As Kubernetes grows in popularity, the changes each release become more and more critical to test. In v1.24 there are big changes that may or may not impact you.

Most people wait until the first patch release (vX.XX.1), after a major vX.XX.0 version, before getting serious about upgrading. I’ll demo how to test even earlier, before the major release.


Did you know Kubernetes releases alpha versions for the next release almost immediately after cutting a new release? For example, v1.23.0 was released on 12/7/21 and v1.24.0-alpha.1 was cut the very next day.

This blog tests the significant breaking changes between releases during a major version upgrade.

Why is Kubernetes v1.24 release extra special?

Kubernetes v1.24 removes the dockershim from kubelet. Without getting too deep into the problem, this picture is helpful:


The dockershim code is actually inside kubelet’s code base. This was an early design decision before Container Runtime Interfaces (CRI) existed.

Here’s an alternative way to view the differences (I wish it said CAN use vs. USES):


For additional context and information, read more about the removal here.


Many cloud providers are already using a non-Docker CRI and there is no impact to you. I believe the most impacted user group is consumers of upstream OSS Kubernetes.

Starting point

Let’s start with a “traditional” single node cluster running an “old” v1.23.0 release. Quick summary of components:

The first run failed, but I expected that, as I haven’t updated kubelet or docker to use the systemd cgroup driver (a change in v1.22+). The first run creates the config files to modify for the fix; specifically /var/lib/kubelet/config.yaml.

To fix the error, follow this gist I wrote.

When finished, re-run sudo kubeadm reset && sudo kubeadm init

Output should be successful. Now copy the kubectl config for use:

mkdir -p $HOME/.kube
sudo cp -i /etc/kubernetes/admin.conf $HOME/.kube/config
sudo chown $(id -u):$(id -g) $HOME/.kube/config

To test, run kubectl get nodes. Output is similar to:

NAME        STATUS     ROLES                  AGE   VERSION
ubu-servr   NotReady   control-plane,master   59s   v1.23.0

Finally, install a CNI (Calico).

curl -O
kubectl apply -f calico.yaml

Ensure the pods/node is ready:

$ kubectl get pods -A

NAMESPACE     NAME                                       READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
kube-system   calico-kube-controllers-647d84984b-247k2   1/1     Running   0          33s
kube-system   calico-node-shq29                          1/1     Running   0          33s
kube-system   coredns-64897985d-75jsz                    1/1     Running   0          2m45s
kube-system   coredns-64897985d-ws4rb                    1/1     Running   0          2m45s
kube-system   etcd-ubu-servr                             1/1     Running   1          2m52s
kube-system   kube-apiserver-ubu-servr                   1/1     Running   1          2m53s
kube-system   kube-controller-manager-ubu-servr          1/1     Running   1          2m52s
kube-system   kube-proxy-4qvcb                           1/1     Running   0          2m45s
kube-system   kube-scheduler-ubu-servr                   1/1     Running   1          2m50s

$ kubectl get nodes

NAME        STATUS   ROLES                  AGE     VERSION
ubu-servr   Ready    control-plane,master   2m48s   v1.23.0

Deploy a “hello-world” workload

kubectl create deployment echo-server --image=inanimate/echo-server --replicas=3

kubeadm, by default, taints the control plane, which prevents pods from being scheduled. Let’s remove the taint considering we’re only running a single node. The - at the very end is what indicates removal.

kubectl taint nodes --all

Check that it’s running:

$ kubectl get pods

NAME                          READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
echo-server-648d5dd78-5cvzz   1/1     Running   0          3m18s
echo-server-648d5dd78-9jnng   1/1     Running   0          3m18s
echo-server-648d5dd78-9vp2p   1/1     Running   0          3m18s

Confirm in a browser by using port-forward.

kubectl port-forward --address deployment/echo-server 8080:8080

Open a browser and navigate to YOUR_NODE_IP:8080

It works! Now onto the fun stuff.

Upgrade to v1.24

Since v1.24 isn’t released, we have to use an unreleased version (alpha/beta/release-candidate). While adding some complexity, it’s not much more work to manually gather all the tooling & container images.

kubeadm has a guide on their repository about testing pre-release versions of Kubernetes with kubeadm.

