Ludovic Alarcon

Ludovic Alarcon .

Kubernetes and Cloud enthusiast - Dotnet Developer

Troubleshooting Kubernetes: ImagePullBackOff

Introduction

In my day-to-day work, I help and support teams to shift on containers and cloud technologies, and I could observe that Kubernetes can be overwhelming for newcomers.
One of the reasons of Kubernetes complexity is because troubleshooting what went wrong can by difficult if you don’t know where to look and you need to often look in more than one place.
I hope this series of blog posts about troubleshooting Kubernetes will help people in their journey.

Troubleshooting ImagePullBackOff Error

You deployed your deployment (statefulset or other) and the underlying pod(s) is in ImagePullBackOff state.
There can be 3 reasons for that:

First, let’s check the error message you have, for that you will use the kubectl describe command.
This will provide you additional information on the pod, the output can be long. Let’s jump to the Events section.

> kubectl get pod
nginx          0/1     ImagePullBackOff   0          17s
> kubectl describe pod nginx

Invalid Image Tag

> kubectl describe pod nginx
Name:         nginx
...
...
Containers:
  nginx:
    Container ID:
    Image:          nginx:foo
    State:          Waiting
      Reason:       ImagePullBackOff
...
...
Events:
  Type     Reason     Age               From               Message
  ----     ------     ----              ----               -------
  Normal   Scheduled  19s               default-scheduler  Successfully assigned dev/nginx to worker-node01
  Normal   BackOff    16s               kubelet            Back-off pulling image "nginx:foo"
  Warning  Failed     16s               kubelet            Error: ImagePullBackOff
  Normal   Pulling    6s (x2 over 18s)  kubelet            Pulling image "nginx:foo"
  Warning  Failed     5s (x2 over 17s)  kubelet            Failed to pull image "nginx:foo": rpc error: code = NotFound desc = failed to pull and unpack image "docker.io/library/nginx:foo": failed to resolve reference "docker.io/library/nginx:foo": docker.io/library/nginx:foo: not found
  Warning  Failed     5s (x2 over 17s)  kubelet            Error: ErrImagePull

Events with the Failed Reason are the ones you want to look at. In this example, we got an interesting error message

Failed to pull image "nginx:foo": rpc error: code = NotFound desc = failed to pull and unpack image "docker.io/library/nginx:foo": failed to resolve reference "docker.io/library/nginx:foo": docker.io/library/nginx:foo: not found

This part is particularly interesting nginx:foo: not found. That indicates that the tag foo doesn’t exist.
You can easily check that on the docker hub or by pulling the image locally.

Invalid Image

Another variant of the ImagePullBackOff error is the image doesn’t exist.

> kubectl describe pod nginx
Name:         nginx
...
...
Containers:
  nginx:
    Container ID:
    Image:          nginxx
    State:          Waiting
      Reason:       ImagePullBackOff
...
...
Events:
  Type     Reason     Age                From               Message
  ----     ------     ----               ----               -------
  Normal   Scheduled  42s                default-scheduler  Successfully assigned dev/nginx to worker-node01
  Normal   Pulling    25s (x2 over 41s)  kubelet            Pulling image "nginxx"
  Warning  Failed     24s (x2 over 40s)  kubelet            Failed to pull image "nginxx": rpc error: code = Unknown desc = failed to pull and unpack image "docker.io/library/nginxx:latest": failed to resolve reference "docker.io/library/nginxx:latest": pull access denied, repository does not exist or may require authorization: server message: insufficient_scope: authorization failed
  Warning  Failed     24s (x2 over 40s)  kubelet            Error: ErrImagePull
  Normal   BackOff    10s (x3 over 40s)  kubelet            Back-off pulling image "nginxx"
  Warning  Failed     10s (x3 over 40s)  kubelet            Error: ImagePullBackOff

We have a very similar output, but there is a slight difference in the error message.

Failed to pull image "nginxx": rpc error: code = Unknown desc = failed to pull and unpack image "docker.io/library/nginxx:latest": failed to resolve reference "docker.io/library/nginxx:latest": pull access denied, repository does not exist or may require authorization: server message: insufficient_scope: authorization failed

From that message you can identify two possible errors, either the repository does not exist or you do not have access to it.
You need to glean another information now by answering this question Am I using a private registry?

If the answer is no, you have to double check the image name.
But if you use a private registry we have to provide the credentials.

Private Registry

In the case you are using a private registry, you have to provide the credentials to be able to pull the image.
To do so you have to add the credentials as a Kubernetes secret and add the imagePullSecrets reference to it in your deployment (or other kubernetes objects that will create an underlying pod).

Add the credential as a Kubernetes Secret

kubectl create secret docker-registry my-registry-secret \
--docker-server=YOUR_REGISTRY_URL \
--docker-username=YOUR_USERNAME \
--docker-password=YOUR_PASSWORD

In the example the secret name is my-registry-secret.

Add the secret reference

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: demo
spec:
  containers:
    - name: demo
      image: privaate/demo:v1.0
  # Reference to the secret
  imagePullSecrets:
    - name: my_registry-secret

For clarity purposes I used a pod in the example, but the same applies to deployment, statefulset and other.
More information on official documentation

I hope this was helpful!