Cluster Tuning Guide


This document aims to provide a sensible workflow for understanding and tuning available parameters in Kubernetes. This guide is for application owners and cluster managers. It is intended to help illustrate and inform configuration decisions. Whereas the Kubernetes documentation provides in-depth information on individual parameters, this guide highlights the relationships between them and implications of each one on the rest of the cluster. By the end of this document, you will have a clearer understanding of how your responsibilities impact the stability, utilization, and performance of your overall Kubernetes environment.

The content of this guide was presented at the 2019 KubeCon in San Diego. This presentation may be viewed here.


IT organizations deploy applications to cloud environments, public or private, with one primary goal: keep applications online to maximize the value add for their business and keep costs to a minimum. More specifically, they want to optimize stability and utilization of their environment while meeting the availability and performance requirements of their applications. Kubernetes enables them to achieve these goals by providing a framework to run distributed systems resiliently. Kubernetes offers various features and options to help mitigate disruption to application workloads. Application owners and cluster managers are encouraged to work together to mitigate the risks posed by these disruptions to maximize the value of Kubernetes for their organizations.

Involuntary Disruptions

Disruptions are classified into two categories: involuntary and voluntary. Involuntary disruptions are any case of an unavoidable hardware or software failure. Examples of this include:

  • physical hardware failure
  • cloud provider or hypervisor failure
  • kernel panic
  • network partition
  • pod eviction caused by resource contention

Among these examples, pod eviction is the only one unique to Kubernetes, and it is discussed in-depth throughout this guide. The other types of involuntary disruptions are common across all cloud environments, whether a container orchestrator such as Kubernetes is used or not.

Voluntary Disruptions

Voluntary disruptions are those caused by an application owner or cluster manager. Unlike involuntary disruptions, voluntary disruptions are actions performed to Kubernetes. Examples of disruptions caused by an application owner include:

  • deleting the controller responsible for managing a pod
  • updating a deployment’s pod template
  • directly deleting a pod

Examples of disruptions caused by a cluster manager include:

  • draining a node for a repair or upgrade
  • scaling the cluster up or down (can also be caused by an autoscaler)
  • removal of a pod to permit another one to schedule on a node

A cluster manager, application owner, automation, or an underlying hosting provider can all cause the above listed voluntary disruptions. Fortunately, Kubernetes provides several constructs to application owners and cluster managers to mitigate the risks presented by each of these disruptions.


It is helpful to categorize tunable parameters by the persona that may be responsible for them: application owner or cluster manager. For each parameter, you will learn the risks posed by the default Kubernetes configuration, the benefit of tuning this parameter, and the implications of your tuning decisions on the rest of your cluster.

Managed by application owners:

Managed by cluster operators:

For both audiences, topics are listed top-to-bottom by their relative impact-to-risk. The top-most items will have the greatest impact on your environment while introducing minimal risk. As you approach the bottom of the list, parameters have less of an impact (relative to the others) and/or introduce risk if implemented incorrectly. Examples of misconfigured parameters:

  • for Application Owners, misconfigured or “abuse” of pod priority can negatively impact scheduling of other teams’ workloads
  • for Cluster Operators, misconfigured Kubernetes & System reserved flags can cause significant instability in the cluster.

Application Owner

The parameters discussed in this section are of primary concern to application owners, although understanding them will help anyone who works with Kubernetes.

Disruption Tolerant Applications

This guide assumes that the applications you are deploying are prepared to take advantage of Kubernetes. This includes Kubernetes-specific configuration such as liveness probes, readiness probes, logging to stdout etc. This guide also assumes your application can tolerate temporary disruptions.

Resource Limits

Resource limits provide a way to limit pod resource consumption and contribute to the overall stability of the cluster. By default, pods do not have resource limits and their consumption of resources is unbounded. This is problematic because a pod is free to consume all available resources on a node.

