Skaffold is a command line tool developed by Google which aims to facilitate continuous development for Kubernetes applications. It will automate the task of building and deploying to a Kubernetes cluster whereas you, as a developer, can stay focused on writing code. Seems interesting enough to take a closer look at it!

1. Introduction

In November 2019 a generally available release was announced promising to save developers time by automating the development workflow. What will Skaffold do for us?

  1. It detects source changes while you are developing;
  2. It automatically builds and creates your artifacts (your Docker image) based on a Dockerfile or Jib.
  3. It tags the artifacts;
  4. It pushes and deploys the artifacts to your Kubernetes cluster.

In order to get acquainted with Skaffold, we will run a local Kubernetes cluster with the help of minikube and we will deploy by means of kubectl, the command line interface tool for Kubernetes.

It is advised to take a look at the official Skaffold documentation and examples for more in-depth information. The sources we are using in this post are available at GitHub.

2. Prerequisites

Before getting started, we need to install minikube, kubectl and Skaffold if you have not done so already. We will be using Ubuntu 18.04.

2.1 Install minikube

Installation of minikube (version 1.6.2) is quite easy when working with Linux. If you are working with Windows, please take a look at one of our previous posts, it was quite of a struggle way then, but maybe things have improved in the meanwhile.

First, check whether our system has virtualization support enabled:

$ egrep -q 'vmx|svm' /proc/cpuinfo && echo yes || echo no 

The output of the command is yes, which means we do not need to execute any extra steps.

Download and install minikube:

$ curl -LO && sudo dpkg -i minikube_1.6.2.deb

Start minikube:

$ minikube start
minikube v1.6.2 on Ubuntu 18.04
Automatically selected the 'virtualbox' driver (alternates: [none])
Downloading VM boot image ...
> minikube-v1.6.0.iso.sha256: 65 B / 65 B [--------------] 100.00% ? p/s 0s
> minikube-v1.6.0.iso: 150.93 MiB / 150.93 MiB [-] 100.00% 8.44 MiB p/s 18s
Creating virtualbox VM (CPUs=2, Memory=2000MB, Disk=20000MB) ...
Preparing Kubernetes v1.17.0 on Docker '19.03.5' ...
Downloading kubelet v1.17.0
Downloading kubeadm v1.17.0
Pulling images ...
Launching Kubernetes ... 
Waiting for cluster to come online ...
Done! kubectl is now configured to use "minikube"

2.2 Install kubectl

Installation instructions for kubectl can be found here. For Linux, we have to execute the steps below, with kubectl version we verify the successful installation:

$ curl -LO`curl -s`/bin/linux/amd64/kubectl
$ chmod +x ./kubectl
$ sudo mv ./kubectl /usr/local/bin/kubectl
$ kubectl version
Client Version: version.Info{Major:"1", Minor:"17", GitVersion:"v1.17.0", GitCommit:"70132b0f130acc0bed193d9ba59dd186f0e634cf", GitTreeState:"clean", BuildDate:"2019-12-07T21:20:10Z", GoVersion:"go1.13.4", Compiler:"gc", Platform:"linux/amd64"}
Server Version: version.Info{Major:"1", Minor:"17", GitVersion:"v1.17.0", GitCommit:"70132b0f130acc0bed193d9ba59dd186f0e634cf", GitTreeState:"clean", BuildDate:"2019-12-07T21:12:17Z", GoVersion:"go1.13.4", Compiler:"gc", Platform:"linux/amd64"}

2.3 Install Skaffold

Installation instructions for Skaffold can be found here. The instructions are very similar to the one for kubectl.

$ curl -Lo skaffold
$ chmod +x skaffold
$ sudo mv skaffold /usr/local/bin
$ skaffold version

3. Create Demo Application

We will create a simple Spring Boot demo application. We use Spring MVC and create one Rest endpoint which will return a greeting message.

Our pom contains the following dependencies and plugins:



The HelloController contains one method which returns the greeting message and the address of the host where it is executed.

public class HelloController {

    public String hello() {
        StringBuilder message = new StringBuilder("Hello Skaffold!");
        try {
            InetAddress ip = InetAddress.getLocalHost();
            message.append(" From host: " + ip);
        } catch (UnknownHostException e) {
        return message.toString();


4. Use Skaffold

Now that we have finished all the necessary preparations, it is time to start using Skaffold. Currently, we deliberately have left out some important configuration which Skaffold will need, but this will allow us to verify which error messages are returned and how to solve them.

4.1 Generate skaffold.yaml

Skaffold will need a skaffold.yaml file which contains the development workflow you want to use. The file can be generated when the init command is executed from within your project directory.

$ skaffold init
FATA[0000] one or more valid Kubernetes manifests is required to run skaffold

Skaffold init does not create the Kubernetes manifest files for us, we will need to create them manually.

