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How To Inspect Kubernetes Networking

PostedJuly 23, 2018 6.5k views Kubernetes Networking


Kubernetes is a container orchestration system that can manage containerized applications across a cluster of server nodes. Maintaining network connectivity between all the containers in a cluster requires some advanced networking techniques. In this article, we will briefly cover some tools and techniques for inspecting this networking setup.

These tools may be useful if you are debugging connectivity issues, investigating network throughput problems, or exploring Kubernetes to learn how it operates.

If you want to learn more about Kubernetes in general, our guide An Introduction to Kubernetes covers the basics. For a networking-specific overview of Kubernetes, please read Kubernetes Networking Under the Hood.

Getting Started

This tutorial will assume that you have a Kubernetes cluster, with kubectl installed locally and configured to connect to the cluster.

The following sections contain many commands that are intended to be run on a Kubernetes node. They will look like this:

  • echo 'this is a node command'

Commands that should be run on your local machine will have the following appearance:

  • echo 'this is a local command'

Note: Most of the commands in this tutorial will need to be run as the root user. If you instead use a sudo-enabled user on your Kubernetes nodes, please add sudo to run the commands when necessary.

Finding a Pod's Cluster IP

To find the cluster IP address of a Kubernetes pod, use the kubectl get pod command on your local machine, with the option -o wide. This option will list more information, including the node the pod resides on, and the pod's cluster IP.

  • kubectl get pod -o wide
NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGE IP NODE hello-world-5b446dd74b-7c7pk 1/1 Running 0 22m node-one hello-world-5b446dd74b-pxtzt 1/1 Running 0 22m node-two

The IP column will contain the internal cluster IP address for each pod.

If you don't see the pod you're looking for, make sure you're in the right namespace. You can list all pods in all namespaces by adding the flag --all-namespaces.

Finding a Service's IP

We can find a Service IP using kubectl as well. In this case we will list all services in all namespaces:

  • kubectl get service --all-namespaces
NAMESPACE NAME TYPE CLUSTER-IP EXTERNAL-IP PORT(S) AGE default kubernetes ClusterIP <none> 443/TCP 6d kube-system csi-attacher-doplugin ClusterIP <none> 12345/TCP 6d kube-system csi-provisioner-doplugin ClusterIP <none> 12345/TCP 6d kube-system kube-dns ClusterIP <none> 53/UDP,53/TCP 6d kube-system kubernetes-dashboard ClusterIP <none> 443/TCP 6d

The service IP can be found in the CLUSTER-IP column.

Finding and Entering Pod Network Namespaces

Each Kubernetes pod gets assigned its own network namespace. Network namespaces (or netns) are a Linux networking primitive that provide isolation between network devices.

It can be useful to run commands from within a pod's netns, to check DNS resolution or general network connectivity. To do so, we first need to look up the process ID of one of the containers in a pod. For Docker, we can do that with a series of two commands. First, list the containers running on a node:

  • docker ps
CONTAINER ID IMAGE COMMAND CREATED STATUS PORTS NAMES 173ee46a3926 gcr.io/google-samples/node-hello "/bin/sh -c 'node se…" 9 days ago Up 9 days k8s_hello-world_hello-world-5b446dd74b-pxtzt_default_386a9073-7e35-11e8-8a3d-bae97d2c1afd_0 11ad51cb72df k8s.gcr.io/pause-amd64:3.1 "/pause" 9 days ago Up 9 days k8s_POD_hello-world-5b446dd74b-pxtzt_default_386a9073-7e35-11e8-8a3d-bae97d2c1afd_0 . . .

Find the container ID or name of any container in the pod you're interested in. In the above output we're showing two containers:

  • The first container is the hello-world app running in the hello-world pod
  • The second is a pause container running in the hello-world pod. This container exists solely to hold onto the pod's network namespace

To get the process ID of either container, take note of the container ID or name, and use it in the following docker command:

  • docker inspect --format '{{ .State.Pid }}' container-id-or-name

A process ID (or PID) will be output. Now we can use the nsenter program to run a command in that process's network namespace:

  • nsenter -t your-container-pid -n ip addr

Be sure to use your own PID, and replace ip addr with the command you'd like to run inside the pod's network namespace.

Note: One advantage of using nsenter to run commands in a pod's namespace – versus using something like docker exec – is that you have access to all of the commands available on the node, instead of the typically limited set of commands installed in containers.

Finding a Pod's Virtual Ethernet Interface

Each pod's network namespace communicates with the node's root netns through a virtual ethernet pipe. On the node side, this pipe appears as a device that typically begins with veth and ends in a unique identifier, such as veth77f2275 or veth01. Inside the pod this pipe appears as eth0.

It can be useful to correlate which veth device is paired with a particular pod. To do so, we will list all network devices on the node, then list the devices in the pod's network namespace. We can then correlate device numbers between the two listings to make the connection.

