Time Travel with Pack
Why do images created by
packsay they were created 40 years ago?
As the example below shows, the
docker images command claims that an image I created using
pack build, was created 40 years ago, which it most definitely was not.
What’s going on here?! That’s (a) a blatant lie, and (b) a very random time. But there’s a good explanation.
This oddity comes down to a design decision that we made for the purpose of so-called “reproducible builds”; ensuring that you get the same result every time you run your build. Reproducible builds mean that whenever you run:
pack build sample-hello-moon:test
Pack will build a runnable image with the exact same image ID (also referred to as a
digest), assuming you have:
- the same source code
- the same builder image
- the underlying buildpack/language support reproducible builds (for example,
gobinaries are reproducible by default)
Let’s demonstrate that, with an app and builder from our buildpacks/samples repo (specifically, the
bash-script application, with the
As you can see, two applications built at different times, with different names, have the same
sha (in this case,
68ea4c6d5ddf). This happens even if you were to delete the docker cache. In contrast, if you would run a
docker build after having deleted the cache, the resulting application would have a different
Why is reproducibility important? Trust.
According to the Reproducible Builds Project,
The motivation … is therefore to allow verification that no vulnerabilities or backdoors have been introduced during this compilation process. By promising identical results are always generated from a given source, this allows multiple third parties to come to a consensus on a “correct” result, highlighting any deviations as suspect and worthy of scrutiny.
sha takes into account the contents of the image layers, including metadata, such as the date the image was produced. In order to get the desired reproducibility, we set some of the timestamps in the image (which would otherwise be different every second, and would thereby change the image ID) to
January 1, 1980 00:00:01.
This date, January 1, 1980, wasn’t picked out of a hat — it was a deliberate choice, allowing us to extend support for files that use
MS-DOS format (as some
zip files for more details, see here). Interestingly, some other image building frameworks, like ko and jib do it as well.
There is a nice side-benefit for any students stressing about last minute coding assignments, though!
What do you mean, Professor? I finished the assignment a looooong time ago…