Difference Between kubectl apply and kubectl create

Kubernetes serves as an orchestration tool designed for containerized applications, utilizing the kubectl command line interface to communicate with a cluster. Let us delve into how to use kubectl apply and create commands and understand their differences.

1. What Is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes, often abbreviated as K8s, is an open-source container orchestration platform that automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It was originally developed by engineers at Google and is now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), a part of the Linux Foundation.

Containers are a lightweight and portable way to package and run applications and their dependencies, ensuring consistent behavior across different environments. Kubernetes provides a framework for managing these containers, allowing you to abstract away the underlying infrastructure and focus on defining how your applications should be deployed and managed.

1.1 What is a Pod in Kubernetes?

In the Kubernetes ecosystem, a Pod stands as the smallest and simplest deployable unit. It acts as the basic building block and encapsulates one or more containers within a shared network and storage context. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects of Pods:

  • Atomic Unit of Deployment: A Pod serves as an atomic unit of deployment, representing a single instance of a running process within the cluster. It encapsulates application containers along with storage resources, making it a self-contained unit.
  • Co-located Containers: Containers within a Pod share the same network namespace, enabling them to communicate using localhost. They also share storage volumes, facilitating data exchange between containers within the same Pod.
  • Single-Service Abstraction: While a Pod typically represents a single service or process, it can house multiple containers that are tightly coupled and need to share resources. This abstraction simplifies the management of interconnected components.
  • Scalability and Lifecycle Management: Pods are scalable units. Multiple instances of a Pod can be created to scale applications horizontally. They have a defined lifecycle, allowing for creation, startup, termination, and deletion as needed.
  • Resource Sharing and Inter-Pod Communication: Containers in a Pod share the same network IP and port space. This shared context facilitates accessible communication between containers. Additionally, Pods can communicate with other Pods within the cluster, regardless of the node they are running on, ensuring seamless interactions.
  • Resource Management: Pods can specify resource requirements such as CPU and memory. These specifications assist Kubernetes in effectively scheduling and managing resources and optimizing the overall cluster performance.

For more in-depth information about Pods in Kubernetes, refer to the official Kubernetes documentation.

1.2 Understanding the kubectl command

kubectl is the command-line tool for interacting with Kubernetes clusters. It enables users to manage applications, inspect and manage cluster resources, and view logs.

1.3 Declarative vs. Imperative Approaches

Declarative and imperative approaches are two fundamental paradigms in software development, with significant implications in various fields, including configuration management, infrastructure provisioning, and application deployment, notably in contexts like Kubernetes. When deciding between declarative and imperative approaches, it’s essential to consider factors such as simplicity, scalability, repeatability, and ease of automation.

1.3.1 Declarative Approach

In the context of Kubernetes, a declarative approach involves defining resource configurations using YAML or JSON files. These configurations describe the desired state of the Kubernetes cluster, including the desired number of pods, their characteristics, services, deployments, and other resources.

Once the configuration is applied using tools like kubectl apply, Kubernetes takes care of reconciling the current state of the cluster with the declared state specified in the configuration files. Kubernetes ensures that the cluster matches the desired state by creating, updating, or deleting resources as necessary.

1.3.2 Imperative Approach

With Kubernetes, an imperative approach typically involves using commands like kubectl create or kubectl run to directly instruct the cluster to create specific resources or perform specific actions. These commands are executed in a step-by-step manner, and the user needs to manage each step manually.

While the imperative approach provides more control over individual operations and allows for more granular adjustments, it can be more error-prone and less scalable, especially in complex environments where managing numerous resources becomes challenging.

2. Understanding the kubectl create Command

The kubectl create command in Kubernetes is used to create resources such as pods, deployments, services, and more within a Kubernetes cluster. It allows users to specify the configuration of the resource either through a YAML or JSON file or directly from the command line.

Here’s a basic syntax of the kubectl create command:

kubectl create [resource-type] [resource-name] [flags]

For example, to create a new deployment named “my-deployment”, you can use the following command:

kubectl create deployment my-deployment --image=image-name

This command creates a deployment named “my-deployment” using the specified container image.

Additionally, you can also create resources from a YAML or JSON file. For instance, if you have a YAML file named deployment.yaml defining a deployment configuration, you can create the deployment using the following command:

kubectl create -f deployment.yaml

This command reads the configuration from the YAML file and creates the corresponding resource in the cluster.

Overall, the kubectl create command is a fundamental tool in Kubernetes for creating and managing resources, providing flexibility and ease of use for cluster administrators and developers.

3. Understanding the kubectl apply Command

The kubectl apply command in Kubernetes is used to apply or update the configuration of resources in a cluster. It’s a versatile command that allows users to manage resources using YAML or JSON files.

Here’s a basic syntax of the kubectl apply command:

kubectl apply -f [filename]

With this command, you can apply the configuration defined in the specified YAML or JSON file to the cluster. If the resource already exists, kubectl apply updates it with the new configuration. If the resource does not exist, it creates it.

For example, to apply the configuration defined in a file named deployment.yaml, you can use the following command:

kubectl apply -f deployment.yaml

This command reads the configuration from the YAML file and applies it to the cluster, creating or updating the corresponding resource.

Furthermore, kubectl apply supports applying configurations directly from URLs, directories, or even stdin. This flexibility makes it a powerful tool for managing resources in Kubernetes.

Overall, the kubectl apply command simplifies the management of Kubernetes resources by providing a convenient way to apply or update configurations, contributing to smoother deployment and maintenance processes.

4. Differences Between kubectl apply and kubectl create

While both commands can be used to create resources, the main difference lies in how they handle updates to existing resources. kubectl create creates a resource if it doesn’t exist but does not handle updates, while kubectl apply can both create new resources and update existing ones based on the configuration provided.

Therefore, kubectl create is suitable for one-time resource creation, while kubectl apply is more appropriate for managing resources over time, especially in scenarios where configurations may need to be updated or modified.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the choice between kubectl apply and kubectl create depends on the specific requirements of the task at hand. For one-time resource creation, kubectl create may suffice. However, for ongoing resource management and updates, kubectl apply offers greater flexibility and should be preferred.


An experience full-stack engineer well versed with Core Java, Spring/Springboot, MVC, Security, AOP, Frontend (Angular & React), and cloud technologies (such as AWS, GCP, Jenkins, Docker, K8).
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Back to top button