Skip to main content

Capturing Debug Data from Apps in Kubernetes

Automated Diagnostics

Capturing Debug Data from Apps in Kubernetes

Similar to how applications are analyzed in non-containerized environments, it is possible to debug and examine the state of programs running inside Kubernetes containers. This is helpful for identifying failure points, memory leaks, and other types of issues.

To accomplish this, the manual process could be messy: launch the pod shell and then execute some debugging commands like netstat inside the container.

With the Kubernetes pluginsopen in new window, commands can be issued directly to a Kubernetes pod, and the output can be captured and persisted in various services like S3, an email, an SFTP server, or an HTTP web service, all of this in a single workflow.

This article demonstrates how to automate this process using Rundeck, Process Automation, and Runbook Automation.

Pre-requisites & Environment Setup

Basic requisites to learn and test this example job:

A Kubernetes cluster like minikube, self-hosted Kubernetes, or a managed Kubernetes - such as AWS EKS.

A valid Kubernetes config stored in your userspace (at /home/your_user/.kube/config path, in this article will see how to create this file against an AWS EKS Kubernetes cluster). This is needed by the plugin to dispatch Kubernetes steps against the pods.

Follow the instructions below for a sample setup of this environment

Skip Ahead

If you already have a Kubernetes cluster to test with, skip to Step 4 of this section.

This section outlines how to create a sample Kubernetes (EKS) cluster that can be used to test the template Job.

1. AWS CLI Configuration

The first tool to configure an EKS cluster is the aws cli. Follow these instructionsopen in new window to install it.

Now execute:

aws configure

If working locally, provide an AWS Profile Access Key and Secret Key - otherwise it is recommended to use IAM Rolesopen in new window.

2. EKSCTL Configuration

EKCTL is the command-line tool to interact with AWS EKS clusters. To download and install follow the steps outlined hereopen in new window.

EKS CLI is linked to the AWS CLI configuration. With the AWS CLI configured in the previous step, an EKS cluster can be created with the following command:

eksctl create cluster --name test-cluster --version 1.23 --region eu-north-1 --nodegroup-name test-workers --node-type t3.xlarge --nodes 3 --nodes-min 1 --nodes-max 4 --managed

3. Create the Kubernetes config

This step allows you to configure the kubectl using AWS CLI:

aws eks update-kubeconfig --region eu-north-1 --name test-cluster

This creates the Kubernetes config file in the /home/user/.kube/config file path by default. This file is needed by the Kubernetes plugin configuration.

4. Create a specific namespace

Now let's create a namespace called auto-diagnostics for our demo pods.

kubectl create namespace auto-diagnostics

5. Deploy a simple Tomcat pod

After configuring the entire environment let's deploy a simple Tomcat pod using the kubectl tool:

  1. Create a YAML file named tomcat.yaml with the following content.
    apiVersion: v1
    kind: Pod
     name: tomcat
    - name: tomcat
      image: tomcat:latest
       - containerPort: 8080
    This file contains the tomcat definition to deploy.

  2. To deploy the tomcat app execute:
    kubectl apply -f tomcat.yaml --namespace=auto-diagnostics
    Now the tomcat pod is running in the cluster.

  3. To see the running pods in the auto-diagnostics cluster namespace:
    kubectl get pods --namespace=auto-diagnostics
    tomcat   1/1 	Running   0      	42s
    With the Tomcat pod now running, we can retrieve diagnostics using Rundeck or Process Automation or Runbook Automation.

Plugin installation

Skip Ahead

You can skip this section if you have using Process Automationopen in new window version 4.11 (or greater) or Runbook Automationopen in new window, or if you have already uploaded the latest Kubernetes pluginsopen in new window.

To install the Kubernetes plugins just check the following steps:

  1. Navigate to the latest plugin releaseopen in new window on Github and download the file.

  2. In the Rundeck or Process Automation instance, click the Gear Icon and then click the Plugins > Upload Plugin: Upload Plugins Menu
  3. Click Browse and select the downloaded .zip file from Step 2.
  4. Click Install: Upload Kubernetes Plugins

Running Commands in Pods and Capturing Output

Skip Ahead

If you are using Runbook Automation, simply look for and select the Java Thread Dump from Kubernetes Pod job in the Automated Diagnostics project. If you do not have the Automated Diagnostics project, you can download and import it hereopen in new window.
Then, skip to Step 5.

  1. Download the template job by right-clicking and selecting Save Link As... hereopen in new window.
  2. Navigate to the Jobs tab and click on Job Actions -> Upload Definition.
  3. From the Choose File prompt, select the .yaml file downloaded in Step 1. Choose YAML Format then click Upload.

    Custom Kubernetes Configuration

    If the KubeConfig file is not saved in the default location of $HOME/.kube/config or if using a Kubernetes API Token is preferred, then follow the steps below for Custom KubeConfig Location or Token Auth.

  4. If the steps were followed in the Pre-requisites & Environment Setup section, type auto-diagnostics into the Namespace field.
  5. Type tomcat into the Pod Name field.
  6. (Optional) type tomcat into the Contaienr Name field: Job Input Parameters
  7. Click Run Job Now.


    By default, the Java thread dump is not printed to the log output. Instead, it is saved as a file and can be configured to be sent to another location inside your network or to a storage-service like S3 or Blob Storage.

  8. Toggle open the specific job steps to view their detailed output: Job Output

Advanced Settings

Custom KubeConfig Location or Token Auth

If the KubeConfig file is in a non-standard location, then modify Steps 1 and 2 of the Job to point to the custom kubeconfig location:

  1. On the job-run page, click on Action -> Edit this Job...
  2. Click on Step 1 and in the Authentication section, place the kubeconfig file path into the Kubernetes Config File Path field. Click Save for the specific job step: Custom KubeConfig
  3. Repeat the prior step for Step 2.

If using an API Token for authentication is preferred over placing the KubeConfig on the Process Automation or Rundeck server, then place the token into the API Token field and also provide the Cluster URL.