This is the second post in a series on Kubernetes, the open source cluster manager. The first post was about the kubelet.

Last time we took a look at the kubelet, Kubernetes’ container-focused process watcher. The kubelet runs pods, which are collections of containers that share an IP and some volumes. In the post, we gave it pods to run by putting pod manifest files in directory it watched. This was a great way to understand the core purpose of the kubelet. In a Kubernetes cluster, however, a kubelet will get most its pods to run from the Kubernetes API server.

Kubernetes stores all its cluster state in etcd, a distributed data store with a strong consistency model. This state includes what nodes exist in the cluster, what pods should be running, which nodes they are running on, and a whole lot more. The API server is the only Kubernetes component that connects to etcd; all the other components must go through the API server to work with cluster state. In this post we’ll look at the API server, and its interaction with the kubelet.

Starting the API server

You may need to use sudo on some commands, depending on your setup.

First off, we’re going to need etcd running. Luckily this is as easy as creating a directory for it to store its state and starting it with Docker. We’ll also save the Docker container ID so we can stop the container later.

$ mkdir etcd-data
$ docker run --volume=$PWD/etcd-data:/default.etcd \
--detach --net=host > etcd-container-id

We use host networking so that the API server can talk to it at

Next we’ll want the API server binary:

$ wget
$ chmod +x kube-apiserver

Now we can start it up. It needs to know where the etcd server is, as well as the service cluster IP range. We’ll save talking about what the IP range is for a later post that will go into Kubernetes’ services and networking. For now we’ll just provide so that the API server starts up without shouting at us!

$ ./kube-apiserver \
--etcd-servers= \

We can now curl around and check a few things out. First off, we can get a list of nodes in our cluster:

$ curl http://localhost:8080/api/v1/nodes
  "kind": "NodeList",
  "apiVersion": "v1",
  "metadata": {
    "selfLink": "/api/v1/nodes",
    "resourceVersion": "150"
  "items": []

Not surprisingly, there aren’t any yet.

As a quick note on other fields in the response: the kind and apiVersion are giving information about the API version and type of response we got. The selfLink field is a canonical link for the resource in the response. The resourceVersion is used for concurrency control. Clients send it back when they are changing a resource, and the server can determine if there was a conflicting write to the same resource in the meantime.

All that is to say: right now we only care about the items field. We can use the incredibly handy jq utility to just get at the items. We’ll use jq to cut out noisy bits of responses throughout this post. For example, we can look at what pods our cluster is running:

$ curl --stderr /dev/null http://localhost:8080/api/v1/pods | jq '.items'

No surprises there, either!

Adding a node

In the last post, we had the kubelet watching for pod manifest files in a directory we gave it via the --config flag. This time we’ll have it get pod manifests from the API server.

$ ./kubelet --api-servers=

When a kubelet starts up, it registers itself as a node with the API server and starts watching for pods to run. This is really great, because it means that when we get to running a multinode cluster, we can add nodes without having to reconfigure the API server.

We can check that the API server knows about our node:

$ curl --stderr /dev/null http://localhost:8080/api/v1/nodes/ \
| jq '.items' | head
    "metadata": {
      "name": "awesome-node",
      "selfLink": "/api/v1/nodes/awesome-node",
      "uid": "6811f7b0-5181-11e5-b364-68f7288bdc45",
      "resourceVersion": "246",
      "creationTimestamp": "2015-09-02T14:46:34Z",
      "labels": {
        "": "awesome-node"

We now have a one-node cluster!

Running a pod via the API server

Let’s run our nginx example from the last post:

$ wget

In a complete Kubernetes cluster, the scheduler will decide which node to run a pod on. For now, we’ve only got the API server and a kubelet, so we’ll have to specify it ourselves. To do this, we need to add a nodeName to the spec with the node’s name from above:

$ sed --in-place '/spec:/a\ \ nodeName: awesome-node' nginx.yaml
$ head nginx.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: nginx
  nodeName: awesome-node
  - name: nginx
    image: nginx

With the nodeName configured, we’re almost ready to send the pod manifest to the API server. Unfortunately, it only speaks JSON so we have to convert our YAML to JSON:

$ ruby -ryaml -rjson \
-e 'puts JSON.pretty_generate(YAML.load(ARGF))' < nginx.yaml > nginx.json

Alternatively, just download the JSON file and YAML file

$ wget
$ wget

Then edit the files so that the nodeName matches your hostname.

