Concepts

Detailed explanations of Kubernetes system concepts and abstractions.

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Volumes

On-disk files in a container are ephemeral, which presents some problems for non-trivial applications when running in containers. First, when a container crashes, kubelet will restart it, but the files will be lost - the container starts with a clean state. Second, when running containers together in a Pod it is often necessary to share files between those containers. The Kubernetes Volume abstraction solves both of these problems.

Familiarity with pods is suggested.

Background

Docker also has a concept of volumes, though it is somewhat looser and less managed. In Docker, a volume is simply a directory on disk or in another container. Lifetimes are not managed and until very recently there were only local-disk-backed volumes. Docker now provides volume drivers, but the functionality is very limited for now (e.g. as of Docker 1.7 only one volume driver is allowed per container and there is no way to pass parameters to volumes).

A Kubernetes volume, on the other hand, has an explicit lifetime - the same as the pod that encloses it. Consequently, a volume outlives any containers that run within the Pod, and data is preserved across Container restarts. Of course, when a Pod ceases to exist, the volume will cease to exist, too. Perhaps more importantly than this, Kubernetes supports many types of volumes, and a Pod can use any number of them simultaneously.

At its core, a volume is just a directory, possibly with some data in it, which is accessible to the containers in a pod. How that directory comes to be, the medium that backs it, and the contents of it are determined by the particular volume type used.

To use a volume, a pod specifies what volumes to provide for the pod (the spec.volumes field) and where to mount those into containers(the spec.containers.volumeMounts field).

A process in a container sees a filesystem view composed from their Docker image and volumes. The Docker image is at the root of the filesystem hierarchy, and any volumes are mounted at the specified paths within the image. Volumes can not mount onto other volumes or have hard links to other volumes. Each container in the Pod must independently specify where to mount each volume.

Types of Volumes

Kubernetes supports several types of Volumes:

We welcome additional contributions.

emptyDir

An emptyDir volume is first created when a Pod is assigned to a Node, and exists as long as that Pod is running on that node. As the name says, it is initially empty. Containers in the pod can all read and write the same files in the emptyDir volume, though that volume can be mounted at the same or different paths in each container. When a Pod is removed from a node for any reason, the data in the emptyDir is deleted forever. NOTE: a container crashing does NOT remove a pod from a node, so the data in an emptyDir volume is safe across container crashes.

Some uses for an emptyDir are:

By default, emptyDir volumes are stored on whatever medium is backing the machine - that might be disk or SSD or network storage, depending on your environment. However, you can set the emptyDir.medium field to "Memory" to tell Kubernetes to mount a tmpfs (RAM-backed filesystem) for you instead. While tmpfs is very fast, be aware that unlike disks, tmpfs is cleared on machine reboot and any files you write will count against your container’s memory limit.

Example pod

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-pd
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: test-container
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /cache
      name: cache-volume
  volumes:
  - name: cache-volume
    emptyDir: {}

hostPath

A hostPath volume mounts a file or directory from the host node’s filesystem into your pod. This is not something that most Pods will need, but it offers a powerful escape hatch for some applications.

For example, some uses for a hostPath are:

Watch out when using this type of volume, because:

Example pod

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-pd
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: test-container
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /test-pd
      name: test-volume
  volumes:
  - name: test-volume
    hostPath:
      # directory location on host
      path: /data

gcePersistentDisk

A gcePersistentDisk volume mounts a Google Compute Engine (GCE) Persistent Disk into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of a PD are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that a PD can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods.

Important: You must create a PD using gcloud or the GCE API or UI before you can use it

There are some restrictions when using a gcePersistentDisk:

A feature of PD is that they can be mounted as read-only by multiple consumers simultaneously. This means that you can pre-populate a PD with your dataset and then serve it in parallel from as many pods as you need. Unfortunately, PDs can only be mounted by a single consumer in read-write mode - no simultaneous writers allowed.

Using a PD on a pod controlled by a ReplicationController will fail unless the PD is read-only or the replica count is 0 or 1.

Creating a PD

Before you can use a GCE PD with a pod, you need to create it.

gcloud compute disks create --size=500GB --zone=us-central1-a my-data-disk

Example pod

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-pd
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: test-container
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /test-pd
      name: test-volume
  volumes:
  - name: test-volume
    # This GCE PD must already exist.
    gcePersistentDisk:
      pdName: my-data-disk
      fsType: ext4

awsElasticBlockStore

An awsElasticBlockStore volume mounts an Amazon Web Services (AWS) EBS Volume into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of an EBS volume are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that an EBS volume can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods.

