Inspektor Gadget relies on the Kubernetes API server to work. However, there are some cases where it is necessary, or preferred, to trace containers without passing through Kubernetes. In such scenarios, you can use the ig tool, as it allows you to collect insights from the nodes to debug your Kubernetes containers without relying on Kubernetes itself, but on the container runtimes. It is important to remark that ig can also be used to trace containers that were not created via Kubernetes.

    Some characteristics of ig:

    • It uses eBPF as its underlying core technology.
    • Enriches the collected data with the Kubernetes metadata.
    • Easy to install as it is a single binary (statically linked).

    The architecture of ig is described in the main architecture document.

    Use cases

    • In a Kubernetes environment, when the Kubernetes API server is not working properly, we cannot deploy Inspektor Gadget. Therefore, we still need a way to debug the containers of the cluster.
    • In some cases, you might have root SSH access to the Kubernetes nodes of a cluster, but not to the kubeconfig.
    • If you don’t want to install kubectl-gadget on your machine, you can run ig in a Kubernetes pod and read the output directly.
    • If you are implementing an application that needs to get insights from the Kubernetes node, you could include the ig binary in your container image, and your app simply execs it. In such a case, it is suggested to use the JSON output format to ease the parsing.
    • Outside a Kubernetes environment, for observing and debugging standalone containers.


    The instruction to install ig are available in the main installation guide.


    Currently, ig can trace containers managed by Docker regardless of whether they were created via Kubernetes or not. In case of containerd, we are using containerd API directly and containerd namespace (default k8s.io) can be configured using --containerd-namespace flag. It uses the CRI to trace containers managed by CRI-O. Similarly, it uses the podman API to trace podman containers.

    By default, ig will try to communicate with all the supported container runtimes (docker, containerd, CRI-O, podman):

    $ docker run -d --name myContainer nginx:1.21
    $ sudo ig list-containers
    containerd          c7dfa4c92fec235626157417bf45745969006bd3bfd2607e87fdd0a176547603 konnectivity-agent
    containerd          cd8ce885c115adbc87da5243630b90935e5bf1c2af96b00154ec475fd9b393b0 nsenter
    containerd          b436a9886ee6e59ac7d38d1b76f8a306e2efeb3f1b6679ea1a58028edb198db3 azure-ip-masq-agent
    containerd          642fc58b15fbaf578340f4bd656b427db51be63a94a7b6eb663388486e73d855 azuredisk
    containerd          466a9d7e7b2087966621eacd792cc492f48f08f741f9dc82d88ef62a9d7d3e0f liveness-probe
    containerd          f79db0f2ea6518869c89e1d0a0892221047b23e04e4dab59dc7e42d6808e2530 azurefile
    containerd          85d74aeb6d29aaa38b282f3e51202bb648f7ba16a681d0d39dda684e724bb8a3 node-driver-registrar
    containerd          a126df15fba5713f57f1abad9c484cb75569e9f48f1169bd9710f63bb8af0e46 kube-proxy
    containerd          428c933882f1e4459c397da20bd89bbe7df7d437880a254472879d33b125b4da node-driver-registrar
    containerd          cd75a08ea2e69756cd7b1de5935c49f5ba08ba7495b0589567dcd9493193d712 cloud-node-manager
    containerd          d4bdf83ba71c7b22ee339ae5bb6fa7359f8a6bc7cd2f35ccd5681c728869cd39 liveness-probe
    docker              b72558e589cb95e835c4840de19f0306d4081091c34045246d62b6efed3549f4 myContainer

    To check which paths ig is using, you can use the --help flag:

    $ sudo ig list-containers --help
    List all containers
      ig list-containers [flags]
          --containerd-namespace string    Namespace used by containerd (default "k8s.io")
          --containerd-socketpath string   containerd CRI Unix socket path (default "/run/containerd/containerd.sock")
          --crio-socketpath string         CRI-O CRI Unix socket path (default "/run/crio/crio.sock")
          --docker-socketpath string       Docker Engine API Unix socket path (default "/run/docker.sock")
          --podman-socketpath string       Podman Unix socket path (default "/run/podman/podman.sock")
      -r, --runtimes string                Container runtimes to be used separated by comma. Supported values are: docker, containerd, cri-o, podman (default "docker,containerd,cri-o,podman")
      -w, --watch                          After listing the containers, watch for new containers

    If needed, we can also specify the runtimes to be used and their UNIX socket path:

    $ sudo ig list-containers --runtimes docker --docker-socketpath /some/path/docker.sock
    docker              b72558e589cb95e835c4840de19f0306d4081091c34045246d62b6efed3549f4 myContainer

    Common features

    Notice that most of the commands support the following features even if, for simplicity, they are not demonstrated in each command guide:

    • JSON format and columns output mode are supported through the --output flag.
    • It is possible to filter events by container name using the --containername flag.
    • It is possible to trace events from all the running processes, even though they were not generated from containers, using the --host flag.