No limits or requests Figure 1: BestEffort pod (no limits or requests)


Quality of Service

(QoS) is a classification assigned to each pod by Kubernetes for the purposes of scheduling and pod eviction. A BestEffort pod is one with no resource limits or requests (requests are discussed in the next section), and is the lowest QoS assigned by Kubernetes. Figure 1 shows a pod with a QoS of BestEffort. The green bar represents utilization and the dotted line indicates it is a variable quantity. In this case, utilization is unbounded and free to consume all available CPU and memory.

Best Effort Pod Figure 2: Two replicas of a BestEffort pod

Compressible vs. Incompressible Resources

Figure 2 shows a node with two replicas of Pod A. Notice the CPU is fully utilized and each replica is using 50% of the available capacity, yet the single replica in Figure 1 is using over 50% of the available CPU capacity. The CPU consumption of each replica in Figure 2 has been throttled down to 50%. This is because CPU is a compressible resource.

When a compressible resource (such as CPU) is fully utilized, its consumers will be throttled.

Figure 2 also shows the memory consumption of both pods, however memory is an example of an incompressible resource. The red bar in Figure 2 indicates memory that the second replica of Pod A attempted to consume, but the node did not have available. At this point, the node must reclaim resources to ensure stable operation. Although there are ways for a node to protect itself when this occurs, it does introduce uncertainty and put the stability of the node at risk.

Risk of Unbounded Resource Consumption

When memory approaches full utilization, a node’s kubelet invokes pod eviction to reclaim resources and ensure the node remains stable. If pods consume all available memory before the kubelet begins the eviction process, then Kubernetes workloads will be competing with system daemons for memory and it is up to the node’s oom_killer to respond. Once this occurs, the best case scenario is for the pod to be killed by the oom_killer. Unlike pod eviction, a pod killed by the oom_killer may be restarted on the same node by the kubelet based on its restart policy. This means a pod may enter a cycle of consuming too much memory, being killed by the oom_killer and restarted by the kubelet. This cycle may continue without the pod being rescheduled because it is never successfully evicted. This is problematic because it raises the possibility of system daemons, such as Docker, crashing and causing the entire node to become unstable.

Risk of Docker Termination

If you use Docker for your container runtime, under its default configuration, it will terminate all pods under its supervision when it terminates. This means that resource contention between pods and node daemons could potentially crash Docker and all other containers on the node. This setting is configurable and discussed later in the Live Restore section.

Pod with limit Figure 3: Pod with limit

Resource Limits

Figure 3 shows a pod with a limit, indicating the point at which compressible resources (CPU) are throttled and incompressible resources (memory) are limited. If the pod consumes more memory than its memory limit specifies, it will be killed by the kubelet to prevent overconsumption of resources, mitigate the noisy neighbor problem and ensure node stability.

While resource limits do help mitigate overconsumption of resources, they do not help the scheduling process within Kubernetes. In other words, resource limits help optimize stability, but do not have a big impact on utilization. For example, resource limits would not prevent the situation described in Figure 2 from occurring. The Kubernetes scheduler may still attempt to schedule a pod on a node without sufficient resources, resulting in the pod being evicted and rescheduled on another node. Scheduling may be influenced by resource requests, which will be discussed in the next section.

Setting Appropriate Resource Limits

A resource limit set too low may result in a pod being throttled or evicted. However, a resource limit set too high may result in underutilization of node resources. Slack is the difference between a pod’s resource limit and its actual utilization. The optimal resource limit for a pod depends on application performance characteristics and requirements, and may be determined manually by observing the workload with monitoring tools. Vertical Pod Autoscaler

is an upstream effort aimed at automating the process of optimizing pod slack to achieve high utilization and effective scheduling.

Effect of CPU Limits on Latency-Sensitive Workloads

The diagrams in this document use memory as an example of an overcommitted resource to trigger pod eviction. Memory is a good example because memory overcommit poses the greatest risk to node stability. Although CPU overcommit isn’t a risk to node stability, it does have significant performance implications. If your workloads are latency-sensitive, we recommend viewing a Zalando presentation that goes into depth on this topic. We also recommend reviewing the Kubernetes documentation on CPU Management Policies and Topology Manager.

