Reducing add-on resource usage in smaller clusters

This page explains how you can reduce the resources consumed by 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 master 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. Visit the cluster architecture documentation for more details.

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. Clusters created using the Your first cluster cluster template can also benefit from fine-tuning.

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.

Stackdriver Logging

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

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

Viewing logs when Stackdriver Logging is disabled

When Stackdriver 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 as described previously, you can constrain the resources used by logging by fine-tuning Fluentd.

Fluentd collects logs from your nodes and sends them to Stackdriver. 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.

Stackdriver Monitoring

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

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

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

Stackdriver Kubernetes Monitoring

To enable or disable Stackdriver Kubernetes 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 Stackdriver Monitoring, you can also disable HPA.

To disable HPA:

gcloud container clusters update [CLUSTER_NAME] --update-addons=HorizontalPodAutoscaling=DISABLED

To enable HPA:

gcloud container clusters update [CLUSTER_NAME] --update-addons=HorizontalPodAutoscaling=ENABLED

Kubernetes Dashboard

You can disable the Kubernetes Dashboard add-on to conserve cluster resources. There is little or no downside to disabling the dashboard because it is redundant to the GKE dashboards available in Google Cloud Platform Console.

To disable the dashboard:

gcloud container clusters update [CLUSTER_NAME] 

To enable to dashboard:

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. For more information on DNS based service discovery, see DNS for Services and Pods.

By default, several Kube DNS replicas run in order to maintain high availability. If you do not require highly available DNS resolution, you can conserve cluster resources by reducing the number of Kube DNS replicas to one. If you don't require DNS name resolution at all, you can disable Kube DNS entirely.

Reducing Kube DNS replication

If your cluster doesn't require highly available DNS resolution, you can conserve cluster resources by turning off Kube DNS horizontal autoscaling and reducing the number of replicas to one.

To turn off the kube-dns autoscaler and reduce kube-dns to a single 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

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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