to the clients of a service.

If neither of these restrictions apply, or if the user can disable these checks, you can continue on.

4.3.2. Preparing your Containers

Depending on the type of software you are running you may wish to take advantage of some predefined environment variables that are provided for clients of Kubernetes services.

For example, given a service named db, if you launch a Pod in Kubernetes that uses that service, Kubernetes will inject the following environment variables into the containers in that pod:


NOTE: Notice that the service name (db) is capitalized in the variables (DB). If there were dashes (-) in the name, they would be converted to underscores (_).

To see these and other shell variables, use docker exec to open a shell to the active container and run env to see the shell variables:

# docker exec -it <container_ID> /bin/bash
[root@e7ea67..]# env

When starting your client applications you may want to leverage those variables. If you are debugging communications problems between containers, viewing these shell variables is a great way to see each container’s view of the addresses of services and ports.

4.4. Debugging Kubernetes

Before you start debugging Kubernetes, it helps to have a high level of understanding of how Kubernetes works. When you submit an application to Kubernetes, here’s generally what happens:

  1. Your kubectl command line is sent to the kube-apiserver (on the master) where it is validated.
  2. The kube-scheduler process (on the master) reads your yaml or json file and assigns pods to nodes (nodes are systems running the kubelet service).
  3. The kublet service (on a node) converts the pod manifest into one or more docker run calls.
  4. The docker run command tries to start up the identified containers on available nodes.

So, to debug a kubernetes deployed app, you need to confirm that:

  1. The Kubernetes service daemon (systemd) processes are running.
  2. The yaml or json submission is valid.
  3. The kubelet service is receiving a work order from the kube-scheduler.
  4. The kubelet service on each node is able to successfully launch each container with docker.

The above list is missing the kube-controller-manager which is important if you do things like create a replication controller, but you see no pods being managed by it. Or you have registered nodes with the cluster, but you are not getting information about their available resources, etc.

Also note, there is a movement upstream to an all-in-one hyperkube binary, so terminology here may need to change in the near future.

4.4.1. Inspecting and Debugging Kubernetes

From the Kubernetes master, inspect the running Kubernetes configuration. We’ll start by showing you how this configuration should look when everything is working. Then we’ll show you how to the setup might break in various ways and how you can go about fixing it.

4.4.2. Querying the State of Kubernetes

Using kubectl is the simplest way to manually debug the process of application submission, service creation, and pod assignment. To see what pods, services, and replication controllers are active, run these commands on the master:

# kubectl get pods
POD             IP          CONTAINER(S)     IMAGE(S)  HOST                LABELS                                         STATUS
4e04dd3b-c...  apache-frontend  webwithdb  name=webserver,selectorname=webserver,uses=db  Running
5544eab2-c... apache-frontend  webwithdb  name=webserver,selectorname=webserver,uses=db  Running
1c971a09-c...  db               dbforweb   name=db,selectorname=db                        Running
1c97a755-c... db               dbforweb  name=db,selectorname=db                        Running
# kubectl get services
NAME               LABELS                                   SELECTOR        IP                  PORT
webserver-service  name=webserver                           name=webserver       80
db-service         name=db                                  name=db        3306
kubernetes         component=apiserver,provider=kubernetes          443
kubernetes-ro      component=apiserver,provider=kubernetes        80
# kubectl get replicationControllers
CONTROLLER             CONTAINER(S)        IMAGE(S)            SELECTOR                 REPLICAS
webserver-controller   apache-frontend     webwithdb           selectorname=webserver   2
db-controller          db                  dbforweb            selectorname=db          2

Here’s information to help you interpret this output:

  • Pods are either in Waiting or Running states. The fact that all four pods are running here is a good sign.
  • The replication controller successfully started two apache-frontend and two db containers. They were distributed across node1 and node2.
  • The uses label for apache-frontend lets that container find the db container through the db-service Kubernetes service.
  • The services listing identifies the IP address and port number for each service that can be requested from pods by each service’s label name.
  • The kubernetes and kubernetes-ro services provide access to the kube-apiserver systemd service.

If something goes wrong in the process of getting to this state, the following sections will help you troubleshoot problems.

4.5. Troubleshooting Kubernetes systemd Services

Kubernetes is implemented using a set of service daemons that run on Kubernetes masters and nodes. If these systemd services are not working properly, you will experience failures. Things you should know about avoiding or fixing potential problems with Kubernetes systemd services are described below.

