Using Confidential GKE Nodes

This page shows you how to use the Confidential Google Kubernetes Engine Nodes feature. Confidential GKE Nodes provides encryption-in-use for your workloads.


Confidential GKE Nodes is built on top of Compute Engine Confidential VM, which encrypts the memory contents of VMs in-use. Clusters with Confidential GKE Nodes enabled enforce the use of Confidential VM for all of your nodes. This means that your nodes, including the workloads running on them, are encrypted in-use. For visibility over your control plane, use Access Transparency.

There is no additional cost to deploy Confidential GKE Nodes, other than the cost of Compute Engine Confidential VM. However, Confidential GKE Nodes might generate slightly more log data on startup than standard nodes. For information on logs pricing, see Pricing for Google Cloud's operations suite.


Confidential GKE Nodes is available in the following situations:

Before you begin

Before you start, make sure you have performed the following tasks:

  • Ensure that you have enabled the Google Kubernetes Engine API.
  • Enable Google Kubernetes Engine API
  • Ensure that you have installed the Cloud SDK.
  • Set up default gcloud command-line tool settings for your project by using one of the following methods:
    • Use gcloud init, if you want to be walked through setting project defaults.
    • Use gcloud config, to individually set your project ID, zone, and region.

    gcloud init

    1. Run gcloud init and follow the directions:

      gcloud init

      If you are using SSH on a remote server, use the --console-only flag to prevent the command from launching a browser:

      gcloud init --console-only
    2. Follow the instructions to authorize the gcloud tool to use your Google Cloud account.
    3. Create a new configuration or select an existing one.
    4. Choose a Google Cloud project.
    5. Choose a default Compute Engine zone.
    6. Choose a default Compute Engine region.

    gcloud config

    1. Set your default project ID:
      gcloud config set project PROJECT_ID
    2. Set your default Compute Engine region (for example, us-central1):
      gcloud config set compute/region COMPUTE_REGION
    3. Set your default Compute Engine zone (for example, us-central1-c):
      gcloud config set compute/zone COMPUTE_ZONE
    4. Update gcloud to the latest version:
      gcloud components update

    By setting default locations, you can avoid errors in gcloud tool like the following: One of [--zone, --region] must be supplied: Please specify location.

Enabling Confidential GKE Nodes in a new cluster

You can create a new cluster with Confidential GKE Nodes enabled by using gcloud tool or Google Cloud Console.


When creating a new cluster, specify the --enable-confidential-nodes option in the gcloud command-line tool:

gcloud beta container clusters create CLUSTER_NAME \
  --release-channel=RELEASE_CHANNEL \
  --machine-type N2D_MACHINE_TYPE \

Replace the following:

  • CLUSTER_NAME: the name of your new cluster.

  • RELEASE_CHANNEL: the release channel must be either regular or rapid.

  • N2D_MACHINE_TYPE: the machine type for your cluster's default node pool, which must be an N2d machine type.


  1. Go to the Google Kubernetes Engine page in the Cloud Console.

    Go to Google Kubernetes Engine

  2. Click Create.

  3. In the Standard section, click Configure.

  4. From the navigation pane, under Cluster, click Security.

  5. Select the Enable Confidential GKE Nodes checkbox.

  6. Configure your cluster as desired.

  7. Click Create.

See Creating a cluster for more details about creating clusters.

After creating a cluster with Confidential GKE Nodes, any node pools created in this cluster can only be confidential nodes.

Verifying that Confidential GKE Nodes are enabled

You can verify that your cluster is using Confidential GKE Nodes with the gcloud command-line tool or Google Cloud Console.


Describe the cluster:

gcloud beta container clusters describe CLUSTER_NAME

If Confidential GKE Nodes is enabled, the output of the command will include these lines:

  enabled: true


  1. Go to the Google Kubernetes Engine page in Cloud Console.

    Go to Google Kubernetes Engine

  2. Click the name of the cluster you want to inspect.

  3. Under Security, in the Confidential GKE Nodes field, verify that Confidential GKE Nodes is Enabled.

To validate the confidentiality of your nodes, you can view launch attestation events for individual nodes in Compute Engine logs. For more information, see Validating Confidential VM using Cloud Monitoring.

Running applications on Confidential GKE Nodes

Google's approach to confidential computing is to enable an effortless lift and shift for existing applications. GKE workloads that you run today can run on Confidential GKE Nodes without code changes.

Optionally, if you want to declaratively express that your workloads must only run on clusters with Confidential GKE Nodes, you can use the node selector. Here's an example Pod spec that uses this selector:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  - name: my-confidential-app


Consider the following limitations before enabling Confidential GKE Nodes on a new cluster:

  • You cannot enable Confidential GKE Nodes on existing clusters.
  • You cannot disable Confidential GKE Nodes after it is enabled on a cluster.
  • Confidential GKE Nodes is not compatible with GPUs.
  • Confidential GKE Nodes is not compatible with sole tenant nodes.
  • Currently, you cannot add local SSDs or persistent disks when Confidential GKE Nodes is enabled.
  • Only Container-Optimized OS nodes are supported. Ubuntu and Windows nodes are not supported.
  • Confidential VM for control plane (master) nodes is not supported.

What's next