Resource Requests

Resource requests allow you to specify a minimum amount of a resource required for a pod to function and allow the scheduler to optimize utilization.

Burstable Pods

Burstable Pod Figure 4: Burstable pod (request < limit)

A pod with a QoS of burstable has at least a resource request assigned to it. If a limit is assigned, the request must be less than the limit for the pod to be classified by Kubernetes as burstable (Kubernetes will not allow pods with requests configured to be higher than limits). Figure 4 shows a burstable pod, indicated by having requests and limits specified and the request lower than the limit. The darker shade of green indicates the amount of resource that is indicated by the request.

Scheduler Node Figure 5: Node from scheduler’s point-of-view

The Kubernetes scheduler considers resource requests when evaluating whether a node has sufficient capacity for a pod to be scheduled. Figure 5 is an illustration of a node from the scheduler’s point of view. For the pod illustrated in Figure 4, the Kubernetes scheduler evaluated the node by considering whether the specified request would have fit on the node. Figure 5 illustrates this by showing how many resource requests would have fit on the node. Although an implementation of resource requests does affect scheduling, it will not always prevent the problem illustrated in Figure 2. This is not always a problem however, as the difference between a pod’s limit and request is what allows for the node to be overcommitted.

Resource Overcommit

Overcommit allows a node’s aggregate resource limits to be greater than the available capacity for a given resource, which optimizes cluster utilization at the expense of stability. This is acceptable when the workloads do not always consume resources up to their limit, but instead infrequently burst up to that limit. This does introduce risk, as it allows multiple workloads to burst at the same time and force pod eviction or node instability to occur. An appropriate amount of overcommit depends on your application requirements.

Guaranteed Pods

A QoS of guaranteed is assigned to pods where the request is equal to the limit.

Guaranteed Pods Figure 6: Two replicas of Pod A scheduled across two nodes

Figure 6 shows two replicas of Pod A across two nodes, each pod with a QoS of guaranteed. The entirety of the available utilization is indicated by dark green. Figure 6 is an example of how the scheduler may avoid the problem illustrated in Figure 2. Because the request is equal to the limit, the scheduler sees that Node 1 cannot provide sufficient resources for a second replica of Pod A. The scheduler concludes Node 2 is sufficient because Pod A’s resource request is less than Node 2’s available capacity.

Pod Priority and Preemption

Pod priority indicates a pod’s importance relative to other pods. It is also used to prioritize which pods will be evicted when a node is out of resources or when a higher-priority workload is being scheduled (also known as preemption). Pod priority ensures stability of high-priority workloads when nodes are highly-utilized.

Pod Eviction Order

Node under memory pressure Figure 7: Node under memory pressure

Figure 7 shows a node with multiple pods (all of varying QoS classifications) scheduled to it. The node is also under memory pressure, which means it will begin the eviction process.

Eviction Order QoS Priority Utilization Usage / Request Pod Label
1 BestEffort 1 2% N/A D
2 BestEffort 2 5% N/A C
3 BestEffort 3 20% N/A A
4 BestEffort 3 10% N/A B
5 Burstable 3 N/A 2 F
6 Burstable 2 N/A 0.5 E
7 Guaranteed 1 N/A 1 G
Table 3: Eviction prioritization of pods from Figure 7

Table 3 outlines the details of each pod illustrated in Figure 7, and the order in which the pod would be evicted. Note that the kubelet only evicts pods until the node is no longer under pressure, this table is just an example of how pods are prioritized.

The prioritization of pods during the eviction process first considers a pod’s QoS class. BestEffort and Burstable pods are considered first. Then, pods are ranked by priority and usage above request. BestEffort pods do not have a request, so this value is considered to be zero during the eviction process. After this, Guaranteed pods and Burstable pods whose usage is below their request are considered.

Node Out-of-Memory Behavior

If a node’s resources are consumed faster than the eviction process can reclaim resources, the node must rely on the oom_killer to ensure node stability. This document will not go into detail on this process, as the process is not configurable and our goal is to avoid this situation as it puts node stability at risk. Refer to the Kubernetes documentation for details on this process.

