Developing for NGINX Ingress Controller

This document explains how to get started with developing for NGINX Ingress controller. It includes how to build, test, and release ingress controllers.

Quick Start

Getting the code

The code must be checked out as a subdirectory of, and not

mkdir -p $GOPATH/src/
cd $GOPATH/src/
# Replace "$YOUR_GITHUB_USERNAME" below with your github username
git clone$YOUR_GITHUB_USERNAME/ingress-nginx.git
cd ingress-nginx

Initial developer environment build

Prequisites: Minikube must be installed. See releases for installation instructions.

If you are using MacOS and deploying to minikube, the following command will build the local nginx controller container image and deploy the ingress controller onto a minikube cluster with RBAC enabled in the namespace ingress-nginx:

$ make dev-env

Updating the deployment

The nginx controller container image can be rebuilt using:

$ ARCH=amd64 TAG=dev REGISTRY=$USER/ingress-controller make build container

The image will only be used by pods created after the rebuild. To delete old pods which will cause new ones to spin up:

$ kubectl get pods -n ingress-nginx
$ kubectl delete pod -n ingress-nginx nginx-ingress-controller-<unique-pod-id>


The build uses dependencies in the vendor directory, which must be installed before building a binary/image. Occasionally, you might need to update the dependencies.

This guide requires you to install the dep dependency tool.

Check the version of dep you are using and make sure it is up to date.

$ dep version
 version     : devel
 build date  :
 git hash    :
 go version  : go1.9
 go compiler : gc
 platform    : linux/amd64

If you have an older version of dep, you can update it as follows:

$ go get -u

This will automatically save the dependencies to the vendor/ directory.

$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ dep ensure
$ dep ensure -update
$ dep prune


All ingress controllers are built through a Makefile. Depending on your requirements you can build a raw server binary, a local container image, or push an image to a remote repository.

In order to use your local Docker, you may need to set the following environment variables:

# "gcloud docker" (default) or "docker"
$ export DOCKER=<docker>

# "" (default), "", or your own registry
$ export REGISTRY=<your-docker-registry>

To find the registry simply run: docker system info | grep Registry

Building the e2e test image

The e2e test image can also be built through the Makefile.

$ make e2e-test-image

You can then make this image available on your minikube host by exporting the image and loading it with the minikube docker context:

$ docker save nginx-ingress-controller:e2e |  (eval $(minikube docker-env) && docker load)

Nginx Controller

Build a raw server binary

$ make build

TODO: add more specific instructions needed for raw server binary.

Build a local container image

$ TAG=<tag> REGISTRY=$USER/ingress-controller make container

Push the container image to a remote repository

$ TAG=<tag> REGISTRY=$USER/ingress-controller make push


There are several ways to deploy the ingress controller onto a cluster. Please check the deployment guide


To run unit-tests, just run

$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ make test

If you have access to a Kubernetes cluster, you can also run e2e tests using ginkgo.

$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ make e2e-test

NOTE: if your e2e pod keeps hanging in an ImagePullBackoff, make sure you've made your e2e nginx-ingress-controller image available to minikube as explained in the Building the e2e test image section

To run unit-tests for lua code locally, run:

$ cd $GOPATH/src/
$ ./rootfs/etc/nginx/lua/test/
$ make lua-test

Lua tests are located in $GOPATH/src/ When creating a new test file it must follow the naming convention <mytest>_test.lua or it will be ignored.


All Makefiles will produce a release binary, as shown above. To publish this to a wider Kubernetes user base, push the image to a container registry, like All release images are hosted under and tagged according to a semver scheme.

An example release might look like:

$ make release

Please follow these guidelines to cut a release:

  • Update the release page with a short description of the major changes that correspond to a given image tag.
  • Cut a release branch, if appropriate. Release branches follow the format of controller-release-version. Typically, pre-releases are cut from HEAD. All major feature work is done in HEAD. Specific bug fixes are cherry-picked into a release branch.
  • If you're not confident about the stability of the code, tag it as alpha or beta. Typically, a release branch should have stable code.