Continuous Delivery

Skaffold provides several features and sub-command “building blocks” that make it very useful for integrating with (or creating entirely new) CI/CD pipelines. The ability to use the same skaffold.yaml for iterative development and continuous delivery eases handing off an application from a development team to an ops team.

Let’s start with the simplest use case: a single, full deployment of your application.

Run entire pipeline end-to-end


skaffold run is a single command for a one-off deployment. It runs through every major phase of the Skaffold lifecycle: building your application images, tagging these images (and optionally pushing them to a remote registry), deploying your application to the target cluster, and monitoring the created resources for readiness.

We recommend skaffold run for the simplest Continuous Delivery setup, where it is sufficient to have a single step that deploys from version control to a cluster.

For more sophisticated Continuous Delivery pipelines, Skaffold offers building blocks:

  • healthcheck - wait for deployments to stabilize and succeed only if all deployments are successful
  • skaffold build - build, tag and push artifacts to a registry
  • skaffold deploy - deploy built artifacts to a cluster
  • skaffold render - export the transformed Kubernetes manifests for GitOps workflows
  • skaffold apply - send hydrated Kubernetes manifests to the API server to create resources on the target cluster

Waiting for Skaffold deployments


skaffold deploy optionally performs a healthcheck for resources of kind Deployment and waits for them to be stable. This feature can be very useful in Continuous Delivery pipelines to ensure that the deployed resources are healthy before proceeding with the next steps in the pipeline.

To determine if a Deployment resource is up and running, Skaffold relies on kubectl rollout status to obtain its status.

Waiting for deployments to stabilize
 - default:deployment/leeroy-app Waiting for rollout to finish: 0 of 1 updated replicas are available...
 - default:deployment/leeroy-web Waiting for rollout to finish: 0 of 1 updated replicas are available...
 - default:deployment/leeroy-web is ready. [1/2 deployment(s) still pending]
 - default:deployment/leeroy-app is ready.
Deployments stabilized in 2.168799605s

Configuring status check time for deploy healthcheck

You can also configure the time for deployments to stabilize with the statusCheckDeadlineSeconds config field in the skaffold.yaml.

For example, to configure deployments to stabilize within 5 minutes:

  statusCheckDeadlineSeconds: 300
    - k8s-*

With the --status-check flag, for each Deployment resource, skaffold deploy will wait for the time specified by progressDeadlineSeconds from the deployment configuration.

If the Deployment.spec.progressDeadlineSeconds is not set, Skaffold will either wait for the time specified in the statusCheckDeadlineSeconds field of the deployment config stanza in the skaffold.yaml, or default to 10 minutes if this is not specified.

In the case that both statusCheckDeadlineSeconds and Deployment.spec.progressDeadlineSeconds are set, precedence is given to Deployment.spec.progressDeadline only if it is less than statusCheckDeadlineSeconds.

For example, the Deployment below with progressDeadlineSeconds set to 5 minutes,

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: getting-started
  progressDeadlineSeconds: 300
      - name: cannot-run

if the skaffold.yaml overrides the deadline to make sure deployment stabilizes in a 60 seconds,

apiVersion: skaffold/v1
  statusCheckDeadlineSeconds: 60
    - k8s-*

Running skaffold deploy

skaffold deploy --status-check

will result in an error after waiting for 1 minute:

Tags used in deployment:
Starting deploy...
kubectl client version: 1.11+
kubectl version 1.12.0 or greater is recommended for use with Skaffold
 - deployment.apps/getting-started created
Waiting for deployments to stabilize
 - default:deployment/getting-started Waiting for rollout to finish: 0 of 1 updated replicas are available...
 - default:deployment/getting-started failed. Error: received Ctrl-C or deployments could not stabilize within 1m: kubectl rollout status command interrupted.
FATA[0006] 1/1 deployment(s) failed

Configuring healthcheck for multiple deployers or multiple modules

If you define multiple deployers, say kubectl, helm and kustomize, all in the same skaffold config, or compose a multi-config project by importing other configs as dependencies, then the healthcheck can be run in one of two ways:

  • Single status check after all deployers are run. This is the default and it runs a single healthcheck at the end for resources deployed from all deployers across all skaffold configs.
  • Per-deployer status check. This can be enabled by using the --iterative-status-check=true flag. This will run a healthcheck iteratively after every individual deployer runs. This can be especially useful when there are startup dependencies between services, or you need to strictly enforce the time and order in which resources are deployed.

