Release channels

Google Kubernetes Engine release channels (alpha) provide a way to manage automatic upgrades for your clusters. When you create a new cluster, you can choose its release channel. Your cluster will only be upgraded to versions offered in that channel. This reduces complexity and allows you to focus on the features and level of stability your cluster needs, rather than managing the specific version of GKE running on each cluster.

What channels are available?

Initially, we are introducing the Rapid channel, which allows you to preview and test early access GKE v1.14.x builds in non-production environments.

A new release will be available in the Rapid channel roughly once per week, and your clusters are upgraded automatically.

When a minor version has demonstrated stability in the Rapid channel, it will be promoted to the Regular channel, Eventually, the minor version will be promoted to the Stable channel. Each promotion signals a graduating level of stability and production-readiness, based on observed performance of clusters running that version.

When all release channels are available, here's what to expect:

Channel Approximate upgrade cadence Intended users Expectations
Rapid Weekly Early testers and developers who requires new features. The absolute latest components, with less testing and potentially more unresolved issues than other channels, including the potential for issues with no known workarounds. Not supported for production workloads. Not covered by the GKE SLA.
Regular Every few weeks Production users who need features not yet offered in the Stable channel These versions have passed internal validation, but don't have enough historical data to guarantee their stability. Known issues generally have known workarounds.
Stable Every few months Production users who need stability above all else, and for whom frequent upgrades are too risky These versions have passed internal validation and have been shown to be stable and reliable in production, based on the observed performance of those clusters.

When a new release is available in a release channel, clusters subscribed to that channel are upgraded automatically.

Critical security patches will be delivered to all release channels, to protect your clusters and Google's infrastructure.

Exact release schedules depend on multiple factors and cannot be guaranteed.

Signing up

To sign up for access to the Rapid channel, fill out this form. You may be contacted to provide feedback to help improve GKE.

Finding out what's new

Separate release notes will be available for each release channel, in addition to the overall release notes.

Release channel Release notes
Rapid channel HTML or Atom feed

Selecting a release channel

Currently, you cannot use the Google Cloud Platform Console to create a cluster using the Rapid channel. Instead, use the gcloud command to create these clusters.

To create your cluster, use a command like the following, including the flag --release-channel rapid:

gcloud alpha container clusters create [CLUSTER-NAME] \
      --zone [ZONE] \
      --release-channel rapid

Auto-upgrade is enabled (and cannot be disabled), so your cluster is updated automatically from releases available in the Rapid channel.


Keep the following caveats in mind when using release channels.

Changing and disabling release channels

When more release channels become available, you will be able to change the release channel for a given cluster.

However, you cannot disable release channels on a cluster where they are enabled. To stop using release channels, you must recreate the cluster without the --release-channel flag.

Differences between Rapid-channel clusters and alpha clusters

Clusters created using the Rapid release channel are not alpha clusters. Here are the differences:

  • Clusters that use release channels can be upgraded, and auto-upgrade is enabled and cannot be disabled. Alpha clusters cannot be upgraded.
  • Clusters that use release channels do not expire. Alpha clusters expire after 30 days.
  • Alpha APIs are not enabled on clusters that use release channels.

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Kubernetes Engine Documentation