Marco Pracucci

KubeCon 2017 - Kubernetes Takeaways

by Marco Pracucci Comments

This is the first of two posts I’ve published with some notes and takeaways from two amazing days at the KubeCon Europe 2017 (the second post is focused on Prometheus).

These notes have been primarely taken for myself, thus they could be incomplete, inexact, or no more true at the time you will read it, so don’t give anything written here as the absolute source of truth. That said, enjoy reading!


The KubeCon was organized by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), a no-profit organization founded in late 2015 that provide supports for several open source projects, including Kubernetes and Prometheus. Recently two more projects have been added:

A couple of notes worth to mention about rkt:

And about containerd:

Kubernetes 1.6

Kubernetes 1.6 has been announced few hours before the begin of the conference, and it was the main protagonist. Kubernetes 1.6 is a major release that introduce some game changer features:

Role Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC gives you the ability to define fine-grained permissions to users. It can be used to restrict API (and thus kubectl) privileges to a user (or group of users), and it comes very handy when you’ve multiple persons (or teams) deploying on the Kubernetes cluster, but you don’t want to give cluster-wise privileges to everyone.

  1. Define a role. A role can be defined within a namespace (to control pod authorization) or cluster-wise (to control cluster resources, like nodes). A role defines what can be done if you’ve that role binded.
  2. Bind the role to an user or a group of users.
  3. Configure kubectl to use a specific user credentials


Kubernetes Scheduler

The scheduler is one of the three main components of Kubernetes, and is responsible to select the node(s) where a given pod should run. Simplifying things a bit, the scheduler gets in input the intention to run a pod and returns in output the node where the pod should run.

The scheduler is a pipeline that goes through three stages:

  1. List all nodes
  2. Filter nodes by Predicates
  3. Order (filtered) nodes by Priorities

Scheduler Predicates

The scheduler predicates are functions that filter out nodes not eligible to run the given pod. There are many predicates, and many reasons why a pod can’t run on a given node (including the node affinity predicates introduced in 1.6), but the main are:

To prevent overcommit each container declares its resources requests (CPU and memory). The scheduler ignores the resources limits, but honours the resources requests, filtering out nodes that have not enough resources left to run the given pod (the resources requests of a pod are the sum of the CPU and memory requests of each container composing it).

Scheduler Priorities

The scheduler priorities are functions that calculate a score for each node. Then nodes are sorted by score and the node(s) with the highest score will be selected to run the pod.

There are many priorities in Kubernetes, and each one will calculate its own score, so the priorities will run through three stages:

  1. For each priority, calculate the node score
  2. Combine the node scores into a single value
  3. Sort nodes by combined score and pick the one with the highest value

Kubernetes run with a set of default priorities that can be overridden by passing the command-line flag --policy-config-file to the scheduler, pointing to a JSON file specifying which scheduling policies to use.

Some of the available priority functions are:

The way scores are combined has not been covered extensively during the talk. Looking at the source code, it seems by default it’s a weighted sum of all scores, where each score is weighted based upon a weight related to the priority itself.

The problem with the way Priorities work right now is that it’s hard to predict where a pod will be scheduled. In Google, Borg uses a different strategy based on a decision tree: priorities are sorted by importance and the next priority will be evaluated only to sort nodes for which the previous priority has returned the same score. This way is much easier to predict where a pod will be scheduled, because scores are never combined together.

Node Affinity

Node affinity allows you to constrain which nodes your pod is eligible to schedule on, based on labels on the node.

For example, the following node affinity rule says that the pod can be scheduled onto a node only if that node has a label whose key is and whose value is either az1 or az2:

    - matchExpressions:
      - key:
        operator: In
        - az1
        - az2

You can specify nodeAffinity and nodeAntiAffinity, requiredDuringSchedulingIgnoredDuringExecution (hard constrain) and preferredDuringSchedulingIgnoredDuringExecution (soft constrain).

Pod Affinity

Pod affinity allows you to constrain which nodes your pod is eligible to schedule on based on labels on pods that are already running on the node rather than based on labels on nodes (ie. do not schedule a pod on a node that’s already running the same pod).

For example, the following pod affinity rule says that the pod can be scheduled onto a node only if that node zone contains at least one already-running pod with label key “security” and value “S1” (can be on the same node or a different node in the same zone):

  - topologyKey:
      - key: security
        operator: In
        - S1

The topologyKey is the node label that the system uses to “group” nodes together, and restrict the affinity only to nodes matching the same topology key.

You can specify podAffinity and podAntiAffinity, requiredDuringSchedulingIgnoredDuringExecution (hard constrain) and preferredDuringSchedulingIgnoredDuringExecution (soft constrain).

Taints and Tolerations

Taints can be used to ensure that pods are not scheduled onto inappropriate nodes. Once you apply a taint to a node, this taint applies to all pods, except the pods matching a toleration. Taints are applied to nodes, tolerations are applied to pods.