Pod Disruption Budgets

A Kubernetes cluster will experience various disruptions throughout its lifecycle. Some are involuntary such as a VM failing or a network partition, and others are voluntary such as cluster scaling or node draining. To optimize stability, you should strive to mitigate risk across all lifecycle events. Pod Disruption Budgets (PDBs) allow an application owner to optimize application stability and availability by indicating how many concurrent voluntary disruptions their application can tolerate. This information is used by Kubernetes to block voluntary disruptions if the PDB requirement would be violated by performing the voluntary disruption.

By default, Kubernetes is unaware of the availability requirements of the applications that are deployed to it. As a result, PDBs are a crucial interface between application owners and cluster managers because they enable a way for Kubernetes to track an application’s availability requirements. PDBs are especially important for stateful applications with data sharded across replicas, or high priority deployments where application-level availability is of concern.

PDB Example

The following example is an illustration of the example given in the Kubernetes documentation.

Cluster prior to draining Figure 8: Cluster prior to node draining

Figure 8 shows a 3-node cluster with its respective Deployment and PDB objects. There is also an unrelated pod, Pod X, deployed to node 1.

Cluster during draining Figure 9: Cluster during node draining with pods rescheduled

When a voluntary disruption occurs, such as a cluster manager draining a node in preparation for a node upgrade, Kubernetes will consult each deployment’s respective PDB and block the operation if the PDB would be violated by the operation. Figure 9 shows the state of a cluster during a node draining operation that was allowed by Kubernetes because the deployment’s PDB would not have been violated.

Cordoned Node Figure 10: Cluster with node cordoned and rescheduled pods running

Once a node is drained, its state is considered to be “cordoned”. Figure 10 shows the Kubernetes cluster after a node is successfully cordoned and its pods have been rescheduled.

Cordoned Node Figure 11: Cluster with node cordoned and rescheduled pods running

As mentioned earlier, if a voluntary disruption is attempted on a cluster that would result in a PDB being violated, the action will be blocked by Kubernetes. Figure 11 shows the Kubernetes cluster after a cluster manager attempts to perform a drain operation on Node 2. Pod E, a part of the deployment, is stuck in “Pending” state because there are not enough resources remaining to schedule it. Furthermore, Kubernetes will refuse to drain Pod D from the node because that would violate the PDB. This operation would block, and Figure 11 represents the state the cluster would be in at this point.

Affinity & Anti-Affinity

It is a common requirement for highly-available applications to be dispersed across physical hardware, or for an application to require hardware that is specific to a node in the cluster. By default, Kubernetes is unaware of these topology requirements. Affinity & anti-affinity allow an application owner to express these requirements to optimize application availability during voluntary disruptions.

In the previous example, if the cluster had a fourth node then anti-affinity could have been used to influence the scheduler to reschedule Pod D to it. This would have prevented two pods from the deployment to land on the same node.

Hard Requirement vs. Soft Preference

A hard requirement is one that would prevent a pod from being scheduled if it is not met. A soft preference would not prevent a pod from being scheduled if it is not met. For example, the nodeSelector field should be implemented to express a hard requirement for a pod that requires a specific hostPath volume to be present. An example of a soft preference is an application with high-availability requirements that needs to spread across physical machines and can be expressed by affinity & anti-affinity or taints & tolerations.

This requirement may be preferred, but not required during voluntary disruptions for example.

Cluster Operator

The parameters discussed in this section are of primary concern to cluster managers, although understanding them will help anyone who works with Kubernetes. The diagrams in this section build off of those found in the previous Application Owners section.

Live Restore

Live restore is a feature of Docker that allows containers to continue running when the Docker daemon is unavailable. By default, this feature is not activated when installing Docker. Docker configuration is also out of scope for kubeadm, resulting in cluster managers often overlooking this setting. If using Docker for your container runtime, we recommend enabling this feature to prevent containers from being shutdown if the Docker daemon is terminated to optimize node stability.

