Bartosz Bierkowski - Low dose cloud

OpenShift Morsels: execute actions before your pod starts using init containers

On day #19 I will introduce you to init containers.

Pod may consist of multiple containers, that is clear. Since a while, also init containers are part of the pod. They run before your main containers start, are executed in order one after another and do run until completion. They can be very useful for scenarios that require some kind of initialization of your application. Although it is additional container, their usage actually may simplify runtime behaviour of your application.

Some scenarios I can imagine:

  • initialization of data or database
  • recovery of data before starting of your application
  • caching artifacts on persistent volume
  • setup of configuration specific to environment to make the app environment agnostic

Below you can see an init container for an application based on nodejs image. It is just a fragment of the full deployment config. I used the same node image that is used in main container, but I print out only the environment variables.

The fields are basically the same fields you can find in the pod. You can attach the volume that later will be used in the main application. The init container will be stopped before your application starts, so there is no issue with two containers using the same volume.

There is another reason I write about init containers. The early version of init containers is good to picture the differences between labels and annotations. In Kubernetes prior to 1.6 and OpenShift < 3.6, the init containers used annotations to store their configuration. At the moment as you can see the description above, normal fields in spec are used to store configuration (which is better in the long term).

To get the output of the environment variables printed out in the container above, you need to use the -c  parameter and specify container name.

This will print out the log of the init container. You can also use it to debug more or much more complex information.


OpenShift Morsels: labels vs annotations – my post about difference between labels and annotations – kubernetes documentation about init containers – OpenShift documentation in the same topic


The commands were executed using minishift and the following client/server versions of OpenShift.

oc v3.7.0+7ed6862
client kubernetes v1.7.6+a08f5eeb62
openshift v3.6.0+c4dd4cf
server kubernetes v1.6.1+5115d708d7


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