Developing Talos

Learn how to set up a development environment for local testing and hacking on Talos itself!

This guide outlines steps and tricks to develop Talos operating systems and related components. The guide assumes Linux operating system on the development host. Some steps might work under Mac OS X, but using Linux is highly advised.


Check out the Talos repository.

Try running make help to see available make commands. You would need Docker and buildx installed on the host.

Note: Usually it is better to install up to date Docker from Docker apt repositories, e.g. Ubuntu instructions.

If buildx plugin is not available with OS docker packages, it can be installed as a plugin from GitHub releases.

Set up a builder with access to the host network:

 docker buildx create --driver docker-container  --driver-opt network=host --name local1 --buildkitd-flags '--allow-insecure-entitlement security.insecure' --use

Note: network=host allows buildx builder to access host network, so that it can push to a local container registry (see below).

Make sure the following steps work:

  • make talosctl
  • make initramfs kernel

Set up a local docker registry:

docker run -d -p 5005:5000 \
    --restart always \
    --name local registry:2

Try to build and push to local registry an installer image:

make installer IMAGE_REGISTRY= PUSH=true

Record the image name output in the step above.

Note: it is also possible to force a stable image tag by using TAG variable: make installer IMAGE_REGISTRY= TAG=v1.0.0-alpha.1 PUSH=true.

Running Talos cluster

Set up local caching docker registries (this speeds up Talos cluster boot a lot), script is in the Talos repo:

bash hack/

Start your local cluster with:

sudo -E _out/talosctl-linux-amd64 cluster create \
    --provisioner=qemu \
    --cidr= \
    --registry-mirror \
    --registry-mirror  \
    --registry-mirror \
    --registry-mirror \
    --registry-mirror \
    --registry-mirror \
    --install-image=<RECORDED HASH from the build step> \
    --masters 3 \
    --workers 2 \
  • --provisioner selects QEMU vs. default Docker
  • custom --cidr to make QEMU cluster use different network than default Docker setup (optional)
  • --registry-mirror uses the caching proxies set up above to speed up boot time a lot, last one adds your local registry (installer image was pushed to it)
  • --install-image is the image you built with make installer above
  • --masters & --workers configure cluster size, choose to match your resources; 3 masters give you HA control plane; 1 master is enough, never do 2 masters
  • --with-bootloader=false disables boot from disk (Talos will always boot from _out/vmlinuz-amd64 and _out/initramfs-amd64.xz). This speeds up development cycle a lot - no need to rebuild installer and perform install, rebooting is enough to get new code.

Note: as boot loader is not used, it’s not necessary to rebuild installer each time (old image is fine), but sometimes it’s needed (when configuration changes are done and old installer doesn’t validate the config).

talosctl cluster create derives Talos machine configuration version from the install image tag, so sometimes early in the development cycle (when new minor tag is not released yet), machine config version can be overridden with --talos-version=v1.0.

If the --with-bootloader=false flag is not enabled, for Talos cluster to pick up new changes to the code (in initramfs), it will require a Talos upgrade (so new installer should be built). With --with-bootloader=false flag, Talos always boots from initramfs in _out/ directory, so simple reboot is enough to pick up new code changes.

If the installation flow needs to be tested, --with-bootloader=false shouldn’t be used.

Console Logs

Watching console logs is easy with tail:

tail -F ~/.talos/clusters/talos-default/talos-default-*.log

Interacting with Talos

Once talosctl cluster create finishes successfully, talosconfig and kubeconfig will be set up automatically to point to your cluster.

Start playing with talosctl:

talosctl -n version
talosctl -n, dashboard
talosctl -n get members

Same with kubectl:

kubectl get nodes -o wide

You can deploy some Kubernetes workloads to the cluster.

You can edit machine config on the fly with talosctl edit mc --immediate, config patches can be applied via --config-patch flags, also many features have specific flags in talosctl cluster create.

Quick Reboot

To reboot whole cluster quickly (e.g. to pick up a change made in the code):

for socket in ~/.talos/clusters/talos-default/talos-default-*.monitor; do echo "q" | sudo socat - unix-connect:$socket; done

Sending q to a single socket allows to reboot a single node.

Note: This command performs immediate reboot (as if the machine was powered down and immediately powered back up), for normal Talos reboot use talosctl reboot.

Development Cycle

Fast development cycle:

  • bring up a cluster
  • make code changes
  • rebuild initramfs with make initramfs
  • reboot a node to pick new initramfs
  • verify code changes
  • more code changes…

Some aspects of Talos development require to enable bootloader (when working on installer itself), in that case quick development cycle is no longer possible, and cluster should be destroyed and recreated each time.

Running Integration Tests

If integration tests were changed (or when running them for the first time), first rebuild the integration test binary:

rm -f  _out/integration-test-linux-amd64; make _out/integration-test-linux-amd64

Running short tests against QEMU provisioned cluster:

_out/integration-test-linux-amd64 \
    -talos.provisioner=qemu \
    -test.v \
    -talos.crashdump=false \
    -test.short \

Whole test suite can be run removing -test.short flag.

Specfic tests can be run with

Build Flavors

make <something> WITH_RACE=1 enables Go race detector, Talos runs slower and uses more memory, but memory races are detected.

make <something> WITH_DEBUG=1 enables Go profiling and other debug features, useful for local development.

Destroying Cluster

sudo -E ../talos/_out/talosctl-linux-amd64 cluster destroy --provisioner=qemu

This command stops QEMU and helper processes, tears down bridged network on the host, and cleans up cluster state in ~/.talos/clusters.

Note: if the host machine is rebooted, QEMU instances and helpers processes won’t be started back. In that case it’s required to clean up files in ~/.talos/clusters/<cluster-name> directory manually.


Set up cross-build environment with:

docker run --rm --privileged multiarch/qemu-user-static --reset -p yes

Note: the static qemu binaries which come with Ubuntu 21.10 seem to be broken.

Unit tests

Unit tests can be run in buildx with make unit-tests, on Ubuntu systems some tests using loop devices will fail because Ubuntu uses low-index loop devices for snaps.

Most of the unit-tests can be run standalone as well, with regular go test, or using IDE integration:

go test -v ./internal/pkg/circular/

This provides much faster feedback loop, but some tests require either elevated privileges (running as root) or additional binaries available only in Talos rootfs (containerd tests).

Running tests as root can be done with -exec flag to go test, but this is risky, as test code has root access and can potentially make undesired changes:

go test -exec sudo  -v ./internal/app/machined/pkg/controllers/network/...

Go Profiling

Build initramfs with debug enabled: make initramfs WITH_DEBUG=1.

Launch Talos cluster with bootloader disabled, and use go tool pprof to capture the profile and show the output in your browser:

go tool pprof

The IP address is the address of the Talos node, and port :9982 depends on the Go application to profile:

  • 9981: apid
  • 9982: machined
  • 9983: trustd