Pods Per Node

Kubernetes is configured with a default limit of 110 pods per node. VMware recommends Cluster Managers remain aware of this default and adjust it as necessary according to workload requirements to optimize utilization. This value is configurable as a kubelet flag and may be set when installing Kubernetes with kubeadm.

LimitRanges and Resource Quotas

As mentioned earlier, containers are configured to run with unbounded resources by default._ LimitRanges_ allow cluster managers to set a default resource request and limit requirements for all pods in a namespace. If a pod is created without this requirement being met, it will automatically be added by the LimitRanger admission controller.

Resource quotas allow cluster managers to limit aggregate resource consumption on a per-namespace basis. These are easy ways to bound resource consumption across all pods and namespaces to optimize stability and utilization (as detailed in Resource Limits and Resource Requests).

Eviction Thresholds

As mentioned earlier, kubelet evicts pods on a node when it is under pressure for a resource to ensure node stability. Eviction thresholds define the threshold at which the eviction process begins on a node. A hard eviction threshold is one in which pods are immediately evicted after being crossed. A soft eviction threshold is one in which a grace period must pass before kubelet begins to evict pods.

Visualizing Eviction Thresholds

Unbound Utilization Figure 12: Unbounded utilization of workloads and daemons

A node’s resources are consumed by Kubernetes workloads or by system daemons. Figure 12 illustrates this concept by showing workload and daemon utilization increasing from left-to-right. A fully utilized resource would be indicated by these two bars filling the rectangle.

Eviction Thresholds Figure 13: Node with eviction thresholds shown

Figure 13 shows a node’s memory resources with default eviction threshold. Note that eviction thresholds are bounded by a solid line. Furthermore, eviction thresholds are only affected by workload utilization surpassing them and not by daemon utilization. By default, the resource consumption of system daemons on a cluster is unbounded. Bearing this in mind, Figure 13 is also representative of a Kubernetes cluster configured by kubeadm in its default configuration. (unbounded workload utilization, unbounded daemon utilization and a hard eviction threshold for memory).

Configuring Eviction Thresholds

By default, kubelet is configured with only a hard eviction threshold with these parameters as ofv1.16.2:

  imagefs.available: 15%
  memory.available: 100Mi
  nodefs.available: 10%
  evictionPressureTransitionPeriod: 5m0s

These values represent the defaults configured for kubelet regardless of the resources available on a particular node. To override these parameters, override them when installing your cluster with kubeadm. VMware recommends cluster managers remain aware of this default and configure their cluster with the node resources and application requirements in mind.

Kube & System Reserved

Kubernetes also provides a means for cluster managers to limit resource consumption of daemons to optimize utilization. Kube reserved reserves compute resources for Kubernetes-related daemons and system reserved reserves compute resources for other daemons.

Kube Reserved Figure 15: Node with eviction threshold, kube, and system reserved

Node Allocatable Constraints

CPU Constraints Figure 16a: Node CPU with Node Allocatable and Node Allocatable Constraints highlighted

Memory and Storage Constraints Figure 16b: Node Memory & Ephemeral Storage with Node Allocatable and Node Allocatable Constraints highlighted

Node allocatable constraints are what eviction thresholds, kube reserved and system reserved are collectively referred to as. This name is derived from the fact that they are what determines node allocatable, which is how much of a resource is available for consumption by pods. In other words, a node’s allocatable capacity is equal to its capacity minus node allocatable constraints. Figures 16a and 16b illustrate the relation between these values for CPU, memory and ephemeral-storage. Note that Figure 16a does not contain an eviction threshold. This is because eviction thresholds only apply to non-compressible resources such as memory and ephemeral storage.

Note that the addition of kube and/or system reserved will introduce a second eviction threshold for non-compressible resources (for example, memory and ephemeral-storage). In Figure 16b, eviction is triggered either when pod utilization exceeds allocatable, or when the total utilization (pods and daemons) exceeds the eviction threshold. For compressible resources (CPU), the addition of kube and/or system reserved will move the threshold at which that resource is compressed because it affects the size of allocatable.

