Detailed explanations of Kubernetes system concepts and abstractions.

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Persistent Volumes

This document describes the current state of PersistentVolumes in Kubernetes. Familiarity with volumes is suggested.


Managing storage is a distinct problem from managing compute. The PersistentVolume subsystem provides an API for users and administrators that abstracts details of how storage is provided from how it is consumed. To do this we introduce two new API resources: PersistentVolume and PersistentVolumeClaim.

A PersistentVolume (PV) is a piece of storage in the cluster that has been provisioned by an administrator. It is a resource in the cluster just like a node is a cluster resource. PVs are volume plugins like Volumes, but have a lifecycle independent of any individual pod that uses the PV. This API object captures the details of the implementation of the storage, be that NFS, iSCSI, or a cloud-provider-specific storage system.

A PersistentVolumeClaim (PVC) is a request for storage by a user. It is similar to a pod. Pods consume node resources and PVCs consume PV resources. Pods can request specific levels of resources (CPU and Memory). Claims can request specific size and access modes (e.g., can be mounted once read/write or many times read-only).

While PersistentVolumeClaims allow a user to consume abstract storage resources, it is common that users need PersistentVolumes with varying properties, such as performance, for different problems. Cluster administrators need to be able to offer a variety of PersistentVolumes that differ in more ways than just size and access modes, without exposing users to the details of how those volumes are implemented. For these needs there is the StorageClass resource.

Please see the detailed walkthrough with working examples.

Lifecycle of a volume and claim

PVs are resources in the cluster. PVCs are requests for those resources and also act as claim checks to the resource. The interaction between PVs and PVCs follows this lifecycle:


There are two ways PVs may be provisioned: statically or dynamically.


A cluster administrator creates a number of PVs. They carry the details of the real storage which is available for use by cluster users. They exist in the Kubernetes API and are available for consumption.


When none of the static PVs the administrator created matches a user’s PersistentVolumeClaim, the cluster may try to dynamically provision a volume specially for the PVC. This provisioning is based on StorageClasses: the PVC must request a storage class and the administrator must have created and configured that class in order for dynamic provisioning to occur. Claims that request the class "" effectively disable dynamic provisioning for themselves.

To enable dynamic storage provisioning based on storage class, the cluster administrator needs to enable the DefaultStorageClass admission controller on the API server. This can be done, for example, by ensuring that DefaultStorageClass is among the comma-delimited, ordered list of values for the --admission-control flag of the API server component. For more information on API server command line flags, please check kube-apiserver documentation.


A user creates, or has already created in the case of dynamic provisioning, a PersistentVolumeClaim with a specific amount of storage requested and with certain access modes. A control loop in the master watches for new PVCs, finds a matching PV (if possible), and binds them together. If a PV was dynamically provisioned for a new PVC, the loop will always bind that PV to the PVC. Otherwise, the user will always get at least what they asked for, but the volume may be in excess of what was requested. Once bound, PersistentVolumeClaim binds are exclusive, regardless of how they were bound. A PVC to PV binding is a one-to-one mapping.

Claims will remain unbound indefinitely if a matching volume does not exist. Claims will be bound as matching volumes become available. For example, a cluster provisioned with many 50Gi PVs would not match a PVC requesting 100Gi. The PVC can be bound when a 100Gi PV is added to the cluster.


Pods use claims as volumes. The cluster inspects the claim to find the bound volume and mounts that volume for a pod. For volumes which support multiple access modes, the user specifies which mode desired when using their claim as a volume in a pod.

Once a user has a claim and that claim is bound, the bound PV belongs to the user for as long as they need it. Users schedule Pods and access their claimed PVs by including a persistentVolumeClaim in their Pod’s volumes block. See below for syntax details.

Persistent Volume Claim Protection

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.9 alpha

This feature is currently in a alpha state, meaning:

  • The version names contain alpha (e.g. v1alpha1).
  • Might be buggy. Enabling the feature may expose bugs. Disabled by default.
  • Support for feature may be dropped at any time without notice.
  • The API may change in incompatible ways in a later software release without notice.
  • Recommended for use only in short-lived testing clusters, due to increased risk of bugs and lack of long-term support.