Traditional continuous delivery

skaffold build will build your project’s artifacts, and push the build images to the specified registry. If your project is already configured to run with Skaffold, skaffold build can be a very lightweight way of setting up builds for your CI pipeline. Passing the --file-output flag to Skaffold build will also write out your built artifacts in JSON format to a file on disk, which can then by passed to skaffold deploy later on. This is a great way of “committing” your artifacts when they have reached a state that you’re comfortable with, especially for projects with multiple artifacts for multiple services.

Example using the current git state as a unique file ID to “commit” build state:

Storing the build result in a commit specific JSON file:

export STATE=$(git rev-list -1 HEAD --abbrev-commit)
skaffold build --file-output build-$STATE.json

outputs the tag generation and cache output from Skaffold:

Generating tags...
Checking cache...
 - Found. Tagging

The content of the JSON file

cat build-$STATE.json

looks like:


We can then use this build result file to deploy with Skaffold:

skaffold deploy -a build-$STATE.json

and as we’d expect, we see a bit of deploy-related output from Skaffold:

Tags used in deployment:
 - ->
Starting deploy...
 - pod/getting-started configured

GitOps-style continuous delivery


GitOps-based CD pipelines traditionally see fully-hydrated Kubernetes manifests committed to a configuration Git repository (separate from the application source), which triggers a deployment pipeline that applies the changes to resources on the cluster. Skaffold has two built-in commands that enable easy GitOps pipeline workflows - skaffold render and skaffold apply.

skaffold render builds all application images from your artifacts, templates the newly-generated image tags into your Kubernetes manifests (based on your project’s deployment configuration), and then prints out the final hydrated manifests to a file or your terminal. This allows you to capture the full, declarative state of your application in configuration rather than actually applying changes to your cluster, and use this configuration in a GitOps pipeline by committing it to a separate Git repository.

skaffold apply consumes one or more fully-hydrated Kubernetes manifests, and then sends the results directly to the Kubernetes control plane via kubectl to create resources on the target cluster. After creating the resources on your cluster, skaffold apply uses Skaffold’s built-in health checking to monitor the created resources for readiness. See resource health checks for more information on how Skaffold’s resource health checking works.

Note: skaffold apply always uses kubectl to deploy resources to a target cluster, regardless of deployment configuration in the provided skaffold.yaml. Only a small subset of deploy configuration is honored when running skaffold apply:

  • deploy.statusCheckDeadlineSeconds
  • deploy.kubeContext
  • deploy.logs.prefix
  • deploy.kubectl.flags
  • deploy.kubectl.defaultNamespace
  • deploy.kustomize.flags
  • deploy.kustomize.defaultNamespace

skaffold apply works with any arbitrary Kubernetes YAML, whether it was generated by Skaffold or not, making it an ideal counterpart to skaffold render.

Example: Hydrate manifests then deploy/apply to cluster

First, use skaffold render to hydrate the Kubernetes resource file with a newly-built image tag:

$ skaffold render --output render.yaml
# render.yaml
apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: getting-started
  namespace: default
  - image:
    name: getting-started

Then, we can apply this output directly to the cluster:

$ skaffold apply render.yaml

Starting deploy...
 - pod/getting-started created
Waiting for deployments to stabilize...
Deployments stabilized in 49.277055ms
Last modified October 21, 2021: release: v1.33.1 (ec522e6)