We will create a k8s deployment file with the help of kubectl. We copy the output of the command to file deployment.yaml in the k8s directory. The CLI parameter --dry-run ensures us that the deployment is not executed yet, the parameter -oyaml will output the configuration which will allow us to just copy the contents.

$ kubectl create deployment myskaffoldplanet --dry-run -oyaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  creationTimestamp: null
    app: myskaffoldplanet
    name: myskaffoldplanet
  replicas: 1
      app: myskaffoldplanet
  strategy: {}
      creationTimestamp: null
        app: myskaffoldplanet
      - image:
        name: myskaffoldplanet
        resources: {}
status: {}

Running skaffold init again, returns a new error:

$ skaffold init
FATA[0000] one or more valid builder configuration (Dockerfile or Jib configuration) must be present to build images with skaffold; please provide at least one build config and try again or run `skaffold init --skip-build`

We could have expected this, because we did not provide a Dockerfile or Jib configuration. We will make use of Jib after our positive experiences with it in our previous post. Add the Jib Maven Plugin to our pom. We do not provide credentials this time, because we are not going to push the Docker image to a Docker registry.

    <!-- openjdk:11.0.5-jre -->

In order to use Jib, we need to add the flag --XXenableJibInit, see also this issue.

$ skaffold init --XXenableJibInit
apiVersion: skaffold/v2alpha1
kind: Config
  name: myskaffoldplanet
  - image:
    jib: {}
    - k8s/deployment.yaml

Do you want to write this configuration to skaffold.yaml? [y/n]: y
Configuration skaffold.yaml was written
You can now run [skaffold build] to build the artifacts
or [skaffold run] to build and deploy
or [skaffold dev] to enter development mode, with auto-redeploy

4.2 Skaffold Continuous Development

We have set up all necessary configuration in order to experiment with the skaffold dev command. This will scan our project for any changes and automatically build and deploy them to our Kubernetes cluster. Run the following command:

$ skaffold dev

Our application is being built and deployed to our Kubernetes cluster. We can also verify this with the minikube dashboard:

$ minikube dashboard

We cannot invoke our URL yet because we did not create a service yet. We will map port 8080 via a NodePort. Generate the service yaml and add the contents (without the labels) to file service.yaml in the k8s directory:

$ kubectl expose deployment myskaffoldplanet --type=NodePort --port=8080 --dry-run -oyaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  creationTimestamp: null
    app: myskaffoldplanet skaffold-v1.1.0 local "true" kubectl "1.40" c8fc23d2-85f5-453a-bc22-19f4a9ec88a6 git-commit "true"
  name: myskaffoldplanet
  - port: 8080
    protocol: TCP
    targetPort: 8080
    app: myskaffoldplanet
  type: NodePort
  loadBalancer: {}

Also, add the service.yaml as manifest file to the skaffold.yaml file:

    - k8s/deployment.yaml
    - k8s/service.yaml

Skaffold immediately notices this change and creates the service. This can be verified in the Skaffold console output:

Starting deploy...
- deployment.apps/myskaffoldplanet configured
- service/myskaffoldplanet created
Watching for changes...

Verify the creation of the service with kubectl:

$ kubectl get services
NAME                 TYPE         CLUSTER-IP     EXTERNAL-IP    PORT(S)           AGE
kubernetes           ClusterIP                     443/TCP           24h
myskaffoldplanet     NodePort                   8080:30272/TCP    42s

The NodePort which has been assigned is port 30272 (see PORT(S) column). We are now able to invoke our Rest endpoint:

$ curl $(minikube ip):30272/hello
Hello Skaffold! From host: myskaffoldplanet-76f44959c9-tcvw5/

Change the greeting text in the HelloController:

StringBuilder message = new StringBuilder("Hello there, Skaffold!");

Again, the change is automatically detected by Skaffold and in the background our application is being built and deployed. Invoke the URL again:

$ curl $(minikube ip):30272/hello
Hello there, Skaffold! From host: myskaffoldplanet-54b59fb785-hczn8/

We can also use command skaffold run in order to deploy on request:

$ skaffold run
Starting deploy...
- deployment.apps/myskaffoldplanet created
- service/myskaffoldplanet created
You can also run [skaffold run --tail] to get the logs

Again, check the NodePort the service is running and invoke the URL.

4.3 Troubleshooting

We once encountered the following error when running skaffold dev and skaffold run:

rpc error: code = Unknown desc = Error response from daemon: pull access denied for mydeveloperplanet/myskaffoldplanet, repository does not exist or may require 'docker login': denied: requested access to the resource is denied

We solved this by adding the following lines to the skaffold.yaml file. Later on, it seemed not to be necessary anymore.

    push: false
  - image:
    jib: {}

5. Conclusion

In this post, we looked at Skaffold for automatic building and deploying our application to a Kubernetes cluster during development. We only scratched the surface of what Skaffold is capable of, but we were very impressed by this tool. Definitely something to use and to keep an eye on.