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Working with Kubernetes Objects

Kubernetes objects are persistent entities in the Kubernetes system. Kubernetes uses these entities to represent the state of your cluster. Learn about the Kubernetes object model and how to work with these objects.

1 - Understanding Kubernetes Objects

This page explains how Kubernetes objects are represented in the Kubernetes API, and how you can express them in .yaml format.

Understanding Kubernetes objects

Kubernetes objects are persistent entities in the Kubernetes system. Kubernetes uses these entities to represent the state of your cluster. Specifically, they can describe:

  • What containerized applications are running (and on which nodes)
  • The resources available to those applications
  • The policies around how those applications behave, such as restart policies, upgrades, and fault-tolerance

A Kubernetes object is a "record of intent"--once you create the object, the Kubernetes system will constantly work to ensure that object exists. By creating an object, you're effectively telling the Kubernetes system what you want your cluster's workload to look like; this is your cluster's desired state.

To work with Kubernetes objects--whether to create, modify, or delete them--you'll need to use the Kubernetes API. When you use the kubectl command-line interface, for example, the CLI makes the necessary Kubernetes API calls for you. You can also use the Kubernetes API directly in your own programs using one of the Client Libraries.

Object Spec and Status

Almost every Kubernetes object includes two nested object fields that govern the object's configuration: the object spec and the object status. For objects that have a spec, you have to set this when you create the object, providing a description of the characteristics you want the resource to have: its desired state.

The status describes the current state of the object, supplied and updated by the Kubernetes system and its components. The Kubernetes control plane continually and actively manages every object's actual state to match the desired state you supplied.

For example: in Kubernetes, a Deployment is an object that can represent an application running on your cluster. When you create the Deployment, you might set the Deployment spec to specify that you want three replicas of the application to be running. The Kubernetes system reads the Deployment spec and starts three instances of your desired application--updating the status to match your spec. If any of those instances should fail (a status change), the Kubernetes system responds to the difference between spec and status by making a correction--in this case, starting a replacement instance.

For more information on the object spec, status, and metadata, see the Kubernetes API Conventions.

Describing a Kubernetes object

When you create an object in Kubernetes, you must provide the object spec that describes its desired state, as well as some basic information about the object (such as a name). When you use the Kubernetes API to create the object (either directly or via kubectl), that API request must include that information as JSON in the request body. Most often, you provide the information to kubectl in a .yaml file. kubectl converts the information to JSON when making the API request.

Here's an example .yaml file that shows the required fields and object spec for a Kubernetes Deployment:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: nginx-deployment
spec:
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: nginx
  replicas: 2 # tells deployment to run 2 pods matching the template
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: nginx
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx:1.14.2
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80

One way to create a Deployment using a .yaml file like the one above is to use the kubectl apply command in the kubectl command-line interface, passing the .yaml file as an argument. Here's an example:

kubectl apply -f https://k8s.io/examples/application/deployment.yaml

The output is similar to this:

deployment.apps/nginx-deployment created

Required Fields

In the .yaml file for the Kubernetes object you want to create, you'll need to set values for the following fields:

  • apiVersion - Which version of the Kubernetes API you're using to create this object
  • kind - What kind of object you want to create
  • metadata - Data that helps uniquely identify the object, including a name string, UID, and optional namespace
  • spec - What state you desire for the object

The precise format of the object spec is different for every Kubernetes object, and contains nested fields specific to that object. The Kubernetes API Reference can help you find the spec format for all of the objects you can create using Kubernetes.

For example, see the spec field for the Pod API reference. For each Pod, the .spec field specifies the pod and its desired state (such as the container image name for each container within that pod). Another example of an object specification is the spec field for the StatefulSet API. For StatefulSet, the .spec field specifies the StatefulSet and its desired state. Within the .spec of a StatefulSet is a template for Pod objects. That template describes Pods that the StatefulSet controller will create in order to satisfy the StatefulSet specification. Different kinds of object can also have different .status; again, the API reference pages detail the structure of that .status field, and its content for each different type of object.

What's next

2 - Kubernetes Object Management

The kubectl command-line tool supports several different ways to create and manage Kubernetes objects. This document provides an overview of the different approaches. Read the Kubectl book for details of managing objects by Kubectl.

