What is a minion in Kubernetes

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Running in multiple zones

This page describes how to run a cluster in multiple zones.


Kubernetes 1.2 adds support for running a single cluster in multiple failure zones (GCE calls them simply “zones”, AWS calls them “availability zones”, here we’ll refer to them as “zones”). This is a lightweight version of a broader Cluster Federation feature (previously referred to by the affectionate nickname “Ubernetes”). Full Cluster Federation allows combining separate Kubernetes clusters running in different regions or cloud providers (or on-premises data centers). However, many users simply want to run a more available Kubernetes cluster in multiple zones of their single cloud provider, and this is what the multizone support in 1.2 allows (this previously went by the nickname “Ubernetes Lite”).

Multizone support is deliberately limited: a single Kubernetes cluster can run in multiple zones, but only within the same region (and cloud provider). Only GCE and AWS are currently supported automatically (though it is easy to add similar support for other clouds or even bare metal, by simply arranging for the appropriate labels to be added to nodes and volumes).


When nodes are started, the kubelet automatically adds labels to them with zone information.

Kubernetes will automatically spread the pods in a replication controller or service across nodes in a single-zone cluster (to reduce the impact of failures.) With multiple-zone clusters, this spreading behavior is extended across zones (to reduce the impact of zone failures.) (This is achieved via ). This is a best-effort placement, and so if the zones in your cluster are heterogeneous (e.g. different numbers of nodes, different types of nodes, or different pod resource requirements), this might prevent perfectly even spreading of your pods across zones. If desired, you can use homogeneous zones (same number and types of nodes) to reduce the probability of unequal spreading.

When persistent volumes are created, the admission controller automatically adds zone labels to them. The scheduler (via the predicate) will then ensure that pods that claim a given volume are only placed into the same zone as that volume, as volumes cannot be attached across zones.


There are some important limitations of the multizone support:

  • We assume that the different zones are located close to each other in the network, so we don’t perform any zone-aware routing. In particular, traffic that goes via services might cross zones (even if some pods backing that service exist in the same zone as the client), and this may incur additional latency and cost.

  • Volume zone-affinity will only work with a , and will not work if you directly specify an EBS volume in the pod spec (for example).

  • Clusters cannot span clouds or regions (this functionality will require full federation support).

  • Although your nodes are in multiple zones, kube-up currently builds a single master node by default. While services are highly available and can tolerate the loss of a zone, the control plane is located in a single zone. Users that want a highly available control plane should follow the high availability instructions.

Volume limitations

The following limitations are addressed with topology-aware volume binding.

  • StatefulSet volume zone spreading when using dynamic provisioning is currently not compatible with pod affinity or anti-affinity policies.

  • If the name of the StatefulSet contains dashes (“-”), volume zone spreading may not provide a uniform distribution of storage across zones.

  • When specifying multiple PVCs in a Deployment or Pod spec, the StorageClass needs to be configured for a specific single zone, or the PVs need to be statically provisioned in a specific zone. Another workaround is to use a StatefulSet, which will ensure that all the volumes for a replica are provisioned in the same zone.


We’re now going to walk through setting up and using a multi-zone cluster on both GCE & AWS. To do so, you bring up a full cluster (specifying ), and then you add nodes in additional zones by running again (specifying ).

Bringing up your cluster

Create the cluster as normal, but pass MULTIZONE to tell the cluster to manage multiple zones; creating nodes in us-central1-a.



This step brings up a cluster as normal, still running in a single zone (but has enabled multi-zone capabilities).

Nodes are labeled

View the nodes; you can see that they are labeled with zone information. They are all in (GCE) or (AWS) so far. The labels are for the region, and for the zone:

The output is similar to this:

Add more nodes in a second zone

Let’s add another set of nodes to the existing cluster, reusing the existing master, running in a different zone (us-central1-b or us-west-2b). We run kube-up again, but by specifying kube-up will not create a new master, but will reuse one that was previously created instead.


On AWS we also need to specify the network CIDR for the additional subnet, along with the master internal IP address:

View the nodes again; 3 more nodes should have launched and be tagged in us-central1-b:

The output is similar to this:

Volume affinity

Create a volume using the dynamic volume creation (only PersistentVolumes are supported for zone affinity):

Note: For version 1.3+ Kubernetes will distribute dynamic PV claims across the configured zones. For version 1.2, dynamic persistent volumes were always created in the zone of the cluster master (here us-central1-a / us-west-2a); that issue (#23330) was addressed in 1.3+.

Now let’s validate that Kubernetes automatically labeled the zone & region the PV was created in.

The output is similar to this:

So now we will create a pod that uses the persistent volume claim. Because GCE PDs / AWS EBS volumes cannot be attached across zones, this means that this pod can only be created in the same zone as the volume:

Note that the pod was automatically created in the same zone as the volume, as cross-zone attachments are not generally permitted by cloud providers:

And check node labels:

Pods are spread across zones

Pods in a replication controller or service are automatically spread across zones. First, let’s launch more nodes in a third zone:



Verify that you now have nodes in 3 zones:

Create the guestbook-go example, which includes an RC of size 3, running a simple web app:

The pods should be spread across all 3 zones:

Load-balancers span all zones in a cluster; the guestbook-go example includes an example load-balanced service:

The output is similar to this:

Set the above IP:

Explore with curl via IP:

The output is similar to this:

Again, explore multiple times:

The output is similar to this:

The load balancer correctly targets all the pods, even though they are in multiple zones.

Shutting down the cluster

When you’re done, clean up:




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