The purpose of the PVC protection is to ensure that PVCs in active use by a pod are not removed from the system as this may result in data loss.

Note: PVC is in active use by a pod when the the pod status is Pending and the pod is assigned to a node or the pod status is Running.

When the PVC protection alpha feature is enabled, if a user deletes a PVC in active use by a pod, the PVC is not removed immediately. PVC removal is postponed until the PVC is no longer actively used by any pods.

You can see that a PVC is protected when the PVC’s status is Terminating and the Finalizers list includes

kubectl describe pvc hostpath
Name:          hostpath
Namespace:     default
StorageClass:  example-hostpath
Status:        Terminating
Labels:        <none>
Finalizers:    []


When a user is done with their volume, they can delete the PVC objects from the API which allows reclamation of the resource. The reclaim policy for a PersistentVolume tells the cluster what to do with the volume after it has been released of its claim. Currently, volumes can either be Retained, Recycled or Deleted.


The Retain reclaim policy allows for manual reclamation of the resource. When the PersistentVolumeClaim is deleted, the PersistentVolume still exists and the volume is considered “released”. But it is not yet available for another claim because the previous claimant’s data remains on the volume. An administrator can manually reclaim the volume with the following steps.

  1. Delete the PersistentVolume. The associated storage asset in external infrastructure (such as an AWS EBS, GCE PD, Azure Disk, or Cinder volume) still exists after the PV is deleted.
  2. Manually clean up the data on the associated storage asset accordingly.
  3. Manually delete the associated storage asset, or if you want to reuse the same storage asset, create a new PersistentVolume with the storage asset definition.


If supported by appropriate volume plugin, recycling performs a basic scrub (rm -rf /thevolume/*) on the volume and makes it available again for a new claim.

However, an administrator can configure a custom recycler pod template using the Kubernetes controller manager command line arguments as described here. The custom recycler pod template must contain a volumes specification, as shown in the example below:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: pv-recycler
  namespace: default
  restartPolicy: Never
  - name: vol
      path: /any/path/it/will/be/replaced
  - name: pv-recycler
    image: ""
    command: ["/bin/sh", "-c", "test -e /scrub && rm -rf /scrub/..?* /scrub/.[!.]* /scrub/*  && test -z \"$(ls -A /scrub)\" || exit 1"]
    - name: vol
      mountPath: /scrub

However, the particular path specified in the custom recycler pod template in the volumes part is replaced with the particular path of the volume that is being recycled.


For volume plugins that support the Delete reclaim policy, deletion removes both the PersistentVolume object from Kubernetes, as well as deleting the associated storage asset in the external infrastructure, such as an AWS EBS, GCE PD, Azure Disk, or Cinder volume. Volumes that were dynamically provisioned inherit the reclaim policy of their StorageClass, which defaults to Delete. The administrator should configure the StorageClass according to users’ expectations, otherwise the PV must be edited or patched after it is created. See Change the Reclaim Policy of a PersistentVolume.

Expanding Persistent Volumes Claims

Kubernetes 1.8 added Alpha support for expanding persistent volumes. In v1.9, the following volume types support expanding Persistent volume claims:

Administrator can allow expanding persistent volume claims by setting ExpandPersistentVolumes feature gate to true. Administrator should also enable PersistentVolumeClaimResize admission plugin to perform additional validations of volumes that can be resized.

Once PersistentVolumeClaimResize admission plug-in has been turned on, resizing will only be allowed for storage classes whose allowVolumeExpansion field is set to true.

kind: StorageClass
  name: gluster-vol-default
  resturl: ""
  restuser: ""
  secretNamespace: ""
  secretName: ""
allowVolumeExpansion: true

Once both feature gate and aforementioned admission plug-in are turned on, an user can request larger volume for their PersistentVolumeClaim by simply editing the claim and requesting bigger size. This in turn will trigger expansion of volume that is backing underlying PersistentVolume.

Under no circumstances a new PersistentVolume gets created to satisfy the claim. Kubernetes will attempt to resize existing volume to satisfy the claim.

