Remote Debugging Java Applications in Kubernetes

Recently, when implementing a feature in our application, I had a NullPointerException issue that would occur only on Kubernetes. This issue was not reproducible on local, and was not reproducible running the docker container either. To debug this issue, I had to set up a remote debugging session. These are the steps to setup this session:-

First, change the Java startup command by adding the jdb parameters. In my applications case, it meant changing it from

java -cp ".:./conf/:./lib/\*" -noverify


java -agentlib:jdwp=transport=dt_socket,server=y,suspend=n,address=_:5005 -cp ".:./conf/:./lib/_" -noverify

At this point you have an application that has exposed a debug port on port 5005. If you run this application, the first printed line would be: Listening for transport dt_socket at address: 5005. If this gets printed you know that the java application has been correctly configured.

This application can now be deployed on K8S. We need to expose the 5005 port in the container section of our deployment so that it is accessible from outside Kubernetes. In your deployment.yaml make the following change to expose the port:

- name: java-app
- containerPort: 5005
name: "debug"

Kubectl provides us a port forward command to be able to access a pods port as if it were a local port. To set this up do the following:

Get the name of the pod using the get pods command.

$ kubectl get pods -n app-namespace
java-app-6c54c9b858-7bpbp 3/3 Running 1 6d2h

Then use the kubectl port-forward command to forward the 5005 port of the pod to your local machine.

$ kubectl port-forward java-app-6c54c9b858-7bpbp 5005:5005 -n app-namespace
# With this, the debug session should be available at localhost:5005.

Next, you need to setup the debug configuration in your favourite IDE. My preference is to use IntelliJ IDEA. In IDEA, the steps are as follows:

  • From the main menu, select Run | Edit Configurations or press ⌃⌥R then 0.
  • In the Run/Debug Configurations dialog, click the Add New Configuration button and select Remote.
  • Fill out the details for host as localhost and port and 5005. Make sure you select the correct JDK version.
  • Save the configuration

With this configuration is saved you can click on the debug icon to debug at any time!