4.5.1. Checking that Kubernetes systemd Services are Up

A Kubernetes cluster that consists of a master and one or more nodes (minions) needs to initialize a particular set of systemd services. You should verify that the following services are running on the master and on each node:

  • Start Master first: The services on the master should come before starting the services on the nodes. The nodes will not start up properly if the master is not already up.
  • Master services: Services include: kube-controller-manager, kube-scheduler, flanneld, etcd, and kube-apiserver. The flanneld service is optional and it is possible to run the etcd services on another system.
  • Node services: Services include: docker kube-proxy kubelet flanneld. The flanneld service is optional.

Here’s how you verify those services on the master and each node:

Master: On your kubernetes master server, this will tell you if the proper services are active and enabled (flanneld may not be configured on your system):

# for SERVICES in etcd flanneld kube-apiserver kube-controller-manager kube-scheduler;
    do echo --- $SERVICES --- ; systemctl is-active $SERVICES ;
    systemctl is-enabled $SERVICES ; echo "";  done
--- etcd ---
--- flanneld ---
--- kube-apiserver ---
--- kube-controller-manager ---
--- kube-scheduler ---

Nodes: On each node, make sure the proper services are active and enabled:

# for SERVICES in flanneld docker kube-proxy.service kubelet.service; \
do echo --- $SERVICES --- ; systemctl is-active $SERVICES ; \
systemctl is-enabled $SERVICES ; echo "";  done
--- flanneld ---
--- docker ---
--- kube-proxy.service ---
--- kubelet.service ---

If any of the master or node systemd services are disabled or failed, here’s what to do:

  • Try to enable or activate the service.
  • Check the systemd journal on the system where a service is failing and look for hints on how to fix the problem. One way to do that is to use the journalctl with the command representing the service. For example:

    # journalctl -l -u kubelet
    # journalctl -l -u kube-apiserver
  • If the services still don’t start, check that each service’s configuration file is set up properly.

4.5.2. Checking Firewall for Kubernetes

There is no iptables or firewalld service installed on RHEL Atomic Host. So, by default, there are no firewall filter rules blocking access to Kubernetes services. However, if you have a firewall running on a RHEL host or if you have added iptables firewall rules to your Kubernetes master or nodes to filter incoming ports, you need to make sure that the ports that need to be exposed on those systems are not blocked.

The following is the output of a netstat command, showing which ports Kubernetes and related services are listening on a Kubernetes nodes:

# netstat -tupln
tcp6       0      0 :::10249          :::*          LISTEN      125528/kube-proxy
tcp6       0      0 :::10250          :::*          LISTEN      125536/kubelet

NOTE: The kube-proxy service listens on random ports. This is not a problem on RHEL Atomic systems, since there is on filtering firewall service used by default. However, if you add a firewall to RHEL Atomic or use a default RHEL system, you can request that kube-proxy listen on specific ports in the service definition and then open those ports in the firewall.

Here is netstat output on a Kubernetes master:

tcp        0      0* LISTEN   636/kube-apiserver
tcp6       0      0 :::8080               :::*      LISTEN   636/kube-apiserver
tcp        0      0* LISTEN   7541/kube-controller
tcp        0      0* LISTEN   7590/kube-scheduler
tcp6       0      0 :::4001               :::*      LISTEN   941/etcd
tcp6       0      0 :::7001               :::*      LISTEN   941/etcd

The output in the third column shows the IP addresses and port number that each service is listening on. (::: represents all interfaces) Open ports to each of those services.

4.5.3. Checking Kubernetes yaml or json Files

You set up your Kubernetes environment (pods, services, and replication controllers) by loading information from yaml or json files using the kubectl create command. Failures can result from those files being improperly formatted or missing needed information.

The following sections contain tips for fixing problems that occur from broken yaml or json files. Troubleshooting Kubernetes Service Creation

A Kubernetes service (created with kubectl), attaches an IP address and port to a label. A pod that needs to use that service can refer to that service by the label, so it doesn’t need to know the IP address and port numbers directly. The following is an example of a service file named db-service.yaml, followed by a list of problems that can occur when you try to create a service:

id: "db-service"
kind: "Service"
apiVersion: "v1"
port: 3306
portalIP: ""
  name: "db"
  name: "db"
# kubectl create -f db-service
# kubectl get services
NAME          LABELS                                  SELECTOR  IP             PORT
db-service    name=db                                 name=db   3306
kubernetes-ro component=apiserver,provider=kubernetes  80
kubernetes    component=apiserver,provider=kubernetes   443

NOTE: If you don’t see the kubernetes-ro and kubernetes services, try restarting the kube-scheduler systemd service (systemctl restart kube-scheduler.service).