For expanding volumes containing a file system, file system resizing is only performed when a new Pod is started using the PersistentVolumeClaim in ReadWrite mode. In other words, if a volume being expanded is used in a pod or deployment, you will need to delete and recreate the pod for file system resizing to take place. Also, file system resizing is only supported for following file system types:

Note: Expanding EBS volumes is a time consuming operation. Also, there is a per-volume quota of one modification every 6 hours.

Types of Persistent Volumes

PersistentVolume types are implemented as plugins. Kubernetes currently supports the following plugins:

** Raw Block Support exists for these plugins only.

Persistent Volumes

Each PV contains a spec and status, which is the specification and status of the volume.

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolume
  name: pv0003
    storage: 5Gi
  volumeMode: Filesystem
    - ReadWriteOnce
  persistentVolumeReclaimPolicy: Recycle
  storageClassName: slow
    - hard
    - nfsvers=4.1
    path: /tmp


Generally, a PV will have a specific storage capacity. This is set using the PV’s capacity attribute. See the Kubernetes Resource Model to understand the units expected by capacity.

Currently, storage size is the only resource that can be set or requested. Future attributes may include IOPS, throughput, etc.

Volume Mode

Prior to v1.9, the default behavior for all volume plugins was to create a filesystem on the persistent volume. With v1.9, the user can specify a volumeMode which will now support raw block devices in addition to file systems. Valid values for volumeMode are “Filesystem” or “Block”. If left unspecified, volumeMode defaults to “Filesystem” internally. This is an optional API parameter.

Note: This feature is alpha in v1.9 and may change in the future.

Access Modes

A PersistentVolume can be mounted on a host in any way supported by the resource provider. As shown in the table below, providers will have different capabilities and each PV’s access modes are set to the specific modes supported by that particular volume. For example, NFS can support multiple read/write clients, but a specific NFS PV might be exported on the server as read-only. Each PV gets its own set of access modes describing that specific PV’s capabilities.

The access modes are:

In the CLI, the access modes are abbreviated to:

Important! A volume can only be mounted using one access mode at a time, even if it supports many. For example, a GCEPersistentDisk can be mounted as ReadWriteOnce by a single node or ReadOnlyMany by many nodes, but not at the same time.

Volume Plugin ReadWriteOnce ReadOnlyMany ReadWriteMany
AWSElasticBlockStore - -
AzureDisk - -
Cinder - -
FC -
FlexVolume -
Flocker - -
GCEPersistentDisk -
HostPath - -
PhotonPersistentDisk - -
VsphereVolume - - (works when pods are collocated)
PortworxVolume -
ScaleIO -
StorageOS - -


A PV can have a class, which is specified by setting the storageClassName attribute to the name of a StorageClass. A PV of a particular class can only be bound to PVCs requesting that class. A PV with no storageClassName has no class and can only be bound to PVCs that request no particular class.

In the past, the annotation was used instead of the storageClassName attribute. This annotation is still working, however it will become fully deprecated in a future Kubernetes release.

Reclaim Policy

Current reclaim policies are:

Currently, only NFS and HostPath support recycling. AWS EBS, GCE PD, Azure Disk, and Cinder volumes support deletion.

Mount Options

A Kubernetes administrator can specify additional mount options for when a Persistent Volume is mounted on a node.

Note: Not all Persistent volume types support mount options.

The following volume types support mount options:

Mount options are not validated, so mount will simply fail if one is invalid.

In the past, the annotation was used instead of the mountOptions attribute. This annotation is still working, however it will become fully deprecated in a future Kubernetes release.


A volume will be in one of the following phases:

The CLI will show the name of the PVC bound to the PV.


Each PVC contains a spec and status, which is the specification and status of the claim.

kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
apiVersion: v1
  name: myclaim
    - ReadWriteOnce
  volumeMode: Filesystem
      storage: 8Gi
  storageClassName: slow
      release: "stable"
      - {key: environment, operator: In, values: [dev]}

Access Modes

Claims use the same conventions as volumes when requesting storage with specific access modes.

Volume Modes

Claims use the same convention as volumes to indicates the consumption of the volume as either a filesystem or block device.


