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Differential Packages with Zarf


In this tutorial, you will create a differential package using Zarf. This is useful when deploying updates to a package that shares common git repositories and container images across versions. Differential packages only pack what has changed, ensuring that those resources will only need to be packaged and deployed once.

System Requirements

  • Internet access to download resources or upload packages
  • Access to a registry (this tutorial uses Docker Hub)


For following along locally, please ensure the following prerequisites are met:

Youtube Tutorial

Tutorial: Create Differential Packages with Zarf

Create a Differential Package

In this example we're going to use the Longhorn Example to create a differential package.


You'll notice we're not using a cluster in this example. That's because differential packages only affect package creation and do not require a running cluster to make.

  1. From the examples/longhorn folder, Create the Zarf package with the zarf package create command.
  1. Modify the zarf.yaml file to upgrade all of the 1.4.0 images to version 1.4.2; leave everything else the same.

  2. Update the version of the package as well in the metadata.version field.


Creating differential packages without updating the package version will result in an error.

  1. Next, use the zarf package create command with the --differential flag to specify a reference package. This will build the differential package omitting the images, repositories, and OCI skeleton components that are already present in the specified Zarf package and are pinned to a specific version/shasum.


You have now learned to create differential packages with Zarf. If you would like to see the size you saved, you can use the zarf package create command without the --differential flag. You'll notice a size difference between the two packages since the differential package omits duplicate contents.