Important: You must create an EBS volume using aws ec2 create-volume or the AWS API before you can use it

There are some restrictions when using an awsElasticBlockStore volume:

Creating an EBS volume

Before you can use an EBS volume with a pod, you need to create it.

aws ec2 create-volume --availability-zone eu-west-1a --size 10 --volume-type gp2

Make sure the zone matches the zone you brought up your cluster in. (And also check that the size and EBS volume type are suitable for your use!)

AWS EBS Example configuration

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-ebs
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: test-container
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /test-ebs
      name: test-volume
  volumes:
  - name: test-volume
    # This AWS EBS volume must already exist.
    awsElasticBlockStore:
      volumeID: <volume-id>
      fsType: ext4

nfs

An nfs volume allows an existing NFS (Network File System) share to be mounted into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of an nfs volume are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that an NFS volume can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods. NFS can be mounted by multiple writers simultaneously.

Important: You must have your own NFS server running with the share exported before you can use it

See the NFS example for more details.

iscsi

An iscsi volume allows an existing iSCSI (SCSI over IP) volume to be mounted into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of an iscsi volume are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that an iscsi volume can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods.

Important: You must have your own iSCSI server running with the volume created before you can use it

A feature of iSCSI is that it can be mounted as read-only by multiple consumers simultaneously. This means that you can pre-populate a volume with your dataset and then serve it in parallel from as many pods as you need. Unfortunately, iSCSI volumes can only be mounted by a single consumer in read-write mode - no simultaneous writers allowed.

See the iSCSI example for more details.

fc (fibre channel)

An fc volume allows an existing fibre channel volume to be mounted in a pod. You can specify single or multiple target World Wide Names using the parameter targetWWNs in your volume configuration. If multiple WWNs are specified, targetWWNs expect that those WWNs are from multi-path connections.

Important: You must configure FC SAN Zoning to allocate and mask those LUNs (volumes) to the target WWNs beforehand so that Kubernetes hosts can access them

See the FC example for more details.

flocker

Flocker is an open-source clustered container data volume manager. It provides management and orchestration of data volumes backed by a variety of storage backends.

A flocker volume allows a Flocker dataset to be mounted into a pod. If the dataset does not already exist in Flocker, it needs to be first created with the Flocker CLI or by using the Flocker API. If the dataset already exists it will be reattached by Flocker to the node that the pod is scheduled. This means data can be “handed off” between pods as required.

Important: You must have your own Flocker installation running before you can use it

See the Flocker example for more details.

glusterfs

A glusterfs volume allows a Glusterfs (an open source networked filesystem) volume to be mounted into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of a glusterfs volume are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that a glusterfs volume can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods. GlusterFS can be mounted by multiple writers simultaneously.

Important: You must have your own GlusterFS installation running before you can use it

See the GlusterFS example for more details.

rbd

An rbd volume allows a Rados Block Device volume to be mounted into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of a rbd volume are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that a RBD volume can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods.

Important: You must have your own Ceph installation running before you can use RBD

A feature of RBD is that it can be mounted as read-only by multiple consumers simultaneously. This means that you can pre-populate a volume with your dataset and then serve it in parallel from as many pods as you need. Unfortunately, RBD volumes can only be mounted by a single consumer in read-write mode - no simultaneous writers allowed.

See the RBD example for more details.

cephfs

A cephfs volume allows an existing CephFS volume to be mounted into your pod. Unlike emptyDir, which is erased when a Pod is removed, the contents of a cephfs volume are preserved and the volume is merely unmounted. This means that a CephFS volume can be pre-populated with data, and that data can be “handed off” between pods. CephFS can be mounted by multiple writers simultaneously.

Important: You must have your own Ceph server running with the share exported before you can use it

See the CephFS example for more details.

gitRepo

A gitRepo volume is an example of what can be done as a volume plugin. It mounts an empty directory and clones a git repository into it for your pod to use. In the future, such volumes may be moved to an even more decoupled model, rather than extending the Kubernetes API for every such use case.

Here is an example for gitRepo volume:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: server
spec:
  containers:
  - image: nginx
    name: nginx
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /mypath
      name: git-volume
  volumes:
  - name: git-volume
    gitRepo:
      repository: "git@somewhere:me/my-git-repository.git"
      revision: "22f1d8406d464b0c0874075539c1f2e96c253775"

secret

A secret volume is used to pass sensitive information, such as passwords, to pods. You can store secrets in the Kubernetes API and mount them as files for use by pods without coupling to Kubernetes directly. secret volumes are backed by tmpfs (a RAM-backed filesystem) so they are never written to non-volatile storage.