Claims, like pods, can request specific quantities of a resource. In this case, the request is for storage. The same resource model applies to both volumes and claims.


Claims can specify a label selector to further filter the set of volumes. Only the volumes whose labels match the selector can be bound to the claim. The selector can consist of two fields:

All of the requirements, from both matchLabels and matchExpressions are ANDed together – they must all be satisfied in order to match.


A claim can request a particular class by specifying the name of a StorageClass using the attribute storageClassName. Only PVs of the requested class, ones with the same storageClassName as the PVC, can be bound to the PVC.

PVCs don’t necessarily have to request a class. A PVC with its storageClassName set equal to "" is always interpreted to be requesting a PV with no class, so it can only be bound to PVs with no class (no annotation or one set equal to ""). A PVC with no storageClassName is not quite the same and is treated differently by the cluster depending on whether the DefaultStorageClass admission plugin is turned on.

Depending on installation method, a default StorageClass may be deployed to Kubernetes cluster by addon manager during installation.

When a PVC specifies a selector in addition to requesting a StorageClass, the requirements are ANDed together: only a PV of the requested class and with the requested labels may be bound to the PVC.

Note: Currently, a PVC with a non-empty selector can’t have a PV dynamically provisioned for it.

In the past, the annotation was used instead of storageClassName attribute. This annotation is still working, however it won’t be supported in a future Kubernetes release.

Claims As Volumes

Pods access storage by using the claim as a volume. Claims must exist in the same namespace as the pod using the claim. The cluster finds the claim in the pod’s namespace and uses it to get the PersistentVolume backing the claim. The volume is then mounted to the host and into the pod.

kind: Pod
apiVersion: v1
  name: mypod
    - name: myfrontend
      image: dockerfile/nginx
      - mountPath: "/var/www/html"
        name: mypd
    - name: mypd
        claimName: myclaim

A Note on Namespaces

PersistentVolumes binds are exclusive, and since PersistentVolumeClaims are namespaced objects, mounting claims with “Many” modes (ROX, RWX) is only possible within one namespace.

Raw Block Volume Support

Static provisioning support for Raw Block Volumes is included as an alpha feature for v1.9. With this change are some new API fields that need to be used to facilitate this functionality. Currently, Fibre Channel is the only supported plugin for this feature.

Persistent Volumes using a Raw Block Volume

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolume
  name: block-pv
    storage: 10Gi
    - ReadWriteOnce
  volumeMode: Block
  persistentVolumeReclaimPolicy: Retain
    targetWWNs: ["50060e801049cfd1"]
    lun: 0
    readOnly: false

Persistent Volume Claim requesting a Raw Block Volume

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
  name: block-pvc
    - ReadWriteOnce
  volumeMode: Block
      storage: 10Gi

Pod specification adding Raw Block Device path in container

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: pod-with-block-volume
    - name: fc-container
      image: fedora:26
      command: ["/bin/sh", "-c"]
      args: [ "tail -f /dev/null" ]
        - name: data
          devicePath: /dev/xvda
    - name: data
        claimName: block-pvc

Note: When adding a raw block device for a Pod, we specify the device path in the container instead of a mount path.

Binding Block Volumes

If a user requests a raw block volume by indicating this using the volumeMode field in the PersistentVolumeClaim spec, the binding rules differ slighty from previous releases that didn’t consider this mode as part of the spec. Listed is a table of possible combinations the user and admin might specify for requesting a raw block device. The table indicates if the volume will be bound or not given the combinations: Volume binding matrix for statically provisioned volumes:

PV volumeMode PVC volumeMode Result
unspecified unspecified BIND
unspecified Block NO BIND
unspecified Filesystem BIND
Block unspecified NO BIND
Block Block BIND
Block Filesystem NO BIND
Filesystem Filesystem BIND
Filesystem Block NO BIND
Filesystem unspecified BIND

Note: Only statically provisioned volumes are supported for alpha release. Administrators should take care to consider these values when working with raw block devices.

Writing Portable Configuration

If you’re writing configuration templates or examples that run on a wide range of clusters and need persistent storage, we recommend that you use the following pattern:


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