Create local debian files

First, install kubepkg using go (below). Since I’m using a testing server, I plan on being destructive & moving fast.

Build kubepkg and generate the debian packages for updating.

# need `dpkg-buildpackage` & `debhelper` to build debians
sudo apt install dpkg-dev debhelper

git clone

cd release/cmd/kubepkg/

go install ./...

~/go/bin/kubepkg debs --channels release --arch amd64 --kube-version v1.24.0-alpha.1 --packages kubelet,kubectl,kubeadm

Output ends similar to:

INFO Successfully walked builds

Upgrade kubeadm and kubectl

We know there’s a breaking change in kubelet, and according to the version skew policy, “kubelet must not be newer than kube-apiserver, and may be up to two minor versions older.”

In that case, let’s first upgrade kubeadm & kubectl (not kubelet).

sudo apt-mark unhold kubeadm kubectl

sudo apt install $(pwd)/bin/testing/kubectl_1.24.0-alpha.1-0_amd64.deb $(pwd)/bin/testing/kubeadm_1.24.0-alpha.1-0_amd64.deb


$ kubectl version --client
Client Version: version.Info{Major:"1", Minor:"24+", GitVersion:"v1.24.0-alpha.1", GitCommit:"cdf3ad823a33733dbbfcec45b368be8ed9690c5b", GitTreeState:"clean", BuildDate:"2021-12-09T02:30:41Z", GoVersion:"go1.17.4", Compiler:"gc", Platform:"linux/amd64"}

$ kubeadm version
kubeadm version: &version.Info{Major:"1", Minor:"24+", GitVersion:"v1.24.0-alpha.1", GitCommit:"cdf3ad823a33733dbbfcec45b368be8ed9690c5b", GitTreeState:"clean", BuildDate:"2021-12-09T02:29:30Z", GoVersion:"go1.17.4", Compiler:"gc", Platform:"linux/amd64"}

Stage container images

To avoid any issues with removing Docker, I didn’t want to stage the images locally. Instead, I created a Google Artifact Repo and uploaded the images. More info on how in this (gist).

Run the kubeadm upgrade process

We need to deviate from the public images to use our new custom public repo. Kubeadm doesn’t support changing the configuration during an upgrade (details). As a “hack,” we’ll update the config map. DO NOT DO THIS IN PRODUCTION.

kubectl -n kube-system edit cm kubeadm-config

Change imageRepository: to imageRepository:

Now we’re ready to upgrade. Run a preflight check to ensure things are working as intended.

sudo kubeadm upgrade plan

Run the upgrade and apply it, allowing for experimental upgrades.

sudo kubeadm upgrade apply v1.24.0-alpha.1 --allow-experimental-upgrades

After some time, the output is similar to:

[upgrade/successful] SUCCESS! Your cluster was upgraded to "v1.24.0-alpha.1". Enjoy!

[upgrade/kubelet] Now that your control plane is upgraded, please proceed with upgrading your kubelets if you haven't already done so.

Let’s take a look!

kubectl get nodes
NAME        STATUS   ROLES                  AGE    VERSION
ubu-servr   Ready    control-plane,master   171m   v1.23.0

I’m not too concerned about it still saying v1.23.0 as I believe kublet is responsible for reporting this information to the API server and we have not yet upgraded it. Let’s check the running pods/images:

kubectl describe pods -A | grep -i "image:" | uniq

We can see that the image tags are using 1.24, and nothing references 1.23.

    Image:         inanimate/echo-server

So far, pretty pain-free. Let’s check our ability to port forward.

kubectl port-forward --address deployment/echo-server 8080:8080

Yep! We’re in good shape. Next, we’ll upgrade kubelet. Please note, if this was a larger system, you should follow the official upgrade guide, including drain/cordon nodes.

sudo apt-mark unhold kubelet

sudo apt install $(pwd)/bin/testing/kubelet_1.24.0-alpha.1-0_amd64.deb

Running kubelet --version, we now see that it’s Kubernetes v1.24.0-alpha.1. However, if we run service kubelet status, you’ll notice it failed (code=exited, status=1/FAILURE).