Management techniques

Management techniqueOperates onRecommended environmentSupported writersLearning curve
Imperative commandsLive objectsDevelopment projects1+Lowest
Imperative object configurationIndividual filesProduction projects1Moderate
Declarative object configurationDirectories of filesProduction projects1+Highest

Imperative commands

When using imperative commands, a user operates directly on live objects in a cluster. The user provides operations to the kubectl command as arguments or flags.

This is the recommended way to get started or to run a one-off task in a cluster. Because this technique operates directly on live objects, it provides no history of previous configurations.

Examples

Run an instance of the nginx container by creating a Deployment object:

kubectl create deployment nginx --image nginx

Trade-offs

Advantages compared to object configuration:

  • Commands are expressed as a single action word.
  • Commands require only a single step to make changes to the cluster.

Disadvantages compared to object configuration:

  • Commands do not integrate with change review processes.
  • Commands do not provide an audit trail associated with changes.
  • Commands do not provide a source of records except for what is live.
  • Commands do not provide a template for creating new objects.

Imperative object configuration

In imperative object configuration, the kubectl command specifies the operation (create, replace, etc.), optional flags and at least one file name. The file specified must contain a full definition of the object in YAML or JSON format.

See the API reference for more details on object definitions.

Examples

Create the objects defined in a configuration file:

kubectl create -f nginx.yaml

Delete the objects defined in two configuration files:

kubectl delete -f nginx.yaml -f redis.yaml

Update the objects defined in a configuration file by overwriting the live configuration:

kubectl replace -f nginx.yaml

Trade-offs

Advantages compared to imperative commands:

  • Object configuration can be stored in a source control system such as Git.
  • Object configuration can integrate with processes such as reviewing changes before push and audit trails.
  • Object configuration provides a template for creating new objects.

Disadvantages compared to imperative commands:

  • Object configuration requires basic understanding of the object schema.
  • Object configuration requires the additional step of writing a YAML file.

Advantages compared to declarative object configuration:

  • Imperative object configuration behavior is simpler and easier to understand.
  • As of Kubernetes version 1.5, imperative object configuration is more mature.

Disadvantages compared to declarative object configuration:

  • Imperative object configuration works best on files, not directories.
  • Updates to live objects must be reflected in configuration files, or they will be lost during the next replacement.

Declarative object configuration

When using declarative object configuration, a user operates on object configuration files stored locally, however the user does not define the operations to be taken on the files. Create, update, and delete operations are automatically detected per-object by kubectl. This enables working on directories, where different operations might be needed for different objects.

Examples

Process all object configuration files in the configs directory, and create or patch the live objects. You can first diff to see what changes are going to be made, and then apply:

kubectl diff -f configs/
kubectl apply -f configs/

Recursively process directories:

kubectl diff -R -f configs/
kubectl apply -R -f configs/

Trade-offs

Advantages compared to imperative object configuration:

  • Changes made directly to live objects are retained, even if they are not merged back into the configuration files.
  • Declarative object configuration has better support for operating on directories and automatically detecting operation types (create, patch, delete) per-object.

Disadvantages compared to imperative object configuration:

  • Declarative object configuration is harder to debug and understand results when they are unexpected.
  • Partial updates using diffs create complex merge and patch operations.

What's next

3 - Object Names and IDs

Each object in your cluster has a Name that is unique for that type of resource. Every Kubernetes object also has a UID that is unique across your whole cluster.

For example, you can only have one Pod named myapp-1234 within the same namespace, but you can have one Pod and one Deployment that are each named myapp-1234.

For non-unique user-provided attributes, Kubernetes provides labels and annotations.

Names

A client-provided string that refers to an object in a resource URL, such as /api/v1/pods/some-name.

Only one object of a given kind can have a given name at a time. However, if you delete the object, you can make a new object with the same name.

Below are four types of commonly used name constraints for resources.

DNS Subdomain Names

Most resource types require a name that can be used as a DNS subdomain name as defined in RFC 1123. This means the name must:

  • contain no more than 253 characters
  • contain only lowercase alphanumeric characters, '-' or '.'
  • start with an alphanumeric character
  • end with an alphanumeric character

RFC 1123 Label Names

Some resource types require their names to follow the DNS label standard as defined in RFC 1123. This means the name must:

  • contain at most 63 characters
  • contain only lowercase alphanumeric characters or '-'
  • start with an alphanumeric character
  • end with an alphanumeric character

RFC 1035 Label Names

Some resource types require their names to follow the DNS label standard as defined in RFC 1035. This means the name must:

  • contain at most 63 characters
  • contain only lowercase alphanumeric characters or '-'
  • start with an alphabetic character
  • end with an alphanumeric character

Path Segment Names

Some resource types require their names to be able to be safely encoded as a path segment. In other words, the name may not be "." or ".." and the name may not contain "/" or "%".