Now we can post the JSON pod manifest to the API server:

$ curl \
--stderr /dev/null \
--request POST http://localhost:8080/api/v1/namespaces/default/pods \
--data @nginx.json | jq 'del(.spec.containers, .spec.volumes)'
  "kind": "Pod",
  "apiVersion": "v1",
  "metadata": {
    "name": "nginx",
    "namespace": "default",
    "selfLink": "/api/v1/namespaces/default/pods/nginx",
    "uid": "28aa5a55-5194-11e5-b364-68f7288bdc45",
    "resourceVersion": "1365",
    "creationTimestamp": "2015-09-02T17:00:48Z"
  "spec": {
    "restartPolicy": "Always",
    "dnsPolicy": "ClusterFirst",
    "nodeName": "awesome-node"
  "status": {
    "phase": "Pending"

After a short wait, the kubelet should have started the pod. We can check this by making a GET request:

$ curl --stderr /dev/null http://localhost:8080/api/v1/namespaces/default/pods \
| jq '.items[] | { name:, status: .status} | del(.status.containerStatuses)'
  "name": "nginx",
  "status": {
    "phase": "Running",
    "conditions": [
        "type": "Ready",
        "status": "True"
    "hostIP": "",
    "podIP": "",
    "startTime": "2015-09-02T18:00:00Z"

The pod is up, and it’s been assigned the IP by Docker. Docker networking is really quite interesting, and well worth reading about. A good place to start is the network configuration article in the Docker documentation.

Let’s check that nginx is reachable at that IP:

$ curl --stderr /dev/null | head -4
<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Welcome to nginx!</title>


The Kubernetes command line client: kubectl

While it’s great to know that the API server speaks a fairly intelligible REST dialect, talking to it directly with curl and using jq to filter the responses isn’t the best user experience. This is a great point to pause and introduce the command line client kubectl, which we’ll use throughout the rest of this series. It will make things much nicer!

First off, let’s download the client:

$ wget
$ chmod +x kubectl

Now we can get the list of nodes and see what pods are running:

$ ./kubectl get nodes
NAME      LABELS                      STATUS
awesome-node   Ready
$ ./kubectl get pods
nginx     2/2       Running   0          28m

Much easier and prettier! Creating pods is also easier with kubectl. Let’s create a copy of the nginx pod manifest with a different name.

$ sed 's/^  name:.*/  name: nginx-the-second/' nginx.yaml > nginx2.yaml

Now we can use kubectl create to start another copy.

$ ./kubectl create --filename nginx2.yaml
$ ./kubectl get pods
NAME               READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
nginx              2/2       Running   0          1h
nginx-the-second   0/2       Running   0          6s

Now we’ve got our second nginx pod running, but it reports 0/2 containers running. Let’s give it a bit and try again:

$ ./kubectl get pods
NAME               READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
nginx              2/2       Running   0          1h
nginx-the-second   2/2       Running   0          1m

We can also use kubectl describe to get at more detailed information on the pod:

$ ./kubectl describe pods/nginx-the-second | head
Name:                           nginx-the-second
Namespace:                      default
Image(s):                       nginx,busybox
Node:                           awesome-node/
Labels:                         <none>
Status:                         Running
Replication Controllers:        <none>

And just to be sure, we can check that this pod’s nginx is also up and serving requests at the pod’s IP:

$ curl --stderr /dev/null | head -4
<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>Welcome to nginx!</title>

Great! So now we’ve seen what it’s like to start a server in Kubernetes using the command line client. We’ve still got a little way to go before this is a full-blown Kubernetes cluster, but we are inching closer. Next time we’ll bring in the scheduler and add a couple more nodes into the mix.

For now, let’s just tear everything down:

$ ./kubectl delete pods/nginx pods/nginx-the-second
$ ./kubectl get pods
$ docker stop $(cat etcd-container-id)
$ sleep 20  # wait for the Kubelet to stop all the containers
$ docker ps
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS              PORTS               NAMES

Thanks to Johannes Alkjær, Julia Evans, Ray Bejjani, and Tavish Armstrong for reviewing drafts of this post.