Debug further with journalctl -xeu kubelet. After looking a bit, boom, here’s the culprit:

 "Failed to run kubelet" err="failed to run Kubelet: using dockershim is not supported, please consider using a full-fledged CRI implementation."

Cool. Now we have a cluster with a 100% working and functional control plane, but kubelet (the node’s brain) is not working.

We have two options here:

  • Continue using Docker with a 3rd party CRI
  • Swap docker-ce for containerd as kubelet’s CRI of choice

I like the idea of running fewer things on a node; let’s see how hard it is to switch to containerd.

Here’s the cool thing,

If you installed docker-ce following the official instructions, you already installed!

That means we just need to update kubelet’s configuration to bypass Docker. Stop docker by running:

sudo systemctl stop docker
sudo systemctl disable docker.service docker.socket

systemctl disable prevents the services from starting on reboot.

Then update the existing containerd config to INCLUDE the CRI plugin, which is currently disabled by default. It might seem a bit backward, but we can enable it by commenting out the disable flag in /etc/containerd/config.toml.

# sed adds a "#" to the disabled plugins line.
sudo sed -i 's/disabled_plugins/#disabled_plugins/g' /etc/containerd/config.toml

Validate with cat /etc/containerd/config.toml.

Restart containerd with sudo systemctl daemon-reload && sudo systemctl restart containerd and check the status with sudo systemctl status containerd

Now that containerd is configured, we need to update kubelet to use the runtime (CRI) instead of Docker.

Edit /var/lib/kubelet/kubeadm-flags.env to point at containerd.

sudo vi /var/lib/kubelet/kubeadm-flags.env

We need to add --container-runtime=remote (has only two arguments, docker or remote) and --container-runtime-endpoint=unix:///run/containerd/containerd.sock (defaults to unix:///var/run/dockershim.sock) to the list of arguments. The --container-runtime-endpoint argument could be any valid CRI.

Also, we can eliminate --network-plugin=cni as it’s a deprecated argument.

The final file should look like this:

KUBELET_KUBEADM_ARGS="--container-runtime=remote --container-runtime-endpoint=unix:///run/containerd/containerd.sock"

Reload and restart kubelet with:

sudo systemctl daemon-reload && sudo systemctl restart kubelet

Check if it worked with sudo systemctl status kubelet.

● kubelet.service - kubelet: The Kubernetes Node Agent
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/kubelet.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
    Drop-In: /etc/systemd/system/kubelet.service.d
     Active: active (running) since Sun 2021-12-12 21:14:07 UTC; 4s ago

Aaaaay! 🎉🎉🎉 Let’s check our cluster now. It might take a few minutes for everything to return to 100% running.

$ kubectl get nodes
NAME        STATUS   ROLES                  AGE     VERSION
ubu-servr   Ready    control-plane,master   3h37m   v1.24.0-alpha.1

$ kubectl get pods -A
NAMESPACE     NAME                                       READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
default       echo-server-648d5dd78-76x95                1/1     Running   2          131m
default       echo-server-648d5dd78-gw4w4                1/1     Running   2          131m
default       echo-server-648d5dd78-n27vs                1/1     Running   2          131m
kube-system   calico-kube-controllers-647d84984b-247k2   1/1     Running   4          3h35m
kube-system   calico-node-shq29                          1/1     Running   4          3h35m
kube-system   coredns-64897985d-75jsz                    1/1     Running   4          3h38m
kube-system   coredns-64897985d-ws4rb                    1/1     Running   4          3h38m
kube-system   etcd-ubu-servr                             1/1     Running   5          3h38m
kube-system   kube-apiserver-ubu-servr                   1/1     Running   2          48m
kube-system   kube-controller-manager-ubu-servr          1/1     Running   2          47m
kube-system   kube-proxy-wzrnw                           1/1     Running   2          47m
kube-system   kube-scheduler-ubu-servr                   1/1     Running   2          47m

If curious, we can check that Docker is “off” with:

$ service docker status
● docker.service - Docker Application Container Engine
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/docker.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: inactive (dead) since Mon 2021-12-13 02:41:02 UTC; 5min ago
TriggeredBy: ● docker.socket
   Main PID: 6451 (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)

Let’s try a new workload to ensure we’re able to pull, run, and route traffic.

kubectl create deployment nginx \
--image=nginx --replicas=2

kubectl port-forward --address deployment/nginx 8080:80

Open a browser and navigate to: YOUR_NODE_IP:8080

It works in the browser too! My cluster is now healthy and running the latest version of Kubernetes without dockershim.

