Create a user cluster

This document shows how to create a user cluster for GKE on VMware. A user cluster is a place where you can run your workloads. Each user cluster is associated with an admin cluster.

For more details about admin clusters and user clusters, see the installation overview.

Procedure overview

These are the primary steps involved in creating a user cluster:

  1. Connect to your admin workstation
    The admin workstation is a VM that has the necessary tools for creating a user cluster.
  2. Fill in your configuration files
    Specify the details for your new cluster by completing a user cluster configuration file, a credentials configuration file, and possibly an IP block file.
  3. (Optional) Create a Seesaw load balancer
    If you have chosen to use the Seesaw loadbalancer, run gkectl create loadbalancer.
  4. Create a user cluster
    Run gkectl create cluster to create a cluster as specified in your configuration file.
  5. Verify that your user cluster is running
    Use kubectl to view your cluster nodes.

At the end of this procedure, you will have a running user cluster where you can deploy your workloads.

Before you begin

  • Ensure that you have created an admin workstation and an admin cluster.

  • Review the IP addresses planning document. Ensure that you have enough IP addresses available, and revisit your decision about how you want your cluster nodes to get their IP addresses: DHCP or static. If you decide to use static IP addresses, you must fill in an IP block file that contains your chosen addresses.

  • Review the load balancing overview and revisit your decision about the kind of load balancer you want to use. For certain load balancers, you must set up the load balancer before you create your user cluster.

  • Look ahead at the vcenter section. Think about whether you want to use separate vSphere clusters for your admin cluster and user clusters, and whether you want to use separate data centers. The options to have separate vSphere clusters and the separate data centers are both in preview.

  • Look ahead at the nodePools section. Think about how many node pools you need and which operating system you want to run in each of your pools.

1. Connect to your admin workstation

Get an SSH connection to your admin workstation.

Recall that gkeadm activated your component access service account on the admin workstation.

Do all the remaining steps in this topic on your admin workstation in the home directory.

2. Fill in your configuration file

When gkeadm created your admin workstation, it generated a configuration file named user-cluster.yaml. This configuration file is for creating your user cluster.

Familiarize yourself with the configuration file by scanning the user cluster configuration file document. You might want to keep this document open in a separate tab or window, because you will refer to it as you complete the following steps.


Set the name field to a name of your choice for the user cluster.


This field is already filled in for you. It specifies the version of GKE on VMware. For example, 1.11.0-gke.543


The values you set in the vCenter section of your admin cluster configuration file are global. That is, they apply to your admin cluster and its associated user clusters.

For each user cluster that you create, you have the option of overriding some of the global vCenter values.

To override any of the global vCenter values, fill in the relevant fields in the vCenter section of your user cluster configuration file.

In particular, you might want to use separate vSphere clusters for your admin cluster and user clusters, and you might want to use separate data centers for your admin cluster and user clusters.

Use one data center and one vSphere cluster

The default option is to use one data center and one vSphere cluster for both the admin cluster and any user clusters. The values in the admin cluster configuration file are used for the user cluster as well. Do not set any vCenter values in the user cluster configuration file.

Create a user cluster in a separate vSphere cluster

This feature is in preview for version 1.11.

If you want to create a user cluster that is in its own vSphere cluster, specify a value for vCenter.cluster in the user cluster configuration file.

If your admin cluster and user cluster are in separate vSphere clusters, they can be in the same data center or different data centers.

Create a user cluster with a separate data center

This feature is in preview for version 1.11.

The user cluster and admin cluster can be in different data centers. In that case, they are also in separate vSphere clusters.

If you specify vCenter.datacenter in the user cluster configuration file, then you must also specify vCenter.datastore and vCenter.networkName, and you must specify either vCenter.cluster or vCenter.resourcePool.

To use different data centers for the admin cluster and user cluster, we recommend that you create a separate datastore for each user cluster control plane in the admin cluster data center, so that the admin cluster control plane and the user cluster control planes have isolated datastore failure domains. Although you can use the admin cluster datastore for user cluster control-plane nodes, that puts the user cluster control-plane nodes and the admin cluster into the same datastore failure domain.

Different vCenter account for a user cluster in its own data center

A user cluster can use a different vCenter account, with different vCenter.credentials, from the admin cluster. The vCenter account for the admin cluster needs access to the admin cluster data center, while the vCenter account for the user cluster only needs access to the user cluster datacenter.


Decide how you want your cluster nodes to get their IP addresses. The options are:

  • From a DHCP server that you set up ahead of time. Set network.ipMode.type to "dhcp".

  • From a list of static IP addresses that you provide. Set network.ipMode.type to "static", and create an IP block file that provides the static IP addresses. For an example of an IP block file, see Example of filled-in configuration files.

Fill in the rest of the fields in the network section as needed:

  • If you have decided to use static IP addresses for your user cluster nodes, the network.ipMode.ipBlockFilePath field and the network.hostconfig section are required. The network.hostconfig section holds information about NTP servers, DNS servers, and DNS search domains used by your cluster nodes.

    If you are using the Seesaw load balancer, the network.hostconfig section is required even if you intend to use DHCP for your cluster nodes.

  • The network.podCIDR and network.serviceCIDR have prepopulated values that you can leave unchanged unless they conflict with addresses already being used in your network. Kubernetes uses these ranges to assign IP addresses to Pods and Services in your cluster.

Regardless of whether you rely on a DHCP server or specify a list of static IP addresses, you need to have enough IP addresses available for your user cluster. This includes the nodes in your user cluster and the nodes in the admin cluster that run the control plane for your user cluster. For an explanation of how many IP addresses you need, see Plan your IP addresses.