Here's an example manifest for a Pod named nginx-demo.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: nginx-demo
spec:
  containers:
  - name: nginx
    image: nginx:1.14.2
    ports:
    - containerPort: 80

UIDs

A Kubernetes systems-generated string to uniquely identify objects.

Every object created over the whole lifetime of a Kubernetes cluster has a distinct UID. It is intended to distinguish between historical occurrences of similar entities.

Kubernetes UIDs are universally unique identifiers (also known as UUIDs). UUIDs are standardized as ISO/IEC 9834-8 and as ITU-T X.667.

What's next

4 - Namespaces

In Kubernetes, namespaces provides a mechanism for isolating groups of resources within a single cluster. Names of resources need to be unique within a namespace, but not across namespaces. Namespace-based scoping is applicable only for namespaced objects (e.g. Deployments, Services, etc) and not for cluster-wide objects (e.g. StorageClass, Nodes, PersistentVolumes, etc).

When to Use Multiple Namespaces

Namespaces are intended for use in environments with many users spread across multiple teams, or projects. For clusters with a few to tens of users, you should not need to create or think about namespaces at all. Start using namespaces when you need the features they provide.

Namespaces provide a scope for names. Names of resources need to be unique within a namespace, but not across namespaces. Namespaces cannot be nested inside one another and each Kubernetes resource can only be in one namespace.

Namespaces are a way to divide cluster resources between multiple users (via resource quota).

It is not necessary to use multiple namespaces to separate slightly different resources, such as different versions of the same software: use labels to distinguish resources within the same namespace.

Working with Namespaces

Creation and deletion of namespaces are described in the Admin Guide documentation for namespaces.

Viewing namespaces

You can list the current namespaces in a cluster using:

kubectl get namespace
NAME              STATUS   AGE
default           Active   1d
kube-node-lease   Active   1d
kube-public       Active   1d
kube-system       Active   1d

Kubernetes starts with four initial namespaces:

  • default The default namespace for objects with no other namespace
  • kube-system The namespace for objects created by the Kubernetes system
  • kube-public This namespace is created automatically and is readable by all users (including those not authenticated). This namespace is mostly reserved for cluster usage, in case that some resources should be visible and readable publicly throughout the whole cluster. The public aspect of this namespace is only a convention, not a requirement.
  • kube-node-lease This namespace holds Lease objects associated with each node. Node leases allow the kubelet to send heartbeats so that the control plane can detect node failure.

Setting the namespace for a request

To set the namespace for a current request, use the --namespace flag.

For example:

kubectl run nginx --image=nginx --namespace=<insert-namespace-name-here>
kubectl get pods --namespace=<insert-namespace-name-here>

Setting the namespace preference

You can permanently save the namespace for all subsequent kubectl commands in that context.

kubectl config set-context --current --namespace=<insert-namespace-name-here>
# Validate it
kubectl config view --minify | grep namespace:

Namespaces and DNS

When you create a Service, it creates a corresponding DNS entry. This entry is of the form <service-name>.<namespace-name>.svc.cluster.local, which means that if a container only uses <service-name>, it will resolve to the service which is local to a namespace. This is useful for using the same configuration across multiple namespaces such as Development, Staging and Production. If you want to reach across namespaces, you need to use the fully qualified domain name (FQDN).

As a result, all namespace names must be valid RFC 1123 DNS labels.

Not All Objects are in a Namespace

Most Kubernetes resources (e.g. pods, services, replication controllers, and others) are in some namespaces. However namespace resources are not themselves in a namespace. And low-level resources, such as nodes and persistentVolumes, are not in any namespace.

To see which Kubernetes resources are and aren't in a namespace:

# In a namespace
kubectl api-resources --namespaced=true

# Not in a namespace
kubectl api-resources --namespaced=false

Automatic labelling

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes 1.21 [beta]

The Kubernetes control plane sets an immutable label kubernetes.io/metadata.name on all namespaces, provided that the NamespaceDefaultLabelName feature gate is enabled. The value of the label is the namespace name.