Add a taint to a node (taints have a key, a value and an effect):

kubectl taint nodes node1 key=value:NoSchedule

Then you can specify a toleration in the pod spec:

- key: "key"
  operator: "Exists"
  effect: "NoSchedule"

The taint / toleration above says:

  1. Do not schedule any pod to node1, unless a pod has a toleration for key and for the effect NoSchedule
  2. The pod specifies a toleration for the key key and effect NoSchedule, and it just requires the taint has a value (the operator is Exists but it could also check the value with Equal).

You can also specify an optional tolerationSeconds field that dictates how long the pod will stay bound to the node after the taint is added to the node when the pod is running.

Future plans

Further resources

Kubernetes Autoscaling

There are two things you can (and should) autoscale on Kubernetes: Nodes and Pods. There are solutions provided by Kubernetes itself (Cluster Autoscaler and Horizontal Pod Autoscaler), 3rd party projects and other users are building their own autoscaling policies due to the limitations of the available ones.

Cluster Autoscaler

The cluster autoscaler is a nodes autoscaler provided by Kubernetes. It’s a separate pod running on a master node, taking care of:

The cluster autoscaler has a main loop that:

  1. Look for unschedulable pods (pods for which the scheduler has not been able to find a node to deploy them to)
  2. Calculate which of the node groups can ben expanded to accomodate these pods and expands one of them
  3. Check unneeded nodes, and remove them

A node is unneeded when all the following conditions are met:

  1. Node utilization < 50%
  2. All the pods running on the node can be moved elsewhere
  3. There are no kube-system pods running on it (ie. kube-dns)
  4. There are no pods with local storage

An unneeded node is removed when all the following conditions are met:

  1. The node was unneeded for 10+ minutes
  2. There was no scale up in the last 10+ minutes

The node removing / killing process has been designed to avoid (or at least limit to the minimum) service disruptions:

Best practices:


Horizontal Pod Autoscaler

The Horizontal Pod Autoscaler is a Kubernetes controller that automatically scales pods up and down, based on observed CPU utilization. It also support custom metrics, but they’re alpha and very limited, reason why many people is building custom pod autoscalers tailored to their needs.

The Pod Autoscaler is configured via kubectl specifying:

You can monitor the autoscaler activity with:

Custom Pod Autoscalers

Due to the current strong limitations of the Horizontal Pod Autoscaler, many people is building their own autoscaler. Simplifying a bit, a pod autoscaler is not super complicated and should basically have a main loop with three stages:

  1. Monitor a specific metric
  2. Calculate the desired number of pods based upon the monitored metric
  3. Call the K8S API to scale the pod to the desired number

Kubernetes Security

What we have, where we’re going:

Some key points:

Some insights about what you can use to audit images:


Overlay networks

Overlay networks, why?

Overlay networks, why not?

Use it only when you need it!

Kubernetes Cluster Federation

The cluster federation is an API Server (Federated Cluster) on top of single clusters API Servers. Right now, the federation has been designed to cover a single use case: when you’ve applications that span multiple clusters (ie. multiple AWS regions).

The federation is in a very early stage and it’s not production ready. Just to give you an example, the kubectl get pods doesn’t even support it, and you’ve to call it for each cluster with --context=CLUSTER-NAME. Despite this, cluster federation is definitely promising to run a cluster spanning across multiple regions or cloud providers, and in the next major versions we’ll see many improvements on that.

Custom Kubernetes Controller

A controller is an active reconciliation process:

  1. Watch desired state and actual state
  2. Make the changes to reach the desired state

Kubernetes allows you to build a custom controller, to extend the features and add custom logic. Before writing your first controller check out the following resources:

The controller can be built in any language, but realistically it’s written in GO since it’s the only language with a full featured K8S SDK. Some helpful tools client-go has (or will have):

Users insights



Kubernetes Roadmap

Q&A with some people at the conf

Q: What’s the best way to collect containers logs via Logstash?
A: Run a DeamonSet with logstash client, mounting containers logs directory as a volume.

Q: When should an overlay network (ie. flannel, calico) be used?
A: Only when you need it. They add complexity, more (potential) issues to debug, and have a network performance impact.

Q: How are kubernetes versions picked up for the the stable channel in kops?
A: Maintainers pick up the “stable” version of K8S, based upon their considerations on stability, security and “other” factors. For minor versions, it’s not a matter of the kops integration with K8S, but just K8S. It’s different for major versions, since changes to kops may be required.

Q: Upgrade to K8S 1.6 with kops?
A: See 1.6.0-alpha.1 release notes.

Q: How to backup etcd EBS volumes?
A: You can do EBS snapshots without the need to freeze the FS to get consistent snapshots (source: CoreOS CTO).

Q: Why can’t work with 1 single etcd node (3 nodes, with 2 works, with 1 does not)?
A: Because of etcd quorum.

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Incontro DevOps 2020 Virtual 22 October 2020