Image Streams

An image stream and its associated tags provide an abstraction for referencing container images from within Azure Red Hat OpenShift. The image stream and its tags allow you to see what images are available and ensure that you are using the specific image you need even if the image in the repository changes.

Image streams do not contain actual image data, but present a single virtual view of related images, similar to an image repository.

You can configure Builds and Deployments to watch an image stream for notifications when new images are added and react by performing a Build or Deployment, respectively.

For example, if a Deployment is using a certain image and a new version of that image is created, a Deployment could be automatically performed to pick up the new version of the image.

However, if the image stream tag used by the Deployment or Build is not updated, then even if the container image in the container image registry is updated, the Build or Deployment will continue using the previous (presumably known good) image.

The source images can be stored in any of the following:

  • Azure Red Hat OpenShift’s integrated registry

  • An external registry, for example or

  • Other image streams in the Azure Red Hat OpenShift cluster

When you define an object that references an image stream tag (such as a Build or Deployment configuration), you point to an image stream tag, not the Docker repository. When you Build or Deploy your application, Azure Red Hat OpenShift queries the Docker repository using the image stream tag to locate the associated ID of the image and uses that exact image.

The image stream metadata is stored in the etcd instance along with other cluster information.

The following image stream contains two tags: 34 which points to a Python v3.4 image and 35 which points to a Python v3.5 image:

oc describe is python
Name:			python
Namespace:		imagestream
Created:		25 hours ago
Labels:			app=python
Docker Pull Spec:	docker-registry.default.svc:5000/imagestream/python
Image Lookup:		local=false
Unique Images:		2
Tags:			2

  tagged from centos/python-34-centos7

  * centos/python-34-centos7@sha256:28178e2352d31f240de1af1370be855db33ae9782de737bb005247d8791a54d0
      14 seconds ago

  tagged from centos/python-35-centos7

  * centos/python-35-centos7@sha256:2efb79ca3ac9c9145a63675fb0c09220ab3b8d4005d35e0644417ee552548b10
      7 seconds ago

Using image streams has several significant benefits:

  • You can tag, rollback a tag, and quickly deal with images, without having to re-push using the command line.

  • You can trigger Builds and Deployments when a new image is pushed to the registry. Also, Azure Red Hat OpenShift has generic triggers for other resources (such as Kubernetes objects).

  • You can mark a tag for periodic re-import. If the source image has changed, that change is picked up and reflected in the image stream, which triggers the Build and/or Deployment flow, depending upon the Build or Deployment configuration.

  • You can share images using fine-grained access control and quickly distribute images across your teams.

  • If the source image changes, the image stream tag will still point to a known-good version of the image, ensuring that your application will not break unexpectedly.

  • You can configure security around who can view and use the images through permissions on the image stream objects.

  • Users that lack permission to read or list images on the cluster level can still retrieve the images tagged in a project using image streams.

For a curated set of image streams, see the OpenShift Image Streams and Templates library.

When using image streams, it is important to understand what the image stream tag is pointing to and how changes to tags and images can affect you. For example:

  • If your image stream tag points to a container image tag, you need to understand how that container image tag is updated. For example, a container image tag points to a v2.5 ruby image, but a container image tag changes with major versions. So, the container image tag that a image stream tag points to can tell you how stable the image stream tag is.

  • If your image stream tag follows another image stream tag instead of pointing directly to a container image tag, it is possible that the image stream tag might be updated to follow a different image stream tag in the future. This change might result in picking up an incompatible version change.

Important terms

Docker repository

A collection of related container images and tags identifying them. For example, the OpenShift Jenkins images are in a Docker repository:
Container registry

A content server that can store and service images from Docker repositories. For example:
container image

A specific set of content that can be run as a container. Usually associated with a particular tag within a Docker repository.

container image tag

A label applied to a container image in a repository that distinguishes a specific image. For example, here 3.6.0 is a tag:

A container image tag can be updated to point to new container image content at any time.

container image ID

A SHA (Secure Hash Algorithm) code that can be used to pull an image. For example:

A SHA image ID cannot change. A specific SHA identifier always references the exact same container image content.

Image stream

An Azure Red Hat OpenShift object that contains pointers to any number of Docker-formatted container images identified by tags. You can think of an image stream as equivalent to a Docker repository.

Image stream tag

A named pointer to an image in an image stream. An image stream tag is similar to a container image tag. See Image Stream Tag below.

Image stream image

An image that allows you to retrieve a specific container image from a particular image stream where it is tagged. An image stream image is an API resource object that pulls together some metadata about a particular image SHA identifier. See Image Stream Images below.

Image stream trigger

A trigger that causes a specific action when an image stream tag changes. For example, importing can cause the value of the tag to change, which causes a trigger to fire when there are Deployments, Builds, or other resources listening for those. See Image Stream Triggers below.

Configuring Image Streams