What's next

5 - Labels and Selectors

Labels are key/value pairs that are attached to objects, such as pods. Labels are intended to be used to specify identifying attributes of objects that are meaningful and relevant to users, but do not directly imply semantics to the core system. Labels can be used to organize and to select subsets of objects. Labels can be attached to objects at creation time and subsequently added and modified at any time. Each object can have a set of key/value labels defined. Each Key must be unique for a given object.

"metadata": {
  "labels": {
    "key1" : "value1",
    "key2" : "value2"
  }
}

Labels allow for efficient queries and watches and are ideal for use in UIs and CLIs. Non-identifying information should be recorded using annotations.

Motivation

Labels enable users to map their own organizational structures onto system objects in a loosely coupled fashion, without requiring clients to store these mappings.

Service deployments and batch processing pipelines are often multi-dimensional entities (e.g., multiple partitions or deployments, multiple release tracks, multiple tiers, multiple micro-services per tier). Management often requires cross-cutting operations, which breaks encapsulation of strictly hierarchical representations, especially rigid hierarchies determined by the infrastructure rather than by users.

Example labels:

  • "release" : "stable", "release" : "canary"
  • "environment" : "dev", "environment" : "qa", "environment" : "production"
  • "tier" : "frontend", "tier" : "backend", "tier" : "cache"
  • "partition" : "customerA", "partition" : "customerB"
  • "track" : "daily", "track" : "weekly"

These are examples of commonly used labels; you are free to develop your own conventions. Keep in mind that label Key must be unique for a given object.

Syntax and character set

Labels are key/value pairs. Valid label keys have two segments: an optional prefix and name, separated by a slash (/). The name segment is required and must be 63 characters or less, beginning and ending with an alphanumeric character ([a-z0-9A-Z]) with dashes (-), underscores (_), dots (.), and alphanumerics between. The prefix is optional. If specified, the prefix must be a DNS subdomain: a series of DNS labels separated by dots (.), not longer than 253 characters in total, followed by a slash (/).

If the prefix is omitted, the label Key is presumed to be private to the user. Automated system components (e.g. kube-scheduler, kube-controller-manager, kube-apiserver, kubectl, or other third-party automation) which add labels to end-user objects must specify a prefix.

The kubernetes.io/ and k8s.io/ prefixes are reserved for Kubernetes core components.

Valid label value:

  • must be 63 characters or less (can be empty),
  • unless empty, must begin and end with an alphanumeric character ([a-z0-9A-Z]),
  • could contain dashes (-), underscores (_), dots (.), and alphanumerics between.

For example, here's the configuration file for a Pod that has two labels environment: production and app: nginx :


apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: label-demo
  labels:
    environment: production
    app: nginx
spec:
  containers:
  - name: nginx
    image: nginx:1.14.2
    ports:
    - containerPort: 80

Label selectors

Unlike names and UIDs, labels do not provide uniqueness. In general, we expect many objects to carry the same label(s).

Via a label selector, the client/user can identify a set of objects. The label selector is the core grouping primitive in Kubernetes.

The API currently supports two types of selectors: equality-based and set-based. A label selector can be made of multiple requirements which are comma-separated. In the case of multiple requirements, all must be satisfied so the comma separator acts as a logical AND (&&) operator.

The semantics of empty or non-specified selectors are dependent on the context, and API types that use selectors should document the validity and meaning of them.

Equality-based requirement

Equality- or inequality-based requirements allow filtering by label keys and values. Matching objects must satisfy all of the specified label constraints, though they may have additional labels as well. Three kinds of operators are admitted =,==,!=. The first two represent equality (and are synonyms), while the latter represents inequality. For example:

environment = production
tier != frontend

The former selects all resources with key equal to environment and value equal to production. The latter selects all resources with key equal to tier and value distinct from frontend, and all resources with no labels with the tier key. One could filter for resources in production excluding frontend using the comma operator: environment=production,tier!=frontend

One usage scenario for equality-based label requirement is for Pods to specify node selection criteria. For example, the sample Pod below selects nodes with the label "accelerator=nvidia-tesla-p100".