Tuning Node Allocatable Constraints

When configuring eviction thresholds, keep in mind that kube reserved and system reserved flags have a direct effect on the allocatable capacity of each node.

As a cluster manager, your primary means of tuning stability vs. utilization of your cluster is by adjusting node allocatable constraints. Always have eviction policies configured and tuned appropriately relative to node size and workload resource consumption. Only after adequate monitoring is in place, consider enforcing kube reserved to bound resource consumption of Kubernetes-related daemons. Finally, only enforce system reserved if absolutely necessary and after exhaustive profiling of daemon resource consumption via monitoring tools.

Housekeeping Interval

Kubernetes does not maintain a real-time understanding of resource consumption on its nodes. Instead, kubelet periodically evaluates the eviction thresholds on each node at a preconfigured housekeeping interval. Because of this, it is possible for a rapid increase in memory consumption to cause instability on a node. Kubernetes’ default housekeeping interval is 10 seconds, but VMware recommends cluster managers adjust this parameter if they know their workloads can rapidly increase in memory consumption.

Increased memory consumption Figure 17: Linear increase in memory consumption with default housekeeping interval (10 seconds)

The risk posed by the default housekeeping interval is illustrated in Figure 17. Notice that the utilization captured by the kubelet is only updated every 10 seconds even though the memory is increasing linearly with time. In this example, eviction thresholds would not be triggered until the moment utilization hit 100%, which may be too late to mitigate the risk posed by out-of-memory handling.

Memory Spike Figure 18: Spike in memory consumption with default housekeeping interval (10 seconds)

The worst-case scenario is for memory to become fully utilized for some amount of time before the utilization captured by the kubelet is updated to reflect this. Figure 18 shows this scenario with the actual utilization at 100% for 5 seconds before the kubelet notices.

Memory Spike Figure 19: Spike in memory consumption with default housekeeping interval of 10 seconds

For deployments that consume memory rapidly and are at risk of the situation described in Figure 18, consider reducing the housekeeping interval. Figure 19 shows how changing the housekeeping interval to 5 seconds (from the default of 10 seconds) can mitigate this problem.

Fault Tolerance

One of the greatest benefits of tuning the parameters discussed in this guide is that failover scenarios become much more predictable. A node failure in a Kubernetes cluster with default configuration will have an unpredictable outcome because it is unknown what would be required to reschedule the workloads of a given node.

Before: Unpredictable Failover

Default Settings Figure 20: Kubernetes cluster default settings

Figure 20 shows a cluster that has not been configured beyond the default kubeadm configuration. While it is possible to configure a monitoring tool to observe the current utilization of nodes within your cluster, a lack of requests and limits makes it difficult to tell whether or not the cluster could accommodate a node failure.

After: Predictable Failover

With Node Allocatable Constraints Figure 21: Kubernetes cluster with Node Allocatable Constraints configured

On the other hand, a cluster with bounded resource consumption makes this task relatively simple. Monitoring tools may be configured to consume the cluster’s resource requests, limits, eviction thresholds, kube reserved and system reserved settings. With these values known, it is possible to configure an alert that will warn a cluster manager when the cluster will no longer be able to tolerate a node failure. Figure 21 is a visualization of this concept with a node in its most general form, with a resource’s allocatable capacity limited by node allocatable constraints. This illustration applies to CPU, memory and ephemeral storage.

Calculating Max Utilization

Similar to calculating whether or not a cluster could afford a node failure, it is also possible to calculate the maximum utilization of each node such that the cluster could tolerate a node failure. Note that this calculation is only an estimation, and does not take into account scheduling complexities such as affinity. The broader point here is that having well-defined limits and requests allows us to be proactive in reasoning about different failure scenarios.