    For instance, for the list-containers command:

    $ sudo ig list-containers -o json --containername kube-proxy
        "runtime": {
          "runtimeName": "containerd",
          "containerId": "a126df15fba5713f57f1abad9c484cb75569e9f48f1169bd9710f63bb8af0e46",
          "containerName": "kube-proxy"
        "k8s": {
          "namespace": "kube-system",
          "podName": "kube-proxy-tcbn4",
          "containerName": "kube-proxy",
          "podUID": "87c52d60-fefd-45a9-a420-895256fc03b5"
        "pid": 454674,
        "mntns": 4026532232,
        "netns": 4026531840,
        "hostNetwork": true,
        "cgroupPath": "/sys/fs/cgroup/kubepods.slice/kubepods-burstable.slice/kubepods-burstable-pod87c52d60_fefd_45a9_a420_895256fc03b5.slice/cri-containerd-a126df15fba5713f57f1abad9c484cb75569e9f48f1169bd9710f63bb8af0e46.scope",
        "cgroupID": 41286,
        "cgroupV2": "/kubepods.slice/kubepods-burstable.slice/kubepods-burstable-pod87c52d60_fefd_45a9_a420_895256fc03b5.slice/cri-containerd-a126df15fba5713f57f1abad9c484cb75569e9f48f1169bd9710f63bb8af0e46.scope"

    For example, with --host, you can get the following output:

    $ sudo ig trace exec --host
    RUNTIME.CONTAINERNAME    PID        PPID       COMM             RET ARGS
    # Open another terminal.
    $ cat /dev/null
    $ docker run --name test-host --rm -t debian sh -c 'ls > /dev/null'
    # Go back to first terminal.
    RUNTIME.CONTAINERNAME    PID        PPID       COMM             RET ARGS
                             3326022    308789     cat              0   /usr/bin/cat /dev/null
    test-host                3326093    3326070    sh               0   /usr/bin/sh -c ls > /dev/null
    test-host                3326123    3326093    ls               0   /usr/bin/ls

    Events generated from containers have their container field set, while events which are generated from the host do not.

    Using ig with “kubectl debug node”

    The “kubectl debug node” command is documented in Debugging Kubernetes Nodes With Kubectl .

    Examples of commands:

    $ kubectl debug node/minikube-docker -ti --image=ghcr.io/inspektor-gadget/ig -- ig --auto-sd-unit-restart trace exec
    Creating debugging pod node-debugger-minikube-docker-c2wfw with container debugger on node minikube-docker.
    If you don't see a command prompt, try pressing enter.
    RUNTIME.CONTAINERNAME          PID              PPID             COMM             RET ARGS
    k8s_shell_shell_default_b4ebb… 3186934          3186270          cat              0   /bin/cat file
    $ kubectl debug node/minikube-docker -ti --image=ghcr.io/inspektor-gadget/ig -- ig --auto-sd-unit-restart list-containers -o json

    As of today, the kubectl debug command does not have a way to give enough privileges to the debugging pod to be able to use ig. This might change in the future: the Kubernetes Enhancement Proposal 1441 ( KEP-1441 ) suggests to implement Debugging Profiles (--profile=) to be able to give the necessary privileges. kubectl v1.27 implements some of those profiles but not yet the “sysadmin” profile, so it is not possible to use --profile= yet.

    Meanwhile, ig provides the --auto-sd-unit-restart flag. The flag is false by default. When it is set to true, ig will detect if it does not have enough privileges and it can transparently re-execute itself in a privileged systemd unit if necessary. This is possible because the “kubectl debug node” gives access to the systemd socket (/run/systemd/private) via the /host volume.

    Using ig as a daemon

    ig can also be run as a daemon. You can then use gadgetctl to connect to it as an unprivileged user. We will be using a new group called ig to allow controlling ig in this example.