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: cuda-test
spec:
  containers:
    - name: cuda-test
      image: "registry.k8s.io/cuda-vector-add:v0.1"
      resources:
        limits:
          nvidia.com/gpu: 1
  nodeSelector:
    accelerator: nvidia-tesla-p100

Set-based requirement

Set-based label requirements allow filtering keys according to a set of values. Three kinds of operators are supported: in,notin and exists (only the key identifier). For example:

environment in (production, qa)
tier notin (frontend, backend)
partition
!partition
  • The first example selects all resources with key equal to environment and value equal to production or qa.
  • The second example selects all resources with key equal to tier and values other than frontend and backend, and all resources with no labels with the tier key.
  • The third example selects all resources including a label with key partition; no values are checked.
  • The fourth example selects all resources without a label with key partition; no values are checked.

Similarly the comma separator acts as an AND operator. So filtering resources with a partition key (no matter the value) and with environment different than  qa can be achieved using partition,environment notin (qa). The set-based label selector is a general form of equality since environment=production is equivalent to environment in (production); similarly for != and notin.

Set-based requirements can be mixed with equality-based requirements. For example: partition in (customerA, customerB),environment!=qa.

API

LIST and WATCH filtering

LIST and WATCH operations may specify label selectors to filter the sets of objects returned using a query parameter. Both requirements are permitted (presented here as they would appear in a URL query string):

  • equality-based requirements: ?labelSelector=environment%3Dproduction,tier%3Dfrontend
  • set-based requirements: ?labelSelector=environment+in+%28production%2Cqa%29%2Ctier+in+%28frontend%29

Both label selector styles can be used to list or watch resources via a REST client. For example, targeting apiserver with kubectl and using equality-based one may write:

kubectl get pods -l environment=production,tier=frontend

or using set-based requirements:

kubectl get pods -l 'environment in (production),tier in (frontend)'

As already mentioned set-based requirements are more expressive.  For instance, they can implement the OR operator on values:

kubectl get pods -l 'environment in (production, qa)'

or restricting negative matching via exists operator:

kubectl get pods -l 'environment,environment notin (frontend)'

Set references in API objects

Some Kubernetes objects, such as services and replicationcontrollers, also use label selectors to specify sets of other resources, such as pods.

Service and ReplicationController

The set of pods that a service targets is defined with a label selector. Similarly, the population of pods that a replicationcontroller should manage is also defined with a label selector.

Labels selectors for both objects are defined in json or yaml files using maps, and only equality-based requirement selectors are supported:

"selector": {
    "component" : "redis",
}

or

selector:
    component: redis

this selector (respectively in json or yaml format) is equivalent to component=redis or component in (redis).

Resources that support set-based requirements

Newer resources, such as Job, Deployment, ReplicaSet, and DaemonSet, support set-based requirements as well.

selector:
  matchLabels:
    component: redis
  matchExpressions:
    - {key: tier, operator: In, values: [cache]}
    - {key: environment, operator: NotIn, values: [dev]}

matchLabels is a map of {key,value} pairs. A single {key,value} in the matchLabels map is equivalent to an element of matchExpressions, whose key field is "key", the operator is "In", and the values array contains only "value". matchExpressions is a list of pod selector requirements. Valid operators include In, NotIn, Exists, and DoesNotExist. The values set must be non-empty in the case of In and NotIn. All of the requirements, from both matchLabels and matchExpressions are ANDed together -- they must all be satisfied in order to match.

Selecting sets of nodes

One use case for selecting over labels is to constrain the set of nodes onto which a pod can schedule. See the documentation on node selection for more information.

6 - Annotations

You can use Kubernetes annotations to attach arbitrary non-identifying metadata to objects. Clients such as tools and libraries can retrieve this metadata.

Attaching metadata to objects

You can use either labels or annotations to attach metadata to Kubernetes objects. Labels can be used to select objects and to find collections of objects that satisfy certain conditions. In contrast, annotations are not used to identify and select objects. The metadata in an annotation can be small or large, structured or unstructured, and can include characters not permitted by labels.

Annotations, like labels, are key/value maps:

"metadata": {
  "annotations": {
    "key1" : "value1",
    "key2" : "value2"
  }
}

Here are some examples of information that could be recorded in annotations:

  • Fields managed by a declarative configuration layer. Attaching these fields as annotations distinguishes them from default values set by clients or servers, and from auto-generated fields and fields set by auto-sizing or auto-scaling systems.

  • Build, release, or image information like timestamps, release IDs, git branch, PR numbers, image hashes, and registry address.