If you don’t see output similar to what was just shown, read the following:

  • If the service seemed to create successfully, but the LABELS an SELECTOR were not set, the output might look as follows:

    # kubectl get services
    NAME         LABELS     SELECTOR  IP             PORT
    db-service     3306

    Check that the name: fields under selector: and labels: are each indented two spaces. In this case I deleted the two blank spaces before each name: "db" line and their values were not used by kubectl.

  • If you forget that you have already created a Service and try to create it again or if some other service has already allocated an IP address you identified in your service yaml, your new attempt to create the service will result in this message:

    create.go:75] service "webserver-service" is invalid: spec.portalIP:
        invalid value '': IP is already allocated

    You can either use a different IP address or stop the service that is currently consuming that port, if you don’t need that service.

  • The following error noting that the "Service" object isn’t registered can occur for a couple of reasons:

    7338 create.go:75] unable to recognize "db-service.yaml": no object named "Services" is registered

    In the above example, "Service" was misspelled as "Services". If it does correctly say "Service", then check that the apiVersion is correct. A similar error occurred when the invalid value "v99" was used as the apiVersion. Instead of saying "v99" doesn’t exist, it says it can’t find the object "Service".

    1. Here is a list of error messages that occur if any of the fields from the above example is missing:

      1. id: missing: service "" is invalid: name: required value ''
      2. kind: missing: unable to recognize "db-service.yaml": no object named "" is registered
      3. apiVersion: missing: service "" is invalid: [name: required value '', spec.port: invalid value '0']
      4. port: missing: service "db-service" is invalid: spec.port: invalid value '0'
      5. portalIP: missing: No error is reported because portalIP is not required
      6. selector: missing: No error is reported, but SELECTOR field is missing and service may not work.
      7. labels: missing: Not an error, but LABELS field is missing and service may not work. Troubleshooting Kubernetes Replication Controller and Pod creation

A Kubernetes Pod lets you associate one or more containers together, assign run options to each container, and manage those containers together as a unit. A replication controller lets you designate how many of the pods you identify should be running. The following is an example of a yaml file that defines a Web server pod and a replications controller that ensures that two instances of the pod are running.

id: "webserver-controller"
kind: "ReplicationController"
apiVersion: "v1"
  name: "webserver-controller"
  replicas: 1
    name: "webserver"
        - name: "apache-frontend"
          image: "webwithdb"
            - containerPort: 80
        name: "webserver"
        uses: db
    name: "webserver"
# kubectl create -f webserver-service.yaml
# kubectl get pods
POD         IP          CONTAINER(S)     IMAGE(S)    HOST
       LABELS                                             STATUS
f28980d...  apache-frontend  webwithdb
       name=webserver,selectorname=webserver,uses=db      Running
f28a0a8...  apache-frontend  webwithdb
       name=webserver,selectorname=webserver,uses=db      Running
# kubectl get replicationControllers

webserver-controller apache-frontend webwithdb  selectorname=webserver 2

NOTE: I truncated the pod name and wrapped the long lines in the output above.

If you don’t see output similar to what was just shown, read the following:

  • id: missing: If a generated set of numbers and letters appears in the CONTROLLER column instead of "webserver-controller", your yaml file is probably missing the id line.
  • apiVersion set wrong: If you see the message "unable to recognize "webserver-rc.yaml": no object named "ReplicationController" is registered", you may have an invalid apiVersion value or misspelled ReplicationController.
  • selectorname: missing: If you see the message "replicationController "webserver-controller" is invalid: spec.selector: required value 'map[]'", there is no selectorname set after the replicaSelector line. If the selectorname is not indented properly, you will see a message like, "unable to get type info from "webserver-rc.yaml": couldn’t get version/kind: error converting YAML to JSON: yaml: line 7: did not find expected key."

4.6. Troubleshooting Techniques

If you want to look deeper into what is going on with your Kubernetes cluster, see the following techniques for investigating further.

4.6.1. Crawling and fixing the etcd database

The etcd service provides the database that Kubernetes uses to coordinate information across the cluster. There are ways to view the database directly and fix problems in it (or clear the database if it is beyond repair).

Displaying data from the etcd database: You can query most information you need from the etcd database using kubectl get commands. However, if this database seems to be inconsistent with the way you believe your configuration should be, you can directly query the etcd database using the etcdctl command.