Important: You must create a secret in the Kubernetes API before you can use it

Secrets are described in more detail here.

persistentVolumeClaim

A persistentVolumeClaim volume is used to mount a PersistentVolume into a pod. PersistentVolumes are a way for users to “claim” durable storage (such as a GCE PersistentDisk or an iSCSI volume) without knowing the details of the particular cloud environment.

See the PersistentVolumes example for more details.

downwardAPI

A downwardAPI volume is used to make downward API data available to applications. It mounts a directory and writes the requested data in plain text files.

See the downwardAPI volume example for more details.

projected

A projected volume maps several existing volume sources into the same directory.

Currently, the following types of volume sources can be projected:

All sources are required to be in the same namespace as the pod. For more details, see the all-in-one volume design document.

Example pod with a secret, a downward API, and a configmap

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: volume-test
spec:
  containers:
  - name: container-test
    image: busybox
    volumeMounts:
    - name: all-in-one
      mountPath: "/projected-volume"
      readOnly: true
  volumes:
  - name: all-in-one
    projected:
      sources:
      - secret:
          name: mysecret
          items:
            - key: username
              path: my-group/my-username
      - downwardAPI:
          items:
            - path: "labels"
              fieldRef:
                fieldPath: metadata.labels
            - path: "cpu_limit"
              resourceFieldRef:
                containerName: container-test
                resource: limits.cpu
      - configMap:
          name: myconfigmap
          items:
            - key: config
              path: my-group/my-config

Example pod with multiple secrets with a non-default permission mode set

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: volume-test
spec:
  containers:
  - name: container-test
    image: busybox
    volumeMounts:
    - name: all-in-one
      mountPath: "/projected-volume"
      readOnly: true
  volumes:
  - name: all-in-one
    projected:
      sources:
      - secret:
          name: mysecret
          items:
            - key: username
              path: my-group/my-username
      - secret:
          name: mysecret2
          items:
            - key: password
              path: my-group/my-password
              mode: 511

Each projected volume source is listed in the spec under sources. The parameters are nearly the same with two exceptions:

FlexVolume

A FlexVolume enables users to mount vendor volumes into a pod. It expects vendor drivers are installed in the volume plugin path on each kubelet node. This is an alpha feature and may change in future.

More details are in here

AzureFileVolume

A AzureFileVolume is used to mount a Microsoft Azure File Volume (SMB 2.1 and 3.0) into a Pod.

More details can be found here

AzureDiskVolume

A AzureDiskVolume is used to mount a Microsoft Azure Data Disk into a Pod.

More details can be found here

vsphereVolume

Prerequisite: Kubernetes with vSphere Cloud Provider configured. For cloudprovider configuration please refer vSphere getting started guide.

A vsphereVolume is used to mount a vSphere VMDK Volume into your Pod. The contents of a volume are preserved when it is unmounted. It supports both VMFS and VSAN datastore.

Important: You must create VMDK using one of the following method before using with POD.

Creating a VMDK volume

    vmkfstools -c 2G /vmfs/volumes/DatastoreName/volumes/myDisk.vmdk

vSphere VMDK Example configuration

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-vmdk
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: test-container
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /test-vmdk
      name: test-volume
  volumes:
  - name: test-volume
    # This VMDK volume must already exist.
    vsphereVolume:
      volumePath: "[DatastoreName] volumes/myDisk"
      fsType: ext4

More examples can be found here.

Quobyte

A Quobyte volume allows an existing Quobyte volume to be mounted into your pod.

Important: You must have your own Quobyte setup running with the volumes created before you can use it

See the Quobyte example for more details.

PortworxVolume

A PortworxVolume is an elastic block storage layer that runs hyperconverged with Kubernetes. Portworx fingerprints storage in a server, tiers based on capabilities, and aggregates capacity across multiple servers. Portworx runs in-guest in virtual machines or on bare metal Linux nodes.

A PortworxVolume can be dynamically created through Kubernetes or it can also be pre-provisioned and referenced inside a Kubernetes pod. Here is an example pod referencing a pre-provisioned PortworxVolume:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: test-portworx-volume-pod
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: test-container
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /mnt
      name: pxvol
  volumes:
  - name: pxvol
    # This Portworx volume must already exist.
    portworxVolume:
      volumeID: "pxvol"
      fsType: "<fs-type>"

Important: Make sure you have an existing PortworxVolume with name pxvol before using it in the pod

More details and examples can be found here

ScaleIO

ScaleIO is a software-based storage platform that can use existing hardware to create clusters of scalable shared block networked storage. The ScaleIO volume plugin allows deployed pods to access existing ScaleIO volumes (or it can dynamically provision new volumes for persistent volume claims, see ScaleIO Persistent Volumes).

