Debugging a Go Service in Kubernetes


In a perfect world every written service will work smooth, your test coverage is on top and there are no bugs in the implementation of your API. But we all know, that we can’t achieve this world, sadly. It’s not unusual that there’s a bug and you have to debug this problem in a production environment. We have faced this problem with our go services in our Kubernetes cluster, and we want to show you how it’s possible to remote debug a go service in a Kubernetes cluster.

Software Prerequisites

For this case we create a kubernetes cluster running locally on our system. Therefore we need the following software:

We decided to use kind instead of minikube, since it's a very good tool for testing Kubernetes locally, and we can use our docker images without a docker registry.

Check out the sources at

Big Picture

First we will briefly explain how it works. We start by creating a new Kubernetes cluster local-debug-k8s on our local system.

  • You need a docker container with delve (the go debugger) as the main process.
  • The debugger delve needs access to the path with the project data. This is done by mounting $GOPATH/src on the pod which is running in the Kubernetes cluster.
  • We start the delve container on port 30123 and bind this port to localhost, so that only our local debugger can communicate with delve.
  • To debug an API with delve, it’s necessary to set up an ingress network. For this we use port 8090.

A picture serves to illustrate the communication:

Creating a Kubernetes cluster

kind unfortunately doesn't use the environment variable GOPATH, so we have to update this in config.yaml:

sed -i.bak 's|'{GOPATH}'|'${GOPATH}'|g' cluster/config.yaml

You can also open config.yaml and replace {GOPATH} with the absolute path manually. If you already installed kind (Kubernetes in Docker) on your local system, you can create the cluster with this command:

kind create cluster --config cluster/config.yaml --name=local-debug-k8s

Ensure that port 8090 and 30123 are not used on your local system. The newly created cluster has the name local-debug-k8s and has been created with custom configuration ( --config cluster/config.yaml). The following is a brief explanation:

kind: Cluster
- role: control-plane
# necessary, since we are going to install an ingress network
- |
kind: InitConfiguration
node-labels: "ingress-ready=true"
authorization-mode: "AlwaysAllow"
- containerPort: 80 # http endpoint of ingress
hostPort: 8090 # for calling API's of the service
protocol: TCP
- containerPort: 30123 # node port for the delve server
hostPort: 30123 # for the communication with delve server
protocol: TCP
- role: worker
- hostPath: {GOPATH}/src # ATTENTION: you might want to replace this path with your ${GOPATH}/src manually
containerPath: /go/src # path to the project folder inside the worker node

Expected result:

Creating cluster "local-debug-k8s" ...
✓ Ensuring node image (kindest/node:v1.17.0) 🖼
✓ Preparing nodes 📦 📦
✓ Writing configuration 📜
✓ Starting control-plane 🕹️
✓ Installing CNI 🔌
✓ Installing StorageClass 💾
✓ Joining worker nodes 🚜
Set kubectl context to "kind-local-debug-k8s"
You can now use your cluster with:
kubectl cluster-info --context kind-local-debug-k8sHave a nice day! 👋

Activate the kube-context for kubectl to communicate with the new cluster:

kubectl cluster-info --context kind-local-debug-k8s

Install nginx-ingress

For both ports (8090 and 30123) to work, it is necessary to deploy an nginx controller as an ingress controller:

kubectl create -f

Source: kind documentation

to observe the current status the following command can be executed:

kubectl wait --namespace ingress-nginx --for=condition=ready pod --timeout=120s

Labelling the node

We know that by default a kubernetes cluster will deploy a pod on a node which has enough ressources for this workload. Our docker image must be pulled on all nodes in our kubernetes cluster in order to be ready as quickly as possible. This process may take a long time. If the docker image isn’t pulled on a node and a new pod will provisioned on this node, it will take more time to get ready and healthy. For our use case we will label a node in our kubernetes cluster so that always this node will be used.

