Simple rolling update

This is a lightweight design document for simple rolling update in kubectl.

Complete execution flow can be found here. See the example of rolling update for more information.

Lightweight rollout

Assume that we have a current replication controller named foo and it is running image image:v1

kubectl rolling-update foo [foo-v2] --image=myimage:v2

If the user doesn’t specify a name for the ‘next’ replication controller, then the ‘next’ replication controller is renamed to the name of the original replication controller.

Obviously there is a race here, where if you kill the client between delete foo, and creating the new version of ‘foo’ you might be surprised about what is there, but I think that’s ok. See Recovery below

If the user does specify a name for the ‘next’ replication controller, then the ‘next’ replication controller is retained with its existing name, and the old ‘foo’ replication controller is deleted. For the purposes of the rollout, we add a unique-ifying label to both the foo and foo-next replication controllers. The value of that label is the hash of the complete JSON representation of thefoo-next orfoo replication controller. The name of this label can be overridden by the user with the --deployment-label-key flag.


If a rollout fails or is terminated in the middle, it is important that the user be able to resume the roll out. To facilitate recovery in the case of a crash of the updating process itself, we add the following annotations to each replication controller in the annotation namespace: * desired-replicas The desired number of replicas for this replication controller (either N or zero) * update-partner A pointer to the replication controller resource that is the other half of this update (syntax <name> the namespace is assumed to be identical to the namespace of this replication controller.)

Recovery is achieved by issuing the same command again:

kubectl rolling-update foo [foo-v2] --image=myimage:v2

Whenever the rolling update command executes, the kubectl client looks for replication controllers called foo and foo-next, if they exist, an attempt is made to roll foo to foo-next. If foo-next does not exist, then it is created, and the rollout is a new rollout. If foo doesn’t exist, then it is assumed that the rollout is nearly completed, and foo-next is renamed to foo. Details of the execution flow are given below.

Aborting a rollout

Abort is assumed to want to reverse a rollout in progress.

kubectl rolling-update foo [foo-v2] --rollback

This is really just semantic sugar for:

kubectl rolling-update foo-v2 foo

With the added detail that it moves the desired-replicas annotation from foo-v2 to foo

Execution Details

For the purposes of this example, assume that we are rolling from foo to foo-next where the only change is an image update from v1 to v2

If the user doesn’t specify a foo-next name, then it is either discovered from the update-partner annotation on foo. If that annotation doesn’t exist, then foo-next is synthesized using the pattern <controller-name>-<hash-of-next-controller-JSON>


  • If foo and foo-next do not exist:
    • Exit, and indicate an error to the user, that the specified controller doesn’t exist.
  • If foo exists, but foo-next does not:
    • Create foo-next populate it with the v2 image, set desired-replicas to foo.Spec.Replicas
    • Goto Rollout
  • If foo-next exists, but foo does not:
    • Assume that we are in the rename phase.
    • Goto Rename
  • If both foo and foo-next exist:
    • Assume that we are in a partial rollout
    • If foo-next is missing the desired-replicas annotation
      • Populate the desired-replicas annotation to foo-next using the current size of foo
    • Goto Rollout


  • While size of foo-next < desired-replicas annotation on foo-next
    • increase size of foo-next
    • if size of foo > 0 decrease size of foo
  • Goto Rename


  • delete foo
  • create foo that is identical to foo-next
  • delete foo-next


  • If foo-next doesn’t exist
    • Exit and indicate to the user that they may want to simply do a new rollout with the old version
  • If foo doesn’t exist
    • Exit and indicate not found to the user
  • Otherwise, foo-next and foo both exist
    • Set desired-replicas annotation on foo to match the annotation on foo-next
    • Goto Rollout with foo and foo-next trading places.