First, run ip addr in the pod's network namespace using nsenter. Refer to the previous section Finding and Entering Pod Network Namespaces
for details on how to do this:

  • nsenter -t your-container-pid -n ip addr
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1 link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00 inet scope host lo valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever 10: eth0@if11: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1450 qdisc noqueue state UP group default link/ether 02:42:0a:f4:03:04 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff link-netnsid 0 inet brd scope global eth0 valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

The command will output a list of the pod's interfaces. Note the if11 number after eth0@ in the example output. This means this pod's eth0 is linked to the node's 11th interface. Now run ip addr in the node's default namespace to list out its interfaces:

  • ip addr
1: lo: <LOOPBACK,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN group default qlen 1 link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00 inet scope host lo valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever inet6 ::1/128 scope host valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever . . . 7: veth77f2275@if6: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1450 qdisc noqueue master docker0 state UP group default link/ether 26:05:99:58:0d:b9 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff link-netnsid 0 inet6 fe80::2405:99ff:fe58:db9/64 scope link valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever 9: vethd36cef3@if8: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1450 qdisc noqueue master docker0 state UP group default link/ether ae:05:21:a2:9a:2b brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff link-netnsid 1 inet6 fe80::ac05:21ff:fea2:9a2b/64 scope link valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever 11: veth4f7342d@if10: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1450 qdisc noqueue master docker0 state UP group default link/ether e6:4d:7b:6f:56:4c brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff link-netnsid 2 inet6 fe80::e44d:7bff:fe6f:564c/64 scope link valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

The 11th interface is veth4f7342d in this example output. This is the virtual ethernet pipe to the pod we're investigating.

Inspecting Conntrack Connection Tracking

Prior to version 1.11, Kubernetes used iptables NAT and the conntrack kernel module to track connections. To list all the connections currently being tracked, use the conntrack command:

  • conntrack -L

To watch continuously for new connections, use the -E flag:

  • conntrack -E

To list conntrack-tracked connections to a particular destination address, use the -d flag:

  • conntrack -L -d

If your nodes are having issues making reliable connections to services, it's possible your connection tracking table is full and new connections are being dropped. If that's the case you may see messages like the following in your system logs:

Jul 12 15:32:11 worker-528 kernel: nf_conntrack: table full, dropping packet.

There is a sysctl setting for the maximum number of connections to track. You can list out your current value with the following command:

  • sysctl net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max
net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max = 131072

To set a new value, use the -w flag:

  • sysctl -w net.netfilter.nf_conntrack_max=198000

To make this setting permanent, add it to the sysctl.conf file:

. . .
net.ipv4.netfilter.ip_conntrack_max = 198000

Inspecting Iptables Rules

Prior to version 1.11, Kubernetes used iptables NAT to implement virtual IP translation and load balancing for Service IPs.

To dump all iptables rules on a node, use the iptables-save command:

  • iptables-save

Because the output can be lengthy, you may want to pipe to a file (iptables-save > output.txt) or a pager (iptables-save | less) to more easily review the rules.

To list just the Kubernetes Service NAT rules, use the iptables command and the -L flag to specify the correct chain:

  • iptables -t nat -L KUBE-SERVICES
Chain KUBE-SERVICES (2 references) target prot opt source destination KUBE-SVC-TCOU7JCQXEZGVUNU udp -- anywhere /* kube-system/kube-dns:dns cluster IP */ udp dpt:domain KUBE-SVC-ERIFXISQEP7F7OF4 tcp -- anywhere /* kube-system/kube-dns:dns-tcp cluster IP */ tcp dpt:domain KUBE-SVC-XGLOHA7QRQ3V22RZ tcp -- anywhere /* kube-system/kubernetes-dashboard: cluster IP */ tcp dpt:https . . .

Querying Cluster DNS

One way to debug your cluster DNS resolution is to deploy a debug container with all the tools you need, then use kubectl to exec nslookup on it. This is described in the official Kubernetes documentation.

Another way to query the cluster DNS is using dig and nsenter from a node. If dig is not installed, it can be installed with apt on Debian-based Linux distributions:

  • apt install dnsutils

First, find the cluster IP of the kube-dns service:

  • kubectl get service -n kube-system kube-dns
NAME TYPE CLUSTER-IP EXTERNAL-IP PORT(S) AGE kube-dns ClusterIP <none> 53/UDP,53/TCP 15d

The cluster IP is highlighted above. Next we'll use nsenter to run dig in the a container namespace. Look at the section Finding and Entering Pod Network Namespaces for more information on this:

  • nsenter -t 14346 -n dig kubernetes.default.svc.cluster.local @

This dig command looks up the Service's full domain name of service-name.namespace.svc.cluster.local and specifics the IP of the cluster DNS service IP (@

Looking at IPVS Details

As of Kubernetes 1.11, kube-proxy can configure IPVS to handle the translation of virtual Service IPs to pod IPs. You can list the translation table of IPs with ipvsadm:

  • ipvsadm -Ln
IP Virtual Server version 1.2.1 (size=4096) Prot LocalAddress:Port Scheduler Flags -> RemoteAddress:Port Forward Weight ActiveConn InActConn TCP rr -> Masq 1 0 0 TCP rr -> Masq 1 0 0 -> Masq 1 0 0 UDP rr -> Masq 1 0 0 -> Masq 1 0 0

To show a single Service IP, use the -t option and specify the desired IP:

  • ipvsadm -Ln -t
Prot LocalAddress:Port Scheduler Flags -> RemoteAddress:Port Forward Weight ActiveConn InActConn TCP rr -> Masq 1 0 0 -> Masq 1 0 0


In this article we’ve reviewed some commands and techniques for exploring and inspecting the details of your Kubernetes cluster's networking. For more information about Kubernetes, take a look at our Kubernetes tutorials tag and the official Kubernetes documentation.


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