3 minute read  


If an application depends on other services deployed separately do not rely on a certain start sequence of containers but ensure that the application can cope with unavailability of the services it depends on.


Kubernetes offers a feature called InitContainers to perform some tasks during a pod’s initialization. In this tutorial we demonstrate how to use it orchestrate starting sequence of multiple containers. The tutorial uses the example app url-shortener which consists of two components:

  • postgresql database
  • webapp which depends on postgresql database and provides two endpoints: create a short url from a given location, and redirect from a given short URL to the corresponding target location.

This app represents the minimal example where an application relies on another service or database. In this example, if the application starts before database is ready, the application will fail as shown below:

$ kubectl logs webapp-958cf5567-h247n
time="2018-06-12T11:02:42Z" level=info msg="Connecting to Postgres database using: host=`postgres:5432` dbname=`url_shortener_db` username=`user`\n"
time="2018-06-12T11:02:42Z" level=fatal msg="failed to start: failed to open connection to database: dial tcp: lookup postgres on no such host\n"

$ kubectl get po -w
NAME                                READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       Pending   0         0s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       Pending   0         0s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       ContainerCreating   0         0s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       ContainerCreating   0         1s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       Error     0         2s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       Error     1         3s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       CrashLoopBackOff   1         4s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       Error     2         18s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       CrashLoopBackOff   2         29s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       Error     3         43s
webapp-958cf5567-h247n   0/1       CrashLoopBackOff   3         56s

If the restartPolicy is set to Always (default) in yaml, the application will continue to restart the pod with an exponential back-off delay in case of failure.

Using InitContaniner

To avoid such situation, InitContainers can be defined which are executed prior to the application container. If one InitContainers fails, the application container won’t be triggered.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: webapp
      app: webapp
        app: webapp
      initContainers:  # check if DB is ready, and only continue when true
      - name: check-db-ready
        image: postgres:9.6.5
        command: ['sh', '-c',  'until pg_isready -h postgres -p 5432;  do echo waiting for database; sleep 2; done;']
      - image: xcoulon/go-url-shortener:0.1.0
        name: go-url-shortener
        - name: POSTGRES_HOST
          value: postgres
        - name: POSTGRES_PORT
          value: "5432"
        - name: POSTGRES_DATABASE
          value: url_shortener_db
        - name: POSTGRES_USER
          value: user
        - name: POSTGRES_PASSWORD
          value: mysecretpassword
        - containerPort: 8080

In above example, the InitContainers uses docker image postgres:9.6.5 which is different from the application container. This also brings the advantage of not having to include unnecessary tools (e.g. pg_isready) in the application container.

With introduction of InitContainers, the pod startup will look like following in case database is not available yet:

$ kubectl get po -w
NAME                                READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
nginx-deployment-5cc79d6bfd-t9n8h   1/1       Running   0          5d
privileged-pod                      1/1       Running   0          4d
webapp-fdcb49cbc-4gs4n   0/1       Pending   0         0s
webapp-fdcb49cbc-4gs4n   0/1       Pending   0         0s
webapp-fdcb49cbc-4gs4n   0/1       Init:0/1   0         0s
webapp-fdcb49cbc-4gs4n   0/1       Init:0/1   0         1s

$ kubectl  logs webapp-fdcb49cbc-4gs4n
Error from server (BadRequest): container "go-url-shortener" in pod "webapp-fdcb49cbc-4gs4n" is waiting to start: PodInitializing