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imgpkg image collocation and tagging

by Joao Pereira — Mar 24, 2022

imgpkg image collocation and tagging

Some people have been asking questions like

  • “Why are all bundle images copied to the same repository?”
  • “Why do I have so many tags in my repositories?”

We will try to give an overview of how imgpkg works and try to answer these questions at the same time.

Common terms

But before we can do this, lets try to establish some common terms

  • OCI: Open Container Initiative, the official website
  • Image: content stored within OCI registry
  • Bundle: OCI Image that contains configuration and OCI images
  • OCI Terminology

    OCI Terminology

Creating a Bundle and pushing it to the registry

A bundle is just a regular OCI image that can contain anything inside it, but in order for imgpkg to consider it a bundle, some requirements need to be followed:

  • The OCI image must have only 1 layer
  • The OCI image must contain the file .imgpkg/images.yml with the content that is compatible with the ImagesLock structure
  • The OCI image can contain the file .imgpkg/bundle.yml with the content that is compatible with the Bundle configuration
  • The OCI image can contain other arbitrary files

Now that we know what defines a bundle what does it mean to “push a bundle to a registry”?

In broad strokes it just means to create an OCI image from your filesystem in a particular repository in your registry.

Let us see imgpkg in action:

$ imgpkg push -b localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle:my-tag -f examples/basic-step-2
dir: .
dir: .imgpkg
file: .imgpkg/bundle.yml
file: .imgpkg/images.yml
file: config.yml
Pushed 'localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle@sha256:5c2dafe3c70c13990190d643c91e9f67b8129b179257674888178868474f6511'

Note: we are using the examples provided in the imgpkg Github repository

In this output you can see that imgpkg lists all the files that will be pushed to the registry as well has the fully qualified image reference for the OCI image created.

One thing that you might notice is that despite the fact that this bundle points to another OCI image, check the ImagesLock file , nothing happens to it.

But why? As we previously stated, pushing a bundle to a registry only creates the OCI image that defines the bundle.

Copying a bundle to a different registry

Having a bundle in a particular registry might not be good enough, and we might need to promote our software to a different registry, or even copy this bundle to a public registry so that other people can use the software being developed.

One of the most awesome features of the imgpkg bundles is that despite the fact that bundles are just OCI images that contain some metadata they also can aggregate other OCI images. Let us look at the prior bundle, when we check the ImagesLock file we can see that it contains a reference to a different OCI image

$ cat examples/basic-step-2/.imgpkg/images.yml
kind: ImagesLock
- image:

So whenever we are copying a bundle, imgpkg does the leg work and copies all the images or bundles that are referenced by the bundle being copied. This way with a single command you can copy all the OCI images associated with the bundle to the destination. Let us see imgpkg in action

$ imgpkg copy -b localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle:my-tag --to-repo
copy | exporting 2 images...
copy | will export
copy | will export localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle@sha256:5c2dafe3c70c13990190d643c91e9f67b8129b179257674888178868474f6511
copy | exported 2 images
copy | importing 2 images...

copy | done uploading images


From the output we can see that 2 OCI images were copied, the bundle image and the image that is in the ImagesLock.

When we copied we only provided one destination Repository and imgpkg will copy all the OCI images into that repository. This was a design decision that was made due to the following constraints:

  • Multiple images that have the same Image Name but are not the same. Assuming we have 2 bundles one that contains the image and another that contains the image, when we copy both images to the registry they would be copied to and respectively. This can confuse because even though now they share the same repository they are completely different Images from 2 completely different Source Codes. This might cause problems for registry Administrators when they try to understand what each Repository contains.
  • Finding if an image is already present in the destination repository is complicated.
  • Registries like support paths in their repositories while does not. Copying an OCI image from to is a challenge because we would lose information about the original OCI image that can be significant.
  • Copying OCI images to different repositories can require different user or authentication. When copying an OCI image to a particular Repository the user needs to have credentials to do so, in a scenario where the repository was previously created by a different user, the current user might not have permission to copy the new OCI image to that particular repository.
  • ECR requires users to create a repository before pushing OCI images. reference

The design decision tries to address the above constraints but causes some other problems:

  • Trackable OCI image, hard to understand what each OCI image is for, and what bundle is it part of

    There are 2 initiatives that are trying to address this problem.

    • A new feature is being developed to allow the users to tell imgpkg to generate tags that are more human friendly, Github Issue
    • A proposal was started to allow the users to tell imgpkg where to copy the OCI images to. This proposal is still being written, and we would love to have the community to read it and give their opinion about it. The initial draft can be found here.
  • Some registries restrict the number of OCI images that can be present in each repository, reference 1 , reference 2

    For this particular problem there is not much that imgpkg can do at this point in time.

What about tags?

Let us look at the Tags present in the Repository we pushed our bundle to

$ imgpkg tag list -i localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle


2 tags


$ crane digest localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle:my-tag

$ crane digest localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle:sha256-5c2dafe3c70c13990190d643c91e9f67b8129b179257674888178868474f6511.imgpkg

There are 2 tags and both point the same Digest. If we look at the command we used to push the bundle imgpkg push -b localhost:5000/cool-new-bundle:my-tag -f examples/basic-step-2 we defined a tag to be used. Also imgpkg automatically creates a tag that contains the digest and the .imgpkg suffix. The main reason for this Tag is to ensure that if in the future we want to move the tag my-tag to a different bundle, it can be done and the garbage collector of the registry would not remove this OCI image because of the lack of Tag point to it.

Let us look at the tags present in the repository we copied the bundle into

$ imgpkg tag list -i --registry-insecure


5 tags


These are a lot of tags, lets drill down each one to understand what they are:

  • my-tag original tag we copied from
  • sha256-5c2dafe3c70c13990190d643c91e9f67b8129b179257674888178868474f6511.imgpkg This tag points to the bundle
  • sha256-4c8b96d4fffdfae29258d94a22ae4ad1fe36139d47288b8960d9958d1e63a9d0.imgpkg Based on the digest this will point to the OCI image that is part of the bundle
  • sha256-510482df49db421542ae10142e8ce99572b23ef72675c37e92e4a12b541a3f6a.imgpkg Tag points to the Locations OCI image
  • sha256-5c2dafe3c70c13990190d643c91e9f67b8129b179257674888178868474f6511.image-locations.imgpkg This is a new OCI image that is created by imgpkg to store the location of the OCI images that are part of the bundle. The main reason to create this tag is to allow imgpkg to later reference and use this OCI image when copying the bundles between registries.

The end

As a summary of what we talked about in this blog post

bundles are OCI images that hold arbitrary files and references to other dependent OCI images. This feature makes it easy to package and distribute your software.

imgpkg enables the users with a single command to move all the OCI images associated with a bundle to the destination

imgpkg creates tags for different purposes on the destination repository

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