Let’s see if it can survive a reboot.

sudo shutdown -r now

Output (after logging back in):

kubectl get pods -A

NAMESPACE     NAME                                       READY   STATUS    RESTARTS      AGE
default       echo-server-648d5dd78-dxxww                1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   159m
default       echo-server-648d5dd78-fs96h                1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   159m
default       echo-server-648d5dd78-zznwg                1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   159m
default       nginx-85b98978db-lw4gd                     1/1     Running   1 (61s ago)   5m39s
default       nginx-85b98978db-rkcjb                     1/1     Running   1 (61s ago)   5m39s
kube-system   calico-kube-controllers-647d84984b-cmmcn   1/1     Running   3 (61s ago)   160m
kube-system   calico-node-96x94                          1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   160m
kube-system   coredns-65dbc9f747-96l8j                   1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   83m
kube-system   coredns-65dbc9f747-lk7qr                   1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   83m
kube-system   etcd-ubu-servr                             1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   84m
kube-system   kube-apiserver-ubu-servr                   1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   84m
kube-system   kube-controller-manager-ubu-servr          1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   83m
kube-system   kube-proxy-55mhv                           1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   83m
kube-system   kube-scheduler-ubu-servr                   1/1     Running   2 (61s ago)   83m

Yay! It all came back up. It took a couple of minutes for everything to start running again.

Now for the final test, let’s delete docker-ce & docker-cli.

sudo apt remove docker-ce docker-ce-cli

After removing the packages, it wouldn’t hurt to reboot again just for a sanity check. When I did this on my machine, everything came back fine.

How do I manage images without the Docker CLI?

It might not be obvious, but when we removed docker-ce-cli, we lost the ability to docker push/pull/tag/build containers.

Considering containerd is a CRI, there is no included support for building container images, only running them. This is a good thing. Keep your builds in your build system and your runtimes on your nodes 😃.

I get it, though; as we hack on our demo cluster, you might want to build and run custom images.

If you need light oversight on your containers, ctr is a command-line client shipped as part of the containerd project. It can do basic pull/tag/push commands and more. For example:

sudo ctr --namespace container ls


$ sudo ctr --namespace images -h
   ctr images - manage images

   ctr images command [command options] [arguments...]

   check       check that an image has all content available locally
   export      export images
   import      import images
   list, ls    list images known to containerd
   mount       mount an image to a target path
   unmount     unmount the image from the target
   pull        pull an image from a remote
   push        push an image to a remote
   remove, rm  remove one or more images by reference
   tag         tag an image
   label       set and clear labels for an image

   --help, -h  show help

Ivan Velichko has an excellent overview of the ctr commands.

The containerd team is working on a CLI tool closer with feature parity to docker called nerdctl. You can read more about it in their GitHub repo:

With nerdctl, you can build containers on a containerd CRI.


There are other, more mature, replacements for the Docker CLI, such as:

  • podman (Manage pods, containers, and container images.)
    • alias docker=podman
  • Buildah (A tool that facilitates building OCI container images.)
  • ko (A simple, fast container image builder for Go applications.)


This change is going to impact a lot of folks. The good news is, there are A LOT of options for how you specifically chose to deal with this.

If you don’t want to drop Docker, look for upcoming instructions on using the officially maintained cri-docker dockershim replacement. The steps are similar to what we did, only replace the container-runtime-endpoint with --container-runtime-endpoint=/var/run/cri-docker.sock.

Also, this might be an opportunity to explore other open source CRI’s.

Whatever happens, don’t let this change catch you by surprise! The Kubernetes community values your feedback. Start testing now and continue testing throughout the release cycle.