Use the etcdctl command with the ls option to list the directory structure of the database. To get values, use the get option. For example, to see the root of the database, type the following:

# etcdctl ls /

To list information associated with the etcd database, type this:

# etcdctl ls /registry/



To see the data associated with a particular entry, type the following:

# etcdctl get /registry/namespaces/default | python -mjson.tool
    "apiVersion": "v1",
    "kind": "Namespace",
    "metadata": {
        "creationTimestamp": "2016-10-24T12:05:11Z",
        "name": "default",
        "uid": "1d6efb5f-99e2-11e6-8f4b-525400585a9f"
    "spec": {
        "finalizers": [
    "status": {
        "phase": "Active"

The output above is piped to a python json.tool formatting module, to make it easier to read.

NOTE: Instead of the etcdctl command, you can use the curl. For example, to see the root of the database with curl, use this instead of the etcdctl ls / command: curl -L http://localhost:2379/v2/keys/ | python -mjson.tool. Use that form of the curl command to display both directory and key values. If you believe that a node is not able to connect to the etcd service on the master, you could use the following curl command to test that connection from the node:

# curl -s -L http://localhost:2379/version

Fixing the etcd database: It is possible to correct problems with your etcd database if information gets out of sync. There is are etcdctl update and etcdctl set commands for changing the contents of a key. However, if you are not careful, changing these values can cause more problems than they fix.

However, if your etcd database become completely unuseable, you can clear it and start over again. The way to do that is to run the etcd daemon with the -f option.

WARNING: Before you clear the etcd database, try using kubectl delete command to try to remove the offending services, pods, replicationControllers or minions. If you still feel you need to clear the database, keep in mind that if you do so, you need to recreate everything from scratch.

To clear the etcd database, type the following:

# etcd -f

4.6.2. Deleting Kubernetes components

How you stop and delete components in Kubernetes matters. Because Kubernetes is designed to get things to a particular state, simply deleting a container or a pod will often just cause another one to be started.

If you do delete components out of order, here’s what you can expect:

  • I deleted a pod, but it started up again: If you don’t stop the replication controllers first, the pods will be restarted. Stop the replication controllers (kubectl delete replicationControllers webserver-controller), then stop the pods.
  • I stopped and deleted a container, but it started up again: With a Kubernetes cluster, you should not stop a container directly with docker stop. The replication controller will start a new container to restart the one you stopped.

4.6.3. Pods Stuck in the "WAITING" state.

PODS can be stuck in the waiting state for some time period. Here are some possible causes:

  • Pulling the Docker image is taking a while: To confirm this, you can ssh directly into the minion which the pod is assigned, and run:

    # journalctl -f -u docker

    This should show logs of docker pulling down your image. Note requests to pull dockerhub images may fail intermittently, but the kubelets will continue retrying.

  • PODs are unassigned: If a pod remains unassigned, confirm that nodes are available to the master by running kubectl get minions. It is possible that the node may just be down or otherwise unreachable. Unassigned pods can also result from setting the replication count higher then what the cluster can provide.
  • Container Pod dies right after starting: In some cases, if the Dockerfile you created is not written properly to start a service, or the docker CMD operation is failing, you might see the POD immediately dying after it starts. Try testing the container image with a docker run command, to make sure that the container itself isn’t broken.
  • Check output from container: Messages output from containers can be viewed with the kubectl log command. This can be useful for debugging problems with the applications running within the container. Here is how to list available pods and view log messages for the one you want:

    # kubectl get pods
    POD                                   IP         CONTAINER(S) IMAGE(S)            HOST                 LABELS                          STATUS
    e1f4b268-e87d-11e4-926b-5254001aa4ee db           dbforweb   name=db,selectorname=db         Running
    # kubectl log e1f4b268-e87d-11e4-926b-5254001aa4ee
    2015-04-28T16:09:36.953130209Z 150428 12:09:36 mysqld_safe Logging to '/var/log/mariadb/mariadb.log'.
    2015-04-28T16:09:37.137064742Z 150428 12:09:37 mysqld_safe Starting mysqld daemon with databases from /var/lib/mysql
  • Check container output from docker: Some errors don’t percolate all the way up to the kubelet. You can look directly in the docker logs for an exited container to observe why this might be happening. Here’s how:

    1. Log into the node that’s having trouble running a container
    2. Run this command to look for an exited run:

      # docker ps -a
      61960bda2927  rhel7/rhel-tools:latest "/usr/bin/bash" 47 hours ago
            Exited (0) 43 hours ago      myrhel-tools4
    3. Check all the output from the container with docker logs:

      # docker logs 61960bda2927

You should be able to see the entire output from the container session. So, for example, if you opened a shell in a container, you will see all the commands you ran from that shell when you run docker logs.

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