  • Pointers to logging, monitoring, analytics, or audit repositories.

  • Client library or tool information that can be used for debugging purposes: for example, name, version, and build information.

  • User or tool/system provenance information, such as URLs of related objects from other ecosystem components.

  • Lightweight rollout tool metadata: for example, config or checkpoints.

  • Phone or pager numbers of persons responsible, or directory entries that specify where that information can be found, such as a team web site.

  • Directives from the end-user to the implementations to modify behavior or engage non-standard features.

Instead of using annotations, you could store this type of information in an external database or directory, but that would make it much harder to produce shared client libraries and tools for deployment, management, introspection, and the like.

Syntax and character set

Annotations are key/value pairs. Valid annotation keys have two segments: an optional prefix and name, separated by a slash (/). The name segment is required and must be 63 characters or less, beginning and ending with an alphanumeric character ([a-z0-9A-Z]) with dashes (-), underscores (_), dots (.), and alphanumerics between. The prefix is optional. If specified, the prefix must be a DNS subdomain: a series of DNS labels separated by dots (.), not longer than 253 characters in total, followed by a slash (/).

If the prefix is omitted, the annotation Key is presumed to be private to the user. Automated system components (e.g. kube-scheduler, kube-controller-manager, kube-apiserver, kubectl, or other third-party automation) which add annotations to end-user objects must specify a prefix.

The kubernetes.io/ and k8s.io/ prefixes are reserved for Kubernetes core components.

For example, here's the configuration file for a Pod that has the annotation imageregistry: https://hub.docker.com/ :


apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: annotations-demo
  annotations:
    imageregistry: "https://hub.docker.com/"
spec:
  containers:
  - name: nginx
    image: nginx:1.14.2
    ports:
    - containerPort: 80

What's next

Learn more about Labels and Selectors.

7 - Field Selectors

Field selectors let you select Kubernetes resources based on the value of one or more resource fields. Here are some examples of field selector queries:

  • metadata.name=my-service
  • metadata.namespace!=default
  • status.phase=Pending

This kubectl command selects all Pods for which the value of the status.phase field is Running:

kubectl get pods --field-selector status.phase=Running

Supported fields

Supported field selectors vary by Kubernetes resource type. All resource types support the metadata.name and metadata.namespace fields. Using unsupported field selectors produces an error. For example:

kubectl get ingress --field-selector foo.bar=baz
Error from server (BadRequest): Unable to find "ingresses" that match label selector "", field selector "foo.bar=baz": "foo.bar" is not a known field selector: only "metadata.name", "metadata.namespace"

Supported operators

You can use the =, ==, and != operators with field selectors (= and == mean the same thing). This kubectl command, for example, selects all Kubernetes Services that aren't in the default namespace:

kubectl get services  --all-namespaces --field-selector metadata.namespace!=default

Chained selectors

As with label and other selectors, field selectors can be chained together as a comma-separated list. This kubectl command selects all Pods for which the status.phase does not equal Running and the spec.restartPolicy field equals Always:

kubectl get pods --field-selector=status.phase!=Running,spec.restartPolicy=Always

Multiple resource types

You can use field selectors across multiple resource types. This kubectl command selects all Statefulsets and Services that are not in the default namespace:

kubectl get statefulsets,services --all-namespaces --field-selector metadata.namespace!=default

8 - Finalizers

Finalizers are namespaced keys that tell Kubernetes to wait until specific conditions are met before it fully deletes resources marked for deletion. Finalizers alert controllers to clean up resources the deleted object owned.

When you tell Kubernetes to delete an object that has finalizers specified for it, the Kubernetes API marks the object for deletion by populating .metadata.deletionTimestamp, and returns a 202 status code (HTTP "Accepted"). The target object remains in a terminating state while the control plane, or other components, take the actions defined by the finalizers. After these actions are complete, the controller removes the relevant finalizers from the target object. When the metadata.finalizers field is empty, Kubernetes considers the deletion complete and deletes the object.

You can use finalizers to control garbage collection of resources. For example, you can define a finalizer to clean up related resources or infrastructure before the controller deletes the target resource.

You can use finalizers to control garbage collection of resources by alerting controllers to perform specific cleanup tasks before deleting the target resource.

Finalizers don't usually specify the code to execute. Instead, they are typically lists of keys on a specific resource similar to annotations. Kubernetes specifies some finalizers automatically, but you can also specify your own.