Estimate Function

Maximum Node Utilization Figure 22: Simple function for maximum utilization of nodes while allowing for 1 failure, where n represents the number of nodes in a cluster

A simple version of calculating this value is shown in Figure 22, with sample input and output shown in Table 2. Calculating maximum utilization with this function makes the following assumptions:

  • allocatable constraints (eviction threshold, kube & system reserved) == 0
  • number of failures is 1

# of nodes (n) maxUtilization(n)
2 50%
3 66%
10 90%
Table 4: Example calculations of maximum node utilization with function from Figure 22

Full Function

Maximum utilization may also be calculated without making any of the previous assumptions. Figure 23 shows how to calculate maximum utilization while also taking into account the number of node failures, f, and node allocatable constraints (summed up across all nodes), c. Table 3 shows example input and output for this function.

Maximum Node Utilization Figure 23: Full function for maximum utilization of nodes while accounting for an arbitrary number of node failures (f) and node allocatable constraints.

# of nodes (n) max # of node failures node allocatable constraints max utilization of nodes
2 1 0 50%
3 1 0 66%
10 1 0 90%
2 1 0.2 40%
3 1 0.3 56%
10 2 0.5 75%
Table 5: Example calculation of maximum node utilization with function from Figure 23

Tying it All Together

The beginning of this document categorized disruptions into two categories: involuntary and voluntary. By now, it should be clear how each of the constructs discussed in this document mitigate the risks presented by these disruptions.

Before Tuning

Figure 20 provides a good visual for the risks that are present in an untuned Kubernetes cluster. This cluster is not resilient to involuntary disruptions because its workload and daemon resource consumption is unbounded, putting nodes at risk of instability and causing failover to be unpredictable. During voluntary disruptions such as scaling or node draining, there are no PDBs in place to protect stateful or high-priority applications from losing high-availability. Scheduling is inefficient as it is unaware of pod priority, affinity, anti-affinity requirements. Overall, its behavior is not well-defined and the only way to ensure stability is by minimizing utilization.

After Tuning

The cluster shown in Figure 21 is a good visual for a tuned cluster. It is resilient to involuntary disruptions because workload and daemon resource consumption is bounded, which mitigates the risk of node instability also results in predictable failover scenarios. During voluntary disruptions such as scaling or node draining, PDBs, affinity, and anti-affinity now help applications maintain high-availability. Scheduling is efficient as it is aware of pod priority, affinity and anti-affinity requirements. Overall, stability and utilization of the cluster is optimized.

Refocusing on Bigger Problems

Prior to tuning your cluster, it will be exposed to a number of risks that detract from the benefits Kubernetes has to offer. A tuned cluster gives you peace of mind and an ability to focus on broader architectural tradeoffs such as those between utilization, fault tolerance and scheduling complexity.

Utilization vs. Fault Tolerance

How many nodes can your environment tolerate losing? This depends on many factors including your application’s service-level-agreement (SLA), disruption tolerance and other organizational requirements. It is a complicated question to answer, but with a tuned cluster it is much easier to approach. As discussed, bounded resource consumption allows you determine the max utilization of your nodes based on your fault tolerance requirements.

Utilization vs. Scheduling Complexity

If your workloads have relatively simple resource requirements, the scheduler’s job will be straightforward and you may be able to increase the utilization of your cluster by scaling the number of nodes down. On the other hand, complex resource requirements will complicate scheduling. This may be may be remedied by adding capacity to the cluster, which reduces cluster utilization.


Kind is a tool for running clusters locally using Docker containers as nodes, and may be used to familiarize with configuring the kubelet parameters discussed in this document. You may also experiment with application-level parameters (those discussed in the Application Owner section) upon cluster creation. Follow the getting started guide with the following configuration to deploy a kind cluster with default node allocatable constraints:

kind: Cluster
- |
  kind: KubeletConfiguration
    name: config
  maxPods: 110
#  systemReserved:
#      memory: "500Mi"
#  kubeReserved:
#      memory: "500Mi"
      memory.available:  "100Mi"
      imagefs.available: "15%"
      nodefs.available: "10%"
      nodefs.inodesFree: "5%"
- |
  kind: InitConfiguration
    name: config
      "housekeeping-interval": "10s"
      "enforce-node-allocatable": "pods"
- role: control-plane
- role: worker

To enforce system or kube reserved flags, be sure to configure your cgroup driver and update the enforce-node-allocatable.