Reducing add-on resource usage in smaller clusters

This page explains how you can reduce the resources consumed by Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) cluster add-ons. Use these techniques on small clusters, such as clusters with three or fewer nodes or clusters that use machine types with limited resources.


In addition to your workload, cluster nodes run several add-ons that integrate the node with the cluster control plane and provide other functionality. As such, there is a disparity between a node's total resources and the resources that are available for your workload. You can learn more about GKE's cluster architecture.

The default configurations of these add-ons are appropriate for typical clusters, but you can fine-tune the resource usage of add-ons depending on your particular cluster configuration. You can also disable some add-ons that aren't required by your use case.

Fine-tuning is especially useful for clusters with limited compute resources, for example clusters with a single node or very few nodes, or clusters that run on low-cost machine types. You can use a small cluster to try out GKE or to experiment with new features.

Configuring add-ons

You can configure each individual add-on to reduce its impact on node resources.

Add-ons provide visibility and debugging for your cluster. For instance, if you disable monitoring on a cluster running production workloads, problems will be more difficult to debug.

Cloud Logging

Cloud Logging automatically collects, processes, and stores your container and system logs.

You can disable Cloud Logging entirely, or leave it enabled but restrict its resource usage by fine-tuning the Fluentd addon.

Viewing logs when Cloud Logging is disabled

When Cloud Logging is disabled, you can still view recent log entries. To view logs for a specific Pod:

kubectl logs -f pod-name

where the -f option streams logs.

To view the logs from all pods matching a selector:

kubectl logs -l selector

where selector is a deployment selector, for example 'app=frontend'.

Tuning Fluentd

If you choose not to disable logging, you can constrain the resources used by logging by fine-tuning Fluentd.

Fluentd collects logs from your nodes and sends them to Google Cloud's operations suite. The Fluentd agent is deployed to your cluster using a DaemonSet so that an instance of the agent runs on each node of your cluster. For applications that write a large quantity of logging data, Fluentd might require additional resources.

You can tune Fluentd's resource allocation by creating a scaling policy specific to your requirements. A scaling policy defines a Pod's resource requests and limits. Refer to Managing Compute Resources for Containers to learn how the Kubernetes scheduler handles resource requests and limits. For more information about how resource requests and limits affect quality of services (QoS), see Resource Quality of Service in Kubernetes.

Expand the following section for instructions on how to measure Fluentd's resource usage and how to write a custom scaling policy using these values.

Cloud Monitoring

We recommend that you use Cloud Monitoring. However, you can disable monitoring in order to reclaim some resources.

For more information about Cloud Monitoring, refer to the overview of GKE monitoring.

If you use the Horizontal Pod autoscaler add-on together with custom metrics from Cloud Monitoring, you must disable Horizontal Pod Autoscaler (HPA) on the cluster before you can fully disable Cloud Monitoring.

Kubernetes Engine Monitoring

To enable or disable Kubernetes Engine Monitoring in your cluster, use the Kubernetes console. Click this link to go to the console.

Horizontal Pod autoscaling

Horizontal Pod Autoscaling (HPA) scales the replicas of your deployments based on metrics like CPU usage or memory. If you don’t need HPA and you've already disabled Cloud Monitoring, you can also disable HPA.

To disable HPA:

gcloud container clusters update cluster-name \

To re-enable HPA:

gcloud container clusters update cluster-name \

Kube DNS

Kube DNS schedules a DNS Deployment and service in your cluster, and the Pods in your cluster use Kube DNS service to resolve DNS names to IP addresses for Services, Pods, Nodes, as well as public IP addresses. Kube DNS resolves public domain names like, and it resolves service names like servicename.namespace.svc.cluster.local. You can learn more about DNS for Services and Pods.

By default, GKE runs several Kube DNS replicas for high availability. If you don't require highly available DNS, you can conserve resources by reducing the number of Kube DNS replicas. If you don't require DNS name resolution at all, you can disable Kube DNS entirely. If you disable Kube DNS, you can configure external DNS on your Pods.

Reducing Kube DNS replication

To turn off the kube-dns autoscaler and reduce kube-dns to 1 replica:

kubectl scale --replicas=0 deployment/kube-dns-autoscaler --namespace=kube-system
kubectl scale --replicas=1 deployment/kube-dns --namespace=kube-system

To enable autoscaling:

kubectl scale --replicas=1 deployment/kube-dns-autoscaler --namespace=kube-system

For more precise control of autoscaling, you can tune the autoscaling parameters.

To learn how to set up a custom kube-dns Deployment, see Setting up a custom kube-dns Deployment.

Disabling Kube DNS

You can completely disable Kube DNS. Kube DNS is required for workloads that resolve the DNS name of any dependent service. This includes public domain names and the names of cluster services.

To disable Kube DNS:

kubectl scale --replicas=0 deployment/kube-dns-autoscaler --namespace=kube-system
kubectl scale --replicas=0 deployment/kube-dns --namespace=kube-system

To enable Kube DNS:

kubectl scale --replicas=1 deployment/kube-dns --namespace=kube-system

where --replicas=1 is your desired number of replicas.

To enable Kube DNS autoscaling:

kubectl scale --replicas=1 deployment/kube-dns-autoscaler --namespace=kube-system
External DNS lookups without Kube DNS

You can configure your Pods to use external domain name resolution with a DNS service of your choice. The following example shows a Pod that uses Google Public DNS for external name lookups:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  namespace: default
  name: dns-example
    - name: test
      image: nginx
  dnsPolicy: "None"
Service discovery without Kube DNS

You can use service environment variables as an alternative to DNS-based service discovery. When a Pod is created, service environment variables are automatically created for every service in the same Namespace as the Pod. This is more restrictive than Kube DNS because environment variables are only created for services that are created before the Pod is created.

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