Reproducing and debugging kernel builds

How to reproduce or debug kernel builds done in the CKI pipeline

CKI uses container images to allow building kernels for different OS releases independent of the local environment. Before starting, install podman to be able to pull and run the container images:

dnf install -y podman

If your distribution lacks podman, you may be able to use docker instead. The interface of the two tools is almost identical and you should be able to get going by substituting podman by docker in the example commands. Do note that using docker is not officially supported.

Finding the correct job

There are multiple places in the pipeline where the builds are run. Most likely, you want to reproduce the failed builds which are marked with the red cross. If you need to reproduce a successful build, you need to get the correct job in the pipeline first:

  • Base kernel build: Open the desired architecture in the build stage.
  • Kernel tools builds for non-x86_64 architectures: Open the desired architecture in the build-tools stage.

Download the builder container image locally

Information about which container image and tag was used to build the kernel is provided in the job we found in the previous step, at the top of the logs:

Logged container info

Use podman to download the container image from the last line:

podman image pull <IMAGE_NAME_AND_TAG>

e.g. the command from the screenshot example would be

podman image pull

Accessing private container images

RHEL container images are not publicly accessible. If the image pulling fails with permission issues, contact the CKI team to get access. The RHEL CKI containers are stored in Quay. Sign in to Quay via Red Hat SSO to accept the invite.

Once you are granted permissions, log in to Quay from the podman command line:

podman login

After login you can use the original podman image pull command.

Reproducing the build

Start the container

podman run -it --rm <IMAGE_NAME_AND_TAG> /bin/bash

The container will be deleted automatically (--rm option) after exiting.

Get the kernel rebuild artifacts

If you are rebuilding a tarball or source RPM, you need to clone or copy the git repository into the container. If you already have the tree cloned locally you can mount it into the container directly when starting it by adjusting the command line to

podman run -it --rm <IMAGE_NAME_AND_TAG> -v ".:$PWD:z" -w "$PWD" /bin/bash

This mounts your local directory into the container under the same path as it is present locally.

If you are reproducing the RPM build or tools, you need to retrieve the built source RPM. The source RPM is available in the output files of the build in DataWarehouse.

You can either run the commands (e.g. curl) in the container directly, or in case you already have the artifacts present locally, use podman to copy the artifacts over. Run the command from outside the container:


You can retrieve the <CONTAINER_ID> from

podman container list

NOTE: podman cp can also be used to copy artifacts out of a running container, similarly to how regular cp command works.

You can also first rebuild the source RPM from git and then reproduce the actual build if you wish so.

Get the kernel configuration

For RPM-built kernels, the default configuration for a given architecture is used. The configuration is part of the built source RPM so no steps are needed here.

For kernels built as tarballs, the config file used to build the kernel is available in DataWarehouse. Retrieve the config file the same way as the kernel tarball or source RPM in the previous step and name it as .config in the kernel repository.

Export required variables

For build and build-tools jobs, some environment variables are needed to properly reproduce the build. These are printed in the job output:

Environment variables

Export the same variables in the container. If the CROSS_COMPILE variable is not exported, the kernel build ran on a native architecture. In that case, you need to run the container on the same architecture to properly reproduce the build.

Run the actual build command

The command used to build the kernel is printed in the job logs and also available on the build details in DataWarehouse. Some examples of the tarball build and rpmbuild commands in the GitLab job output:

Tarball build command

rpmbuild command

Copy and run the command. For the rpmbuild commands, you have to append the source RPM path to the end.

Local reproducer does not work

If you fail to reproduce the builds locally and need to access the pipeline run directly to debug what is going on, reach out to the CKI team. The process to get access is described in the debugging a pipeline job documentation.

Last modified September 21, 2022: Update build reproducer docs (be5fdee)