Important: You must have an existing ScaleIO cluster already setup and running with the volumes created before you can use them

The following is an example pod configuration with ScaleIO:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: pod-0
spec:
  containers:
  - image: gcr.io/google_containers/test-webserver
    name: pod-0
    volumeMounts:
    - mountPath: /test-pd
      name: vol-0
  volumes:
  - name: vol-0
    scaleIO:
      gateway: https://localhost:443/api
      system: scaleio
      volumeName: vol-0
      secretRef:
        name: sio-secret
      fsType: xfs

For further detail, please the see the ScaleIO examples.

StorageOS

A storageos volume allows an existing StorageOS volume to be mounted into your pod.

StorageOS runs as a container within your Kubernetes environment, making local or attached storage accessible from any node within the Kubernetes cluster. Data can be replicated to protect against node failure. Thin provisioning and compression can improve utilization and reduce cost.

At its core, StorageOS provides block storage to containers, accessible via a file system.

The StorageOS container requires 64-bit Linux and has no additional dependencies. A free developer licence is available.

Important: You must run the StorageOS container on each node that wants to access StorageOS volumes or that will contribute storage capacity to the pool. For installation instructions, consult the StorageOS documentation

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  labels:
    name: redis
    role: master
  name: test-storageos-redis
spec:
  containers:
    - name: master
      image: kubernetes/redis:v1
      env:
        - name: MASTER
          value: "true"
      ports:
        - containerPort: 6379
      volumeMounts:
        - mountPath: /redis-master-data
          name: redis-data
  volumes:
    - name: redis-data
      storageos:
        # The `redis-vol01` volume must already exist within StorageOS in the `default` namespace.
        volumeName: redis-vol01
        fsType: ext4

For more information including Dynamic Provisioning and Persistent Volume Claims, please see the StorageOS examples.

local

This volume type is alpha in 1.7.

A local volume represents a mounted local storage device such as a disk, partition or directory.

Local volumes can only be used as a statically created PersistentVolume.

Compared to HostPath volumes, local volumes can be used in a durable manner without manually scheduling pods to nodes, as the system is aware of the volume’s node constraints.

However, local volumes are still subject to the availability of the underlying node and are not suitable for all applications.

The following is an example PersistentVolume spec using a local volume:

apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolume
metadata:
  name: example-pv
  annotations:
        "volume.alpha.kubernetes.io/node-affinity": '{
            "requiredDuringSchedulingIgnoredDuringExecution": {
                "nodeSelectorTerms": [
                    { "matchExpressions": [
                        { "key": "kubernetes.io/hostname",
                          "operator": "In",
                          "values": ["example-node"]
                        }
                    ]}
                 ]}
              }'
spec:
    capacity:
      storage: 100Gi
    accessModes:
    - ReadWriteOnce
    persistentVolumeReclaimPolicy: Delete
    storageClassName: local-storage
    local:
      path: /mnt/disks/ssd1

Note that local PersistentVolume cleanup and deletion requires manual intervention without the external provisioner.

For details on the local volume type, see the Local Persistent Storage user guide

Using subPath

Sometimes, it is useful to share one volume for multiple uses in a single pod. The volumeMounts.subPath property can be used to specify a sub-path inside the referenced volume instead of its root.

Here is an example of a pod with a LAMP stack (Linux Apache Mysql PHP) using a single, shared volume. The HTML contents are mapped to its html folder, and the databases will be stored in its mysql folder:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
metadata:
  name: my-lamp-site
spec:
    containers:
    - name: mysql
      image: mysql
      volumeMounts:
      - mountPath: /var/lib/mysql
        name: site-data
        subPath: mysql
    - name: php
      image: php
      volumeMounts:
      - mountPath: /var/www/html
        name: site-data
        subPath: html
    volumes:
    - name: site-data
      persistentVolumeClaim:
        claimName: my-lamp-site-data

Resources

The storage media (Disk, SSD, etc.) of an emptyDir volume is determined by the medium of the filesystem holding the kubelet root dir (typically /var/lib/kubelet). There is no limit on how much space an emptyDir or hostPath volume can consume, and no isolation between containers or between pods.

In the future, we expect that emptyDir and hostPath volumes will be able to request a certain amount of space using a resource specification, and to select the type of media to use, for clusters that have several media types.

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