We label a node with debug=true:

kubectl label nodes local-debug-k8s-worker debug=true

Creating a docker image

Our service has only one endpoint /hello and writes just a few logs. Let's checkout the Dockerfile for delve:

FROM golang:1.13-alpine# compile gcc statically
ENV GOROOT=/usr/local/go
# this path will be mounted in deploy-service.yaml
# Install git and get the latest version of delve via go
RUN apk update && apk add --no-cache \
git && \
go get
# ATTENTION: you want to check, if the path to the project folder is the right one here
WORKDIR /go/src/
# 30123 for delve and 8090 for API calls
EXPOSE 30123 8090
# let's start delve as the entrypoint
ENTRYPOINT ["/go/bin/dlv", "debug", ".", "--listen=:30123", "--accept-multiclient", "--headless=true", "--api-version=2"]

So, let’s build build our docker image from our Dockerfile:

docker build -t setlog/debug-k8s ./Dockerfile

After the build is done, we load the image setlog/debug-k8s:latest on the node local-debug-k8s-worker:

kind load docker-image setlog/debug-k8s:latest --name=local-debug-k8s --nodes=local-debug-k8s-worker

A message appears indicating that the docker image did not exist before:

Image: "setlog/debug-k8s:latest" with ID "sha256:944baa03d49698b9ca1f22e1ce87b801a20ce5aa52ccfc648a6c82cf8708a783" not present on node "local-debug-k8s-worker"

Deploy the delve container in our cluster

First of all we need a persistent volume and its claim in order to mount the project path into the node:

kubectl create -f cluster/persistent-volume.yaml

The interesting part here is:

path: /go/src

Below is an image that shows the configurations through which our local path is mounted. In your environment it could be another path:

Check, if your persistent volume claim has been successfully created (STATUS must be Bound):

go-pvc Bound go-pv 256Mi RWO hostpath 51s

Now we are ready to deploy all our services in debug mode:

kubectl create -f cluster/deploy-service.yaml

Let’s go through the pod manifest:

  • image is the previously built and loaded image into the kind cluster with kind load image...
  • imagePullPolicy must be set to IfNotPresent because it’s already loaded and we don’t want Kubernetes to try it again
      image: setlog/debug-k8s:latest
imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent
  • We use the persistent volume claim to mount the project path into the pod, so that /go/src will be linked to ${GOPATH}/src on your local system
- name: debug-k8s
- mountPath: /go/src
name: go-volume
- name: go-volume
claimName: go-pvc
  • As there might be several nodes in your kubernetes cluster, we deploy the pod on the node, that is labelled with debug=true. The docker image setlog/debug-k8s was already loaded on this node.
debug: "true"
  • Service service-debug has the type NodePort and is mounted to the node. This port 30123 is equal to the parameter — listen=:30123 in the Dockerfile, which makes it possible to send debug commands to the delve server.
  • Service debug-k8s will be connected to the ingress server in the final step. It serves for exposing the API endpoints we are going to debug.

If you did all steps correctly, your pod should be up and running. Check it with kubectl get pod. You should see the output with the pod status Running and two additional services debug-k8s and service-debug:

NAME                            READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
pod/debug-k8s-6d69b65cf-4fl6t 1/1 Running 0 1h
service/debug-k8s ClusterIP <none> 8090/TCP 1h
service/kubernetes ClusterIP <none> 443/TCP 1h
service/service-debug NodePort <none> 30123:30123/TCP 1h

Hint: create a new variable to store the pod name using PODNAME=$(kubectl get pod -o jsonpath='{.items[0]}'). It can be helpful, if you repeatedly debug the pod.

Usually it takes a couple of seconds to start the debugging process with delve. If your paths are mounted in the proper way, you will find the file __debug_bin in the project path on your computer. That is an executable which has been created by delve.

Also, you can output logs of the pod by performing kubectl logs $PODNAME in order to make sure the delve API server is listening at 30123.


API server listening at: [::]:30123

Hint: always wait until this log message is shown for this pod before you start the debugging process. Otherwise, the delve server is not up yet and cannot answer to the debugger.

Starting the debug process via launch.json

Now we need a debug configuration in Visual Studio Code. This can be done in .vscode/launch.json:

"version": "0.2.0",
"configurations": [
"name": "Remote debug in Kubernetes",
"type": "go",
"request": "attach",
"remotePath": "/go/src/",
"port": 30123,
"host": "",
"showLog": true

Where remotePath is the path to the project path inside the pod, port the local port to send the debug commands to, and host the host to send the debug commands to.

You can find the new configuration in Visual Studio Code here:

Image for post
Image for post

After starting the debug process there is a new log created by the go service:

2020/05/28 15:38:53 I am going to start...

Finally we are ready to debug the service, but we have to trigger the API functions through the ingress service. Deploy it with kubectl:

kubectl create -f cluster/ingress.yaml

And try accessing it now:

curl http://localhost:8090/hello

Which should trigger the debugger:

Image for post
Image for post

Happy debugging!

Cleaning up

If you don’t need your kind cluster anymore, you can remove this with the following command:

kind delete cluster --name=local-debug-k8s
Image for post
Image for post

Written by

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store