How finalizers work

When you create a resource using a manifest file, you can specify finalizers in the metadata.finalizers field. When you attempt to delete the resource, the API server handling the delete request notices the values in the finalizers field and does the following:

  • Modifies the object to add a metadata.deletionTimestamp field with the time you started the deletion.
  • Prevents the object from being removed until its metadata.finalizers field is empty.
  • Returns a 202 status code (HTTP "Accepted")

The controller managing that finalizer notices the update to the object setting the metadata.deletionTimestamp, indicating deletion of the object has been requested. The controller then attempts to satisfy the requirements of the finalizers specified for that resource. Each time a finalizer condition is satisfied, the controller removes that key from the resource's finalizers field. When the finalizers field is emptied, an object with a deletionTimestamp field set is automatically deleted. You can also use finalizers to prevent deletion of unmanaged resources.

A common example of a finalizer is kubernetes.io/pv-protection, which prevents accidental deletion of PersistentVolume objects. When a PersistentVolume object is in use by a Pod, Kubernetes adds the pv-protection finalizer. If you try to delete the PersistentVolume, it enters a Terminating status, but the controller can't delete it because the finalizer exists. When the Pod stops using the PersistentVolume, Kubernetes clears the pv-protection finalizer, and the controller deletes the volume.

Owner references, labels, and finalizers

Like labels, owner references describe the relationships between objects in Kubernetes, but are used for a different purpose. When a controller manages objects like Pods, it uses labels to track changes to groups of related objects. For example, when a Job creates one or more Pods, the Job controller applies labels to those pods and tracks changes to any Pods in the cluster with the same label.

The Job controller also adds owner references to those Pods, pointing at the Job that created the Pods. If you delete the Job while these Pods are running, Kubernetes uses the owner references (not labels) to determine which Pods in the cluster need cleanup.

Kubernetes also processes finalizers when it identifies owner references on a resource targeted for deletion.

In some situations, finalizers can block the deletion of dependent objects, which can cause the targeted owner object to remain for longer than expected without being fully deleted. In these situations, you should check finalizers and owner references on the target owner and dependent objects to troubleshoot the cause.

What's next

9 - Owners and Dependents

In Kubernetes, some objects are owners of other objects. For example, a ReplicaSet is the owner of a set of Pods. These owned objects are dependents of their owner.

Ownership is different from the labels and selectors mechanism that some resources also use. For example, consider a Service that creates EndpointSlice objects. The Service uses labels to allow the control plane to determine which EndpointSlice objects are used for that Service. In addition to the labels, each EndpointSlice that is managed on behalf of a Service has an owner reference. Owner references help different parts of Kubernetes avoid interfering with objects they don’t control.

Owner references in object specifications

Dependent objects have a metadata.ownerReferences field that references their owner object. A valid owner reference consists of the object name and a UID within the same namespace as the dependent object. Kubernetes sets the value of this field automatically for objects that are dependents of other objects like ReplicaSets, DaemonSets, Deployments, Jobs and CronJobs, and ReplicationControllers. You can also configure these relationships manually by changing the value of this field. However, you usually don't need to and can allow Kubernetes to automatically manage the relationships.

Dependent objects also have an ownerReferences.blockOwnerDeletion field that takes a boolean value and controls whether specific dependents can block garbage collection from deleting their owner object. Kubernetes automatically sets this field to true if a controller (for example, the Deployment controller) sets the value of the metadata.ownerReferences field. You can also set the value of the blockOwnerDeletion field manually to control which dependents block garbage collection.

A Kubernetes admission controller controls user access to change this field for dependent resources, based on the delete permissions of the owner. This control prevents unauthorized users from delaying owner object deletion.

Ownership and finalizers

When you tell Kubernetes to delete a resource, the API server allows the managing controller to process any finalizer rules for the resource. Finalizers prevent accidental deletion of resources your cluster may still need to function correctly. For example, if you try to delete a PersistentVolume that is still in use by a Pod, the deletion does not happen immediately because the PersistentVolume has the kubernetes.io/pv-protection finalizer on it. Instead, the volume remains in the Terminating status until Kubernetes clears the finalizer, which only happens after the PersistentVolume is no longer bound to a Pod.