    Create new group “ig” and add yourself to it

    $ sudo addgroup ig
    $ sudo adduser $USER ig

    Logout and login to make sure the new group membership is applied to your session.

    Create systemd service

    This assumes you installed ig in /usr/local/bin and are using systemd. Create a new service file at /etc/systemd/system/ig.service with the following content:

    Description=Inspektor Gadget
    ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/ig daemon --group ig

    If you want to use another group than ig, make sure to adjust the --group parameter on the “ExecStart” line.

    Enable and start the new service:

    $ sudo systemctl enable ig.service
    $ sudo systemctl start ig.service

    Run gadgetctl

    If all went well, you can now run gadgetctl with your favorite gadgets!

    $ gadgetctl trace open
    RUNTIME.CONTAINERNAME                                          PID        COMM             FD     ERR PATH
    minikube-docker                                                3293       cri-dockerd      11     0   /etc/cni/net.d
    minikube-docker                                                3293       cri-dockerd      11     0   /etc/cni/net.d/1-k8s.conflist
    minikube-docker                                                2180730    bridge           3      0   /etc/ld.so.cache

    Using over the network

    This is not yet a recommended way of working with ig, as the connection is not secure. Please only use it on otherwise secured and/or trusted networks. We will be adding secure connections later on.

    Modify the ig.service file to something like this:

    ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/ig daemon -H tcp://

    Restart the service:

    $ sudo systemctl restart ig.service

    Use gadgetctl like this:

    $ gadgetctl trace open --remote-address tcp://


    In case anything is not working, you can look at the logs:

    $ journalctl -u ig.service

    To increase the verbosity of ig, you can edit the service file and add the verbose flag (-v) like so:

    ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/ig daemon -v --group ig

    The flag can also be used with gadgetctl like so:

    $ gadgetctl trace open -v

    Using ig in a container

    Example of command:

    $ docker run -ti --rm \
        --privileged \
        -v /run:/run \
        -v /:/host \
        --pid=host \
        ghcr.io/inspektor-gadget/ig \
        trace exec
    RUNTIME.CONTAINERNAME    PID        PPID       COMM             RET ARGS
    heuristic_yonath         3329233    3329211    ls               0   /bin/ls

    List of flags:

    • --privileged gives all capabilities such as CAP_SYS_ADMIN. It is required to run eBPF programs.
    • -v /run:/run gives access to the container runtimes sockets (docker, containerd, CRI-O).
    • -v /:/host gives access to the host filesystem. This is used to access the host processes via /host/proc, and access container runtime hooks (rootfs and config.json).
    • --pid=host runs in the host PID namespace. Optional on Linux. This is necessary on Docker Desktop on Windows because /host/proc does not give access to the host processes.

    Using ig in a Kubernetes pod

    In order to run ig in a Kubernetes pod use examples/pod-ig.yaml .

    $ kubectl apply -f docs/examples/pod-ig.yaml
    $ kubectl logs ig
    RUNTIME.CONTAINERNAME          RUNTIME.CONTAIN… PID              PPID             COMM             RET ARGS
    kube-proxy                     k8s.gcr.io/kube… 3985376          3024961          ip6tables        0   /usr/sbin/ip6tables -w 5 -W 100000 -S K…

    Adding ig in your own container image

    In order to add ig in your own container image, you can take example on the following Dockerfile:

    # In production, you should use a specific version of ig instead of latest:
    # --build-arg BASE_IMAGE=ghcr.io/inspektor-gadget/ig:v0.18.1
    ARG BASE_IMAGE=ghcr.io/inspektor-gadget/ig:latest
    FROM ${BASE_IMAGE} as ig
    # Your own image
    FROM alpine:3.17
    COPY --from=ig /usr/bin/ig /usr/bin/ig
    ENV HOST_ROOT=/host
    # The rest of your Dockerfile

    The ghcr.io/inspektor-gadget/ig image supports amd64 and arm64. Your own image can also support both architectures if you use the appropriate --platforms flag of docker buildx build (see Docker documentation about multi-platform images ).

    You can then run your image locally or in a Kubernetes pod. Here is an example using a Kubernetes DaemonSet: examples/ds-ig.yaml :

    $ kubectl apply -f docs/examples/ds-ig.yaml
    $ kubectl exec -ti $(kubectl get pod -o name -l name=example-ig | head -1) -- sh
    / # ig trace exec