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Install Kubectl on Ubuntu

Introduction to Kubectl

Kubernetes offers a command-line tool to communicate with the control plane of the Kubernetes cluster with the help of the Kubernetes API. The tool is called kubectl.

Kubectl finds a file that is known as config in the directory, i.e., $HOME/.kube for configuration. We can define other files of kubeconfig by setting the --kubeconfig flag or KUBECONFIG environment variable.

From the point of view of a user, kubectl is our cockpit for controlling Kubernetes. It permits us to perform all possible operations of Kubernetes. From the point of view of a technical user, kubectl is the client for the Kubernetes API. The API is the actual user interface of Kubernetes.

Kubernetes is completely controlled by this API. It means that all Kubernetes operations are disclosed as an API endpoint and could be run by an HTTP request to the endpoint. The primary aim of kubectl is to consequently implement HTTP requests for the Kubernetes API.

Introduction to Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a free container orchestration system to automate software deployment, management, and scaling. Originally, it was developed by Google and is now managed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

The title Kubernetes comes from Greek, meaning 'pilot' or 'helmsman'. Often, Kubernetes is called K8s, the result of the right letters between the s and the K.
Kubernetes operates with CRI-O and containerd. Its suitability to manage and run bigger cloud-native workloads has caused its widespread adoption within the data center. Multiple distros of this platform are from ISVs and hosted-on cloud contributions from every dominant public cloud vendor.

Concepts of Kubernetes

Kubernetes specifies a group of primitives (building blocks) that collectively offer mechanisms that scale, maintain, and deploy applications that are based on custom metrics, memory, and CPU. Kubernetes is extensible and loosely coupled to meet several workloads. The containers, extensions, and internal components that execute on Kubernetes depend on the Kubernetes API.

Kubernetes follows the replica/primary architecture. The elements of Kubernetes can be categorized into those that maintain an individual node and the components of the control panel.

Control panel

The master node of Kubernetes manages the cluster's Kubernetes control panel, handling its workload and regulating communication around the system. The control panel of Kubernetes is composed of several components, all its processes, that can execute both on multiple masters of an individual master node. Several Kubernetes control panel components are below:

  • etcd is a distributed, lightweight, persistent, and key-value data store CoreOS has improved. Reliably, it saves the configuration information of the cluster, indicating the overall cluster state.
  • The API server delivers the Kubernetes API over HTTP using JSON, which offers both the external and internal interface. The API server develops and approves REST requests and upgrades the API object state in etcd. Hence, permitting clients to set up containers and workloads around worker nodes.
  • The scheduler is an extensible component that chooses on which node any unscheduled pod executes based on the availability of the resource. The scheduler records resource use on all nodes to guarantee that workload isn't scheduled in available resource excess.
  • A controller is the reconciliation loop that runs the original cluster state to the desired state, negotiating with the API server to build, update, and remove the resources it handles (for example, service and pods endpoints).


A node is also called a minion or a worker. It is a machine in which containers are deployed. In the cluster, all nodes must execute a container runtime, like containerd, and the following components:

  • A container locates in a pod. It is the lowest level of the micro-service, which grips the active libraries, applications, and their dependencies.
  • Kubelet is liable for the active state of all nodes, guaranteeing that every container is healthy on the node.
  • Kube-proxy is an employment of a load balancer and a network proxy, and it provides the service abstraction with other networking tasks. It is liable for routing traffic to the suitable container based on the port number or IP of the incoming request.

Why do we need kubectl?

Our Kubernetes platform is a composed system with worker and master nodes. One way to negotiate with it is by its API server. The server is the primary component of the control plane of Kubernetes, and it represents an HTTP REST API that allows communication between every external component, cluster, and user.

The API is treated as the primary user interface and frontend for our Kubernetes platform. Managing, querying, and updating the state of the objects and resources on our Kubernetes platform are each done with the Kubernetes API using interactions with client libraries, kubectl, or by directly building REST requests.

Kubectl is one of the most general ways to build HTTP requests on the Kubernetes API, and it is used to execute Kubernetes operations, set up containerized applications, check and maintain resources in our cluster, view the system logs, and perform monitoring operations.

Kubectl Authentication

Two common techniques are available to authenticate with kubectl in production or regular environments. The two techniques are bearer tokens (OIDC tokens and service account tokens) and client certificates (Enterprise PKI Certs and Self-Signed Kubernetes Certs).