Firewall rules for a user cluster with a separate network.vCenter.networkName value

In their respective configuration files, the admin cluster and the user cluster can use separate network.vCenter.networkName values that represent different VLANs and different datacenters. However, the following cross-VLAN communication must be allowed.

  • User nodes can access ports 443 and 8132 on the user cluster control-plane VIP address and get return packets from them.


Set aside a VIP for the Kubernetes API server of your user cluster. Set aside another VIP for the ingress service of your user cluster. Provide your VIPs as values for loadBalancer.vips.controlPlaneVIP and loadBalancer.vips.ingressVIP.

For more information, see VIPs in the user cluster subnet and VIPs in the admin cluster subnet.

Decide what type of load balancing you want to use. The options are:

For more information about load balancing options, see Overview of load balancing.


Decide whether you want to enable Dataplane V2 for your user cluster, and set enableDataplaneV2 accordingly.


If you plan to have a Windows node pool, decide whether you want to enable Windows Dataplane V2, and set enableWindowsDataplaneV2 accordingly.


If you plan to create an egress NAT gateway, set advancedNetworking to true.


Decide whether you want to configure multiple network interfaces for Pods, and set multipleNetworkInterfaces accordingly.


If you want to disable the deployment of vSphere CSI components, set storage.vSphereCSIDisabled to true.


The control plane for your user cluster runs on nodes in the admin cluster.

In the masterNode section, you can specify how many control-plane nodes you want for your user cluster. You can also specify a datastore for the control-plane nodes and whether you want to enable automatic resizing for the nodes.


A node pool is a group of nodes in a cluster that all have the same configuration. For example, the nodes in one pool could run Windows and the nodes in another pool could run Linux.

You must specify at least one node pool by filling in the nodePools section.

For more information, see Node pools and Creating and managing node pools.


Set antiAffinityGroups.enabled to true or false.

This field specifies whether GKE on VMware creates Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) anti-affinity rules for your user cluster nodes, causing them to be spread across at least three physical hosts in your data center.


If you want to enable Cloud Logging and Cloud Monitoring for your cluster, fill in the stackdriver section.


Your user cluster must be registered to a Google Cloud fleet.

Fill in the gkeConnect section to specify a fleet host project and an associated service account.


If you want to enable usage metering for your cluster, then fill in the usageMetering section.


If you want to integrate the audit logs from your cluster's Kubernetes API server with Cloud Audit Logs, fill in the cloudAuditLogging section.

Example of filled-in configuration files

Here is an example of a filled-in IP block file and a filled-in user cluster configuration file. The configuration enables some, but not all, of the available features.


  - netmask:
    - ip:
      hostname: user-host1
    - ip:
      hostname: user-host2
    - ip:
      hostname: user-host3
    - ip:
      hostname: user-host4
    - ip:
      hostname: user-host5
    - ip:
      hostname: user-host6


apiVersion: v1
kind: UserCluster
name: "gke-user-01"
gkeOnPremVersion: 1.11.0-gke.543
    - ""
    - ""
    - ""
    type: dhcp
    ipBlockFilePath: "vc-01-ipblock-user.yaml"
    networkName: "vc01-net-1"
    controlPlaneVIP: ""
    ingressVIP: ""
  kind: "MetalLB"
    - name: "gke-address-pool-01"
      - " -"
enableDataplaneV2: true
  cpus: 4
  memoryMB: 8192
  replicas: 1
- name: "gke-node-pool-01"
  cpus: 4
  memoryMB: 8192
  replicas: 3
  osImageType: "ubuntu_containerd"
  enabled: true
  projectID: "my-project-123"
  registerServiceAccountKeyPath: "connect-register-sa-2203040617.json"
  projectID: "my-project-123"
  clusterLocation: "us-central1"
  enableVPC: false
  serviceAccountKeyPath: "log-mon-sa-2203040617.json"
  enabled: true

Validate your configuration file

After you've filled in your user cluster configuration file, run gkectl check-config to verify that the file is valid:

gkectl check-config --kubeconfig ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG --config USER_CLUSTER_CONFIG

Replace the following:

  • ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG: the path of the kubeconfig file for your admin cluster

  • USER_CLUSTER_CONFIG: the path of your user cluster configuration file

If the command returns any failure messages, fix the issues and validate the file again.

If you want to skip the more time-consuming validations, pass the --fast flag. To skip individual validations, use the --skip-validation-xxx flags. To learn more about the check-config command, see Running preflight checks.

3. (Optional) Create a Seesaw load balancer for your user cluster

If you have chosen to use the bundled Seesaw load balancer, do the step in this section. Otherwise, skip this section.

Create and configure the VMs for your Seesaw load balancer:

gkectl create loadbalancer --kubeconfig ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG --config USER_CLUSTER_CONFIG

4. Create a user cluster

Create a user cluster:

gkectl create cluster --kubeconfig ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG --config USER_CLUSTER_CONFIG 

Locate the user cluster kubeconfig file

The gkectl create cluster command creates a kubeconfig file named USER_CLUSTER_NAME-kubeconfig in the current directory. You will need this kubeconfig file later to interact with your user cluster.

If you like, you can change the name and location of your kubeconfig file.

5. Verify that your user cluster is running

Verify that your user cluster is running:

kubectl get nodes --kubeconfig USER_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG

Replace USER_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG with the path of your user cluster kubeconfig file.

The output shows the user cluster nodes. For example:

my-user-cluster-node-pool-69-d46d77885-7b7tx   Ready ...
my-user-cluster-node-pool-69-d46d77885-lsvzk   Ready ...
my-user-cluster-node-pool-69-d46d77885-sswjk   Ready ...


See Troubleshooting cluster creation and upgrade.

What's next