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Debug your pod by a new container with every troubleshooting tools pre-installed
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tkanng and aylei Add agentless mode document, add agentless to configuration option an…
…d fix bug when users debug pods which are on the same host,simultaneously. (#33)
Latest commit a7cf6df May 23, 2019


license travis Go Report Card docker



kubectl-debug is an out-of-tree solution for troubleshooting running pods, which allows you to run a new container in running pods for debugging purpose. The new container will join the pid, network, user and ipc namespaces of the target container, so you can use arbitrary trouble-shooting tools without pre-installing them in your production container image.



Quick Start

kubectl-debug is pretty simple, give it a try!

Install the debug agent DaemonSet in your cluster, which is responsible for running the "debug container":

kubectl apply -f
# or using helm
helm install -n=debug-agent ./contrib/helm/kubectl-debug

Install the kubectl debug plugin:

Using krew:

# Waiting the krew index PR to be merged...


brew install aylei/tap/kubectl-debug

Download the binary:

export PLUGIN_VERSION=0.1.0
# linux x86_64
curl -Lo kubectl-debug.tar.gz${PLUGIN_VERSION}/kubectl-debug_${PLUGIN_VERSION}_linux_amd64.tar.gz
# macos
curl -Lo kubectl-debug.tar.gz${PLUGIN_VERSION}/kubectl-debug_${PLUGIN_VERSION}_darwin_amd64.tar.gz

tar -zxvf kubectl-debug.tar.gz kubectl-debug
sudo mv kubectl-debug /usr/local/bin/

For windows users, download the latest archive from the release page, decompress the package and add it to your PATH.

Try it out!

# kubectl 1.12.0 or higher
kubectl debug -h
kubectl debug POD_NAME

# in case of your pod stuck in `CrashLoopBackoff` state and cannot be connected to,
# you can fork a new pod and diagnose the problem in the forked pod
kubectl debug POD_NAME --fork

# if the node ip is not directly accessible, try port-forward mode
kubectl debug POD_NAME --port-forward --daemonset-ns=kube-system --daemonset-name=debug-agent

# old versions of kubectl cannot discover plugins, you may execute the binary directly
kubect-debug POD_NAME

Any trouble? file and issue for help

Build from source

Clone this repo and:

# make will build plugin binary and debug-agent image
# install plugin
mv kubectl-debug /usr/local/bin

# build plugin only
make plugin
# build agent only
make agent-docker

port-forward mode And agentless mode

  • port-foward mode: By default, kubectl-debug will directly connect with the target host. When kubectl-debug cannot connect to targetHost:agentPort, you can enable port-forward mode. In port-forward mode, the local machine listens on localhost:agentPort and forwards data to/from targetPod:agentPort.

  • agentless mode: By default, debug-agent needs to be pre-deployed on each node of the cluster, which consumes cluster resources all the time. Unfortunately, debugging Pod is a low-frequency operation. To avoid loss of cluster resources, the agentless mode has been added in #31. In agentless mode, kubectl-debug will first start debug-agent on the host where the target Pod is located, and then debug-agent starts the debug container. After the user exits, kubectl-debug will delete the debug container and kubectl-debug will delete the debug-agent pod at last.


kubectl-debug uses nicolaka/netshoot as the default image to run debug container, and use bash as default entrypoint.

You can override the default image and entrypoint with cli flag, or even better, with config file ~/.kube/debug-config:

# debug agent listening port(outside container)
# default to 10027
agentPort: 10027

# whether using agentless mode
# default to false
agentless: true
# namespace of debug-agent pod, used in agentless mode
# default to 'default'
agentPodNamespace: default
# prefix of debug-agent pod, used in agentless mode
# default to  'debug-agent-pod'
agentPodNamePrefix: debug-agent-pod
# image of debug-agent pod, used in agentless mode
# default to 'aylei/debug-agent:latest'
agentImage: aylei/debug-agent:latest

# daemonset name of the debug-agent, used in port-forward
# default to 'debug-agent'
debugAgentDaemonset: debug-agent
# daemonset namespace of the debug-agent, used in port-forwad
# default to 'default'
debugAgentNamespace: kube-system
# whether using port-forward when connecting debug-agent
# default false
portForward: true
# image of the debug container
# default as showed
image: nicolaka/netshoot:latest
# start command of the debug container
# default ['bash']
- '/bin/bash'
- '-l'

If the debug-agent is not accessible from host port, it is recommended to set portForward: true to using port-forawrd mode.

PS: kubectl-debug will always override the entrypoint of the container, which is by design to avoid users running an unwanted service by mistake(of course you can always do this explicitly).


kubectl-debug is supposed to be just a troubleshooting helper, and is going be replaced by the native kubectl debug command when this proposal is implemented and merged in the future kubernetes release. But for now, there is still some works to do to improve kubectl-debug.

If you are interested in any of following features, please file an issue to avoid potential duplication.

  • Security. kubectl-debug runs privileged agent on every node, and client talks to the agent directly. A possible solution is introducing a central apiserver to do RBAC, which integrates to the kube apiserver using aggregation layer
  • Protocol. kubectl-debug vendor the SPDY wrapper from client-go. SPDY is deprecated now, websockets may be a better choice
  • e2e tests.


kubectl-debug consists of 2 components:

  • the kubectl plugin: a cli client of node agent, serves kubectl debug command,
  • the node agent: responsible for manipulating the "debug container"; node agent will also act as a websockets relay for remote tty

When user run kubectl debug target-pod -c <container-name> /bin/bash:

  1. The plugin gets the pod info from apiserver and extract the hostIP, if the target container does not exist or is not currently running, an error is raised.
  2. The plugin sends an HTTP request to the specific node agent running on the hostIP, which includes a protocol upgrade from HTTP to SPDY.
  3. The agent runs a container in the pod's namespaces (ipc, pid, network, etc) with the STDIN stay open (-i flag).
  4. The agent checks if the target container is actively running, if not, write an error to client.
  5. The agent runs a debug container with tty and stdin opened, the debug container will join the pid, network, ipc and user namespace of the target container.
  6. The agent pipes the connection into the debug container using attach
  7. Debug in the debug container.
  8. Job is done, user closes the SPDY connection.
  9. The node agent closes the SPDY connection, then waits for the debug container to exit and do the cleanup.


Feel free to open issues and pull requests. Any feedback is highly appreciated!

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