  • The client certificates are industry standards-based, and a valid x509 client certificate is required. These certificates are authorized and can be signed externally or internally.
  • The certificate is internally signed off via the Kubernetes API server of the cluster from an API call, i.e., CertificateSigningRequest. This technique can be more convenient and easier because it doesn't need an outside infrastructure, although it is incompatible with a large-scale distribution where requests are dedicated, more handling can be cost-prohibitive.
  • The certificate is externally signed via an enterprise PKI (public key infrastructure) or an external system administrator.
  • We can authenticate in multiple ways with bearer tokens, although the easiest technique involves making a service account and producing a token through the account from the Kubernetes API. Then, this token authenticates the requests using that account, permitting access to the allowed clusters. This technique is helpful for long-term procedures that negotiate with the Kubernetes API continuously.
  • Another technique to use bearer tokens includes producing an external OIDC (OpenID Connect) token. It is suitable for enterprise purposes and user applications because it is the most scalable and secure technique for authentication. It is also useful in large teams as it uses individual sign-on tokens for every cluster user.

Common use cases of kubectl

Kubectl can generally be used to start up or perform every Kubernetes operation. But there are a few mostly used functionalities to query and manage the health of our Kubernetes cluster. Describing and listing resources is one of the functionalities. We need to inspect the state of the resources and remember the count of resources running actively at a time point as more resources are produced.

  • It can be done with the kubectl describe and kubectl get
    Building resources is another important way we can use kubectl. Through the utilization of the command, i.e., kubectl create, we can build and schedule cron jobs, services, app deployments, and several other Kubernetes resources or components. Using this command, and the available flags, we have control on the resources we wish to make as well as when and where they are made.
  • Apart from building Kubernetes objects, we can update and remove particular resource instances. If we made a resource with the resource.yaml file declaration, we could use the command, i.e., kubectl apply, to update, reset, or refresh the resource, relying on the modifications in the file.
  • Also, we can use the kubectl edit command to edit a particular resource instance. It will carry an editor where modifications made will be upgraded in the resource.
  • We can finally remove a resource with the kubectl delete
  • Adjusting Kubernetes objects is easy if we use the kubectl logs and kubectl debug The kubectl logs command prints out the resource logs and the kubectl debug command creates associated debugging containers.
  • Finally, the capability to copy directories and files from and to containers is a useful tool in operating with Kubernetes from kubectl. We can implement the kubectl cp command to accomplish it.

Kubernetes State

Kubernetes actively checks the health of the objects, whether pods, deployments, and containers. The control panel of Kubernetes contains records of the state and configuration of every Kubernetes object of the cluster. On the other hand, the controller manager looks at the differences between the actual state and desired state and operates to improve them.

  • In Kubernetes, almost all objects have a specification or spec and a status.
  • The specification is specified on the creation and announces the target state for the object.
  • Besides, the status is arbitrary of the current state of that object.
  • We can look at its state with the command, i.e., kubectl get, showcasing the status of the resources and how accessible it is depending on the particular object or resource.
  • For instance, pods include five values for status (unknown, failed, succeeded, running, and pending) depending on the attended pod state.

Debugging the state of our objects is important if operating in a team. Resources built by another user could restrict the performance of our resources. Our built resources can be stuck on Waiting, Pending, or fail due to the assets required for its establishment are in use currently in space-limited clusters. We can use the kubectl debug and kubectl logs to understand the state of our object and dig into several failure reasons.

Kubectl Config

Kubectl is a CLI (command line interface) to interact with Kubernetes. We can use it for managing Kubernetes resources, including deployments, services, and pods. The config file of kubectl is a configuration file that saves every information crucial for interacting with the Kubernetes cluster. It includes the below information:

  • The names of every context specified in the cluster.
  • The credentials (password and username) to authenticate with the API server of Kubernetes.
  • The Kubernetes API server location.
  • The Kubernetes cluster name.

Syntax of kubectl

We can use the below syntax to run the commands of kubectl from our terminal:


Command- It describes the operation that we wish to implement on multiple resources.

For instance, create, describe, delete, get, etc.

TYPE- It describes the type of the resource. These types of resources are case-insensitive and we can define the abbreviated, singular, or plural forms.

For instance, the below commands generate the same result:

NAME- It describes the resource name. The names of the resource are case-sensitive. Details for every resource are shown if a name is missing.

For instance, kubectl get pods.

We can define all resources by name and type or define multiple files when implementing an operation on one or more resources:

  • To individually define more than one resource by types:

For example, kubectl get pod/example-pod1 replicationcontroller/example-rc1

  • To define resources by name and type:

For group resources when they're all of the similar types:

For example, kubectl get pod example-pod1 example-pod2

flags- It describes optional flags.

For instance, we can use the --server or -s flags for specifying the port and address of the Kubernetes API server.

Note: Flags override the related environment variables and default values that we define from the command line.

Namespace overrides and in-cluster authentication

First of all, kubectl will by default determine if it's running in a pod, and hence in a cluster. It begins by inspecting the environment variables, i.e., KUBERNETES_SERVICE_PORT and KUBERNETES_SERVICE_HOST, and the presence of a service account token file over /var/run/secrets/ In-cluster authentication is pretended if each three is found.