Kubernetes also adds finalizers to an owner resource when you use either foreground or orphan cascading deletion. In foreground deletion, it adds the foreground finalizer so that the controller must delete dependent resources that also have ownerReferences.blockOwnerDeletion=true before it deletes the owner. If you specify an orphan deletion policy, Kubernetes adds the orphan finalizer so that the controller ignores dependent resources after it deletes the owner object.

What's next

10 - Recommended Labels

You can visualize and manage Kubernetes objects with more tools than kubectl and the dashboard. A common set of labels allows tools to work interoperably, describing objects in a common manner that all tools can understand.

In addition to supporting tooling, the recommended labels describe applications in a way that can be queried.

The metadata is organized around the concept of an application. Kubernetes is not a platform as a service (PaaS) and doesn't have or enforce a formal notion of an application. Instead, applications are informal and described with metadata. The definition of what an application contains is loose.

Shared labels and annotations share a common prefix: app.kubernetes.io. Labels without a prefix are private to users. The shared prefix ensures that shared labels do not interfere with custom user labels.

Labels

In order to take full advantage of using these labels, they should be applied on every resource object.

KeyDescriptionExampleType
app.kubernetes.io/nameThe name of the applicationmysqlstring
app.kubernetes.io/instanceA unique name identifying the instance of an applicationmysql-abcxzystring
app.kubernetes.io/versionThe current version of the application (e.g., a semantic version, revision hash, etc.)5.7.21string
app.kubernetes.io/componentThe component within the architecturedatabasestring
app.kubernetes.io/part-ofThe name of a higher level application this one is part ofwordpressstring
app.kubernetes.io/managed-byThe tool being used to manage the operation of an applicationhelmstring

To illustrate these labels in action, consider the following StatefulSet object:

# This is an excerpt
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: StatefulSet
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: mysql
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: mysql-abcxzy
    app.kubernetes.io/version: "5.7.21"
    app.kubernetes.io/component: database
    app.kubernetes.io/part-of: wordpress
    app.kubernetes.io/managed-by: helm

Applications And Instances Of Applications

An application can be installed one or more times into a Kubernetes cluster and, in some cases, the same namespace. For example, WordPress can be installed more than once where different websites are different installations of WordPress.

The name of an application and the instance name are recorded separately. For example, WordPress has a app.kubernetes.io/name of wordpress while it has an instance name, represented as app.kubernetes.io/instance with a value of wordpress-abcxzy. This enables the application and instance of the application to be identifiable. Every instance of an application must have a unique name.

Examples

To illustrate different ways to use these labels the following examples have varying complexity.

A Simple Stateless Service

Consider the case for a simple stateless service deployed using Deployment and Service objects. The following two snippets represent how the labels could be used in their simplest form.

The Deployment is used to oversee the pods running the application itself.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: myservice
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: myservice-abcxzy
...

The Service is used to expose the application.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: myservice
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: myservice-abcxzy
...

Web Application With A Database

Consider a slightly more complicated application: a web application (WordPress) using a database (MySQL), installed using Helm. The following snippets illustrate the start of objects used to deploy this application.

The start to the following Deployment is used for WordPress:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: wordpress
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: wordpress-abcxzy
    app.kubernetes.io/version: "4.9.4"
    app.kubernetes.io/managed-by: helm
    app.kubernetes.io/component: server
    app.kubernetes.io/part-of: wordpress
...

The Service is used to expose WordPress:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: wordpress
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: wordpress-abcxzy
    app.kubernetes.io/version: "4.9.4"
    app.kubernetes.io/managed-by: helm
    app.kubernetes.io/component: server
    app.kubernetes.io/part-of: wordpress
...

MySQL is exposed as a StatefulSet with metadata for both it and the larger application it belongs to:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: StatefulSet
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: mysql
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: mysql-abcxzy
    app.kubernetes.io/version: "5.7.21"
    app.kubernetes.io/managed-by: helm
    app.kubernetes.io/component: database
    app.kubernetes.io/part-of: wordpress
...

The Service is used to expose MySQL as part of WordPress:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
  labels:
    app.kubernetes.io/name: mysql
    app.kubernetes.io/instance: mysql-abcxzy
    app.kubernetes.io/version: "5.7.21"
    app.kubernetes.io/managed-by: helm
    app.kubernetes.io/component: database
    app.kubernetes.io/part-of: wordpress
...

With the MySQL StatefulSet and Service you'll notice information about both MySQL and WordPress, the broader application, are included.