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kim - The Kubernetes Image Manager

STATUS: EXPERIMENT - Let us know what you think

This project is a continuation of the experiment started with k3c, however, unlike the original aim/design for k3c, it IS NOT meant to be a replacement or re-build of the containerd/CRI.

kim is a Kubernetes-aware CLI that will install a small builder backend consisting of a BuildKit daemon bound to the Kubelet's underlying containerd socket (for building images) along with a small server-side agent that the CLI leverages for image management (think push, pull, etc) rather than talking to the backing containerd/CRI directly. kim enables building images locally, natively on your k3s cluster.

A familiar UX

There really is nothing better than the classic Docker UX of build/push/pull/tag. This tool copies the same UX as classic Docker (think Docker v1.12). The intention is to follow the same style but not be a 100% drop in replacement. Behaviour and arguments have been changed to better match the behavior of the Kubernetes ecosystem.

A single binary

kim, similar to k3s and old school docker, is packaged as a single binary, because nothing is easier for distribution than a static binary.

Built on Kubernetes Tech (and others)

Fundamentally kim is a built on the Container Runtime Interface (CRI), containerd, and buildkit.


kim enables building k3s-local images by installing a DaemonSet Pod that runs both buildkitd and kim agent and exposing the gRPC endpoints for these active agents in your cluster via a Service. Once installed, the kim CLI can inspect your installation and communicate with the backend daemons for image building and manipulation with merely the KUBECONFIG that was available when installing the builder. When building kim will talk directly to the buildkit service but all other interactions with the underlying containerd/CRI are mediated by the kim agent (primarily because the containerd "smart client" code assumes a certain level of co-locality with the containerd installation).


# more to come on this front but builds are currently a very manual affair
# git clone --branch=main ~/Projects/rancher/kim
# cd ~/Projects/rancher/kim
go generate # only necessary when modifying the gRPC protobuf IDL, see Dockerfile for pre-reqs
make ORG=<your-dockerhub-org> build publish


Have a working k3s installation with a working $HOME/.kube/config or $KUBECONFIG, then:

# Installation on a single-node cluster is automatic
# Installation on a multi-node cluster, targeting a Node named "my-builder-node"
kim builder install --selector

kim currently works against a single builder Node so you must specify a narrow selector when installing on multi-node clusters. Upon successful installation this node will acquire the "builder" role.

Build images like you would with the Docker CLI:

$ ./bin/kim --help
Kubernetes Image Manager -- in ur kubernetes buildin ur imagez

  kim [command]

  kim image build --tag your/image:tag .

Available Commands:
  builder     Manage Builder(s)
  help        Help about any command
  image       Manage Images

Images Shortcuts:
  build       Build an image
  images      List images
  pull        Pull an image
  push        Push an image
  rmi         Remove an image
  tag         Tag an image

  -x, --context string      kubeconfig context for authentication
      --debug-level int     
  -h, --help                help for kim
  -k, --kubeconfig string   kubeconfig for authentication
  -n, --namespace string    namespace (default "kube-image")
  -v, --version             version for kim

Use "kim [command] --help" for more information about a command.


  • Automated functional/integration tests to be invoked from CI to catch/prevent regressions.
  • Image export/import, save/load functionality.
  • Smarter automatic-ish bootstrap for non-k3s installations (think EKS support)
  • Scheduling image content to non-builder (or simply, other) nodes in the cluster


Copyright (c) 2020-2021 Rancher Labs, Inc.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at

Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.