For maintaining backward compatibility, when the environment variable, i.e., POD_NAMESPACE is set at the time of in-cluster authentication, then it would override the namespace (default) from a service account token. The tools or manifests depending on the defaulting of the namespace will be impacted by it.

POD_NAMESPACE environment variable. On namespace resources, cli operations will default to the value of a variable if the environment variable is set.

How kubectl managed tokens of ServiceAccount


  • The environment variable, KUBERNETES_SERVICE_PORT is set
  • The environment variable, KUBERNETES_SERVICE_HOST is set
  • There is a token file of the Kubernetes service account located at /var/run/secrets/

We do not specify any namespace explicitly on the command line of kubectl

Then, kubectl pretends it's running in our cluster. The tool, i.e., kubectl finds a namespace of the ServiceAccount (it is similar to the pad namespace) and operates against the namespace. It is distinct from what's outside happens to the cluster. The command of kubectl operates against the namespace (default) if kubectl outside runs a cluster and we don't define a namespace.

Operations of kubectl

The following are some operations of kubectl along with their syntax and description:

Install Kubectl on Ubuntu

alpha- It lists the present commands that are related to the features of alpha that are not activated by default in the Kubernetes cluster.


annotate- It updates or adds the annotations of multiple resources.


api-resources- It lists the resources of API that are present.


api-versions- It lists the versions of API that are present.


apply- It applies the change of a configuration to a resource using a stdin or file.


attach- It attaches to an active container either to interact with the stdin (container) or view the final stream.


auth- Inspect authorization.


autoscale- It automatically scales the group of pods that are handled by a replication controller.


certificate- Change certificate resources.


cluster-info- It shows the information of the endpoint about the services and master in the cluster.


completion- Final code of shell completion for the described shell (zsh or bash).


config- It changes kubeconfig files.


convert- It transforms config files between distinct API versions. Both JSON and YAML formats are accepted.

Important: It needs a plugin, i.e., kubectl-convert to be installed.


cordon- It marks the node as unscheduled.


cp- It copies directories and files from and to containers.


create- It create multiple resources from a stdin or file.


delete- It deletes resources either through a stdin, file, or specifying label names, selectors, resources, or resource selectors.


describe- It shows the detailed state of multiple resources.


diff- Diff file or stdin against live configuration.


Install kubectl on Ubuntu

Kubectl is a tool that is open-source and essential in container orchestration. Kubernetes operates by managing and orchestrating clusters at scale around several cloud environments or on-premise servers.

Clusters are a group of hosts meant to run containerized services and applications. A cluster requires a minimum of two different nodes to operate- one worker node and a master node. We have an option for expanding the cluster with as various worker nodes as needed keeping scalability in mind.

In Kubernetes, a node refers to the server. A server is a master node that handles the cluster state. The worker nodes are the servers that execute the workloads- typically, these are containerized services and applications.


We will need to arrange two servers, executing on the Ubuntu system. For Kubernetes, the minimum requirement of the system is 2 CPUs and 2 GB RAM for the best performance. One server will be a master node, then another one will be a worker node.

  • Ensure that we add the user along with sudo privileges on the nodes that we will apply to execute the commands.
  • Network connectivity- In the cluster, the servers should be capable of communicating. They will be by default linked to the Internet using a public IP when we deploy our Virtual Machines from CloudSigma. We may need to edit our file, i.e., /etc/hosts in all servers, and appropriately connect them if we are working through a local network.
  • We will need to enable and install Docker on all nodes. Kubernetes depends on a container runtime for running containers within the pods. Docker will give the runtime environment required by Ubuntu.

Enable snaps and install kubectl

A snap is the applications packaged with each of their dependency to execute on every famous Linux distro from an individual build. Automatically, they gracefully update and rollback. Snaps are installable and discoverable from the Snap Store and the app store along with millions of audiences.

Enable snapd

If we are running Focal Fossa (Ubuntu 20.04), Bionic Beaver (Ubuntu 18.04), and Xenial Xerus (Ubuntu 16.04), we don't require to do anything. A snap is installed and ready to proceed.

For Ubuntu versions between Wily Werewolf (Ubuntu 15.10) and Trusty Tahr (Ubuntu 14.04 LTS), as well as flavors of Ubuntu that by default do not include snap, snap could be installed using the Ubuntu Software Center by finding for snapd. Snapd could be alternatively installed with the help of the command-line:

Install Kubectl on Ubuntu

Install Kubectl on Ubuntu

Either back in and log out, or restart our system, to ensure the paths of snap are correctly updated.

Installing kubectl

We can simply run the following command for installing kubectl:

Install Kubectl on Ubuntu

Uninstalling Kubectl

We can remove or uninstall kubectl by using the following command in the terminal window:

Install Kubectl on Ubuntu
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