Go integration test coverage profiles

This tutorial describes how to use Skaffold to collect coverage profile data from Go applications when running integration tests. These more comprehensive tests, often called end-to-end tests, are run against a deployed application, typically testing multiple user journeys.


Go 1.20 introduced support for collecting coverage profile data from running Go applications. To enable coverage collection, build the binary with the -cover flag. The application records coverage profile data in a local directory set by the GOCOVERDIR environment variable.

When the application runs on Kubernetes, there is an additional challenge of copying the coverage profile data files to permanent storage before the pod terminates.

By default, the coverage profile data files are written on application exit. This tutorial shows how you can send a signal to write these files without exiting the application, and then copy the files out of the pods.


Skaffold orchestrates the steps of:

  1. Building binary and the container image, with support for collecting coverage profiles.
  2. Deploying the application to a Kubernetes cluster.
  3. Running the integration tests.
  4. Sending the signal to write coverage profile data files.
  5. Collecting the counter-data files from the application pods.

For steps 3-5, this tutorial uses Skaffold lifecycle hooks to run these steps automatically.

The example application

This tutorial refers to the files in the go-integration-coverage example.

You may find it helpful to refer to these files as you go through this tutorial.

Sending signals for writing coverage profile data files

By default, coverage profile data files are only written on application exit, specifically on return from main.main() or by calling os.Exit(). This is problematic in a Kubernetes pod, as the application exit triggers pod termination.

To work around this, add a signal handler to the application. This handler writes the coverage profile data files when it receives the configured signal, using the functions in the built-in coverage package. It also clears (resets) the counters, which can be useful if you want separate coverage profile reports for different sets of tests.

The snippet below is a Go function that sets up a signal handler. It uses the SIGUSR1 signal, but you can use another signal in your application.

// Note: This snippet omits error handling for brevity.
func SetupCoverageSignalHandler() {
	coverDir, exists := os.LookupEnv("GOCOVERDIR")
	if !exists {
	c := make(chan os.Signal)
	signal.Notify(c, syscall.SIGUSR1)
	go func() {
		for {
			coverage.ClearCounters() // only works with -covermode=atomic

You can call this function from your main.main() function to set up the signal handler early on in the application lifecycle.

If the GOCOVERDIR environment variable is not set, the function returns without setting up the signal handler. This means that you can control enabling and disabling the signal handler by whether this environment variable is set.

Building the binary and the container image

To build the container image with support for coverage profile collection, compile the binary with the -cover flag, and optionally also the -covermode flag.

The image must contain the tar command to enable copying the counter-data files from the pod.

The following snippet shows how to configure the image build using the Skaffold ko builder:

  - image: foo
      fromImage: gcr.io/distroless/base-debian11:debug
      flags: ["-cover", "-covermode=atomic"]

Using other builders is also possible, by adding the flags to the go build command or by setting the GOFLAGS environment variable.

Running the integration tests

The integration tests can be implemented in a number of ways, since they do not run in-process with the application.

For instance, you can implement them using Go tests, a shell script with a sequence of curl commands against an HTTP server, or other integration and end-to-end test frameworks.

Use Skaffold post-deploy hooks to run the tests automatically after deploying the application. These hooks can run either on the host where you run Skaffold, or in the deployed container.

This tutorial uses a host hook that runs a shell script. The shell script sets up port-forwarding to the service and then runs the integration test. The arguments to the shell script are used to configure port forwarding.

For this tutorial, the integration test is simply a curl command that sends a HTTP request to the application.

      - host:
          command: ["./integration-test/run.sh", "service/go-integration-coverage", "default", "4503", "80"]
          os: [darwin, linux]

The arguments to the shell script are:

  1. the Kubernetes resource to port-forward to, e.g., service/myapp or deployment/myapp (required),
  2. the namespace of the Kubernetes resource (defaults to default),
  3. the local port (defaults to 4503), and
  4. the remote port (defaults to 8080).

After running the integration tests, a container hook sends SIGUSR1 to the application process (PID 1) using the kill command:

      - container:
          command: ["kill", "-USR1", "1"]
          podName: go-integration-coverage-*
          containerName: app

The podName and containerName fields are required and must match the values from the Pod spec in your Kubernetes manifest.

If you create multiple pods, the hook will run in all matching pods.

Copying coverage profile data files

A host post-deploy hook runs a shell script that copies the counter-data files from the pods to the host where you run Skaffold:

      - host:
          command: ["./integration-test/coverage.sh"]
          os: [darwin, linux]

First, the shell script below locates all pods deployed by the Skaffold run using a selector on the skaffold.dev/run-id label.

Next, the script iterates over the pods and uses kubectl exec to run tar in the containers to package up the counter-data files and pipe them to the host. On the other end of the pipe, tar extracts the files to a report directory on the host where you run Skaffold.

Finally, the go tool covdata command reports the coverage as percentage on the terminal.

Skaffold provides the SKAFFOLD_KUBE_CONTEXT and SKAFFOLD_RUN_ID environment variables to the shell script.


The Go binary must be compiled with the -cover flag to collect coverage metrics. However, you may not want to use this flag when compiling for production use.

Additionally, to simplify metrics reporting, you may want to only specify one replica in the Kubernetes Deployment resource.

Skaffold profiles enable different configurations for different contexts.

The skaffold.yaml file for this tutorial contains a coverage profile that overrides the base configuration as follows:

  1. Specify a base image that contains the tar command. tar is required to copy the coverage profile data files from the pod.

  2. Build the Go binary with the -cover and -covermode flags.

  3. Patch the Deployment resource to add a volume and volume mount to the pod template spec for the coverage profile data files. This tutorial uses Kustomize to patch the resource, but you can use another tool for this in your own environment.

  4. Add post-deploy hooks for running integration tests and collecting coverage profile data.

To activate the profile, add the flag --profile coverage to Skaffold commands.

Running the steps

To run the steps, follow the instructions in the README.md.


Last modified May 25, 2023: release: v2.5.0 (#8823) (4b5118b)