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Running in multiple zones

This page describes how to run a cluster in multiple zones.


Kubernetes 1.2 adds support for running a single cluster in multiple failure zones (GCE calls them simply "zones", AWS calls them "availability zones", here we'll refer to them as "zones"). This is a lightweight version of a broader Cluster Federation feature (previously referred to by the affectionate nickname "Ubernetes"). Full Cluster Federation allows combining separate Kubernetes clusters running in different regions or cloud providers (or on-premises data centers). However, many users simply want to run a more available Kubernetes cluster in multiple zones of their single cloud provider, and this is what the multizone support in 1.2 allows (this previously went by the nickname "Ubernetes Lite").

Multizone support is deliberately limited: a single Kubernetes cluster can run in multiple zones, but only within the same region (and cloud provider). Only GCE and AWS are currently supported automatically (though it is easy to add similar support for other clouds or even bare metal, by simply arranging for the appropriate labels to be added to nodes and volumes).


When nodes are started, the kubelet automatically adds labels to them with zone information.

Kubernetes will automatically spread the pods in a replication controller or service across nodes in a single-zone cluster (to reduce the impact of failures.) With multiple-zone clusters, this spreading behavior is extended across zones (to reduce the impact of zone failures.) (This is achieved via SelectorSpreadPriority). This is a best-effort placement, and so if the zones in your cluster are heterogeneous (e.g. different numbers of nodes, different types of nodes, or different pod resource requirements), this might prevent perfectly even spreading of your pods across zones. If desired, you can use homogeneous zones (same number and types of nodes) to reduce the probability of unequal spreading.

When persistent volumes are created, the PersistentVolumeLabel admission controller automatically adds zone labels to them. The scheduler (via the VolumeZonePredicate predicate) will then ensure that pods that claim a given volume are only placed into the same zone as that volume, as volumes cannot be attached across zones.


There are some important limitations of the multizone support:

  • We assume that the different zones are located close to each other in the network, so we don't perform any zone-aware routing. In particular, traffic that goes via services might cross zones (even if some pods backing that service exist in the same zone as the client), and this may incur additional latency and cost.

  • Volume zone-affinity will only work with a PersistentVolume, and will not work if you directly specify an EBS volume in the pod spec (for example).

  • Clusters cannot span clouds or regions (this functionality will require full federation support).

  • Although your nodes are in multiple zones, kube-up currently builds a single master node by default. While services are highly available and can tolerate the loss of a zone, the control plane is located in a single zone. Users that want a highly available control plane should follow the high availability instructions.

Volume limitations

The following limitations are addressed with topology-aware volume binding.

  • StatefulSet volume zone spreading when using dynamic provisioning is currently not compatible with pod affinity or anti-affinity policies.

  • If the name of the StatefulSet contains dashes ("-"), volume zone spreading may not provide a uniform distribution of storage across zones.

  • When specifying multiple PVCs in a Deployment or Pod spec, the StorageClass needs to be configured for a specific single zone, or the PVs need to be statically provisioned in a specific zone. Another workaround is to use a StatefulSet, which will ensure that all the volumes for a replica are provisioned in the same zone.


We're now going to walk through setting up and using a multi-zone cluster on both GCE & AWS. To do so, you bring up a full cluster (specifying MULTIZONE=true), and then you add nodes in additional zones by running kube-up again (specifying KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true).

Bringing up your cluster

Create the cluster as normal, but pass MULTIZONE to tell the cluster to manage multiple zones; creating nodes in us-central1-a.


curl -sS https://get.k8s.io | MULTIZONE=true KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=gce KUBE_GCE_ZONE=us-central1-a NUM_NODES=3 bash


curl -sS https://get.k8s.io | MULTIZONE=true KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=aws KUBE_AWS_ZONE=us-west-2a NUM_NODES=3 bash

This step brings up a cluster as normal, still running in a single zone (but MULTIZONE=true has enabled multi-zone capabilities).

Nodes are labeled

View the nodes; you can see that they are labeled with zone information. They are all in us-central1-a (GCE) or us-west-2a (AWS) so far. The labels are failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region for the region, and failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone for the zone:

kubectl get nodes --show-labels

The output is similar to this:

NAME                     STATUS                     ROLES    AGE   VERSION          LABELS
kubernetes-master        Ready,SchedulingDisabled   <none>   6m    v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-master
kubernetes-minion-87j9   Ready                      <none>   6m    v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-87j9
kubernetes-minion-9vlv   Ready                      <none>   6m    v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-9vlv
kubernetes-minion-a12q   Ready                      <none>   6m    v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-a12q

Add more nodes in a second zone

Let's add another set of nodes to the existing cluster, reusing the existing master, running in a different zone (us-central1-b or us-west-2b). We run kube-up again, but by specifying KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true kube-up will not create a new master, but will reuse one that was previously created instead.


KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true MULTIZONE=true KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=gce KUBE_GCE_ZONE=us-central1-b NUM_NODES=3 kubernetes/cluster/kube-up.sh

On AWS we also need to specify the network CIDR for the additional subnet, along with the master internal IP address:


View the nodes again; 3 more nodes should have launched and be tagged in us-central1-b:

kubectl get nodes --show-labels

The output is similar to this:

NAME                     STATUS                     ROLES    AGE   VERSION           LABELS
kubernetes-master        Ready,SchedulingDisabled   <none>   16m   v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-master
kubernetes-minion-281d   Ready                      <none>   2m    v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-b,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-281d
kubernetes-minion-87j9   Ready                      <none>   16m   v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-87j9
kubernetes-minion-9vlv   Ready                      <none>   16m   v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-9vlv
kubernetes-minion-a12q   Ready                      <none>   17m   v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-a12q
kubernetes-minion-pp2f   Ready                      <none>   2m    v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-b,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-pp2f
kubernetes-minion-wf8i   Ready                      <none>   2m    v1.13.0           beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-b,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-wf8i

Volume affinity

Create a volume using the dynamic volume creation (only PersistentVolumes are supported for zone affinity):

kubectl apply -f - <<EOF
  "apiVersion": "v1",
  "kind": "PersistentVolumeClaim",
  "metadata": {
    "name": "claim1",
    "annotations": {
        "volume.alpha.kubernetes.io/storage-class": "foo"
  "spec": {
    "accessModes": [
    "resources": {
      "requests": {
        "storage": "5Gi"
Note: For version 1.3+ Kubernetes will distribute dynamic PV claims across the configured zones. For version 1.2, dynamic persistent volumes were always created in the zone of the cluster master (here us-central1-a / us-west-2a); that issue (#23330) was addressed in 1.3+.

Now let's validate that Kubernetes automatically labeled the zone & region the PV was created in.

kubectl get pv --show-labels

The output is similar to this:

pv-gce-mj4gm   5Gi        RWO           Retain           Bound     default/claim1   manual                    46s       failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a

So now we will create a pod that uses the persistent volume claim. Because GCE PDs / AWS EBS volumes cannot be attached across zones, this means that this pod can only be created in the same zone as the volume:

kubectl apply -f - <<EOF
apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: mypod
    - name: myfrontend
      image: nginx
      - mountPath: "/var/www/html"
        name: mypd
    - name: mypd
        claimName: claim1

Note that the pod was automatically created in the same zone as the volume, as cross-zone attachments are not generally permitted by cloud providers:

kubectl describe pod mypod | grep Node
Node:        kubernetes-minion-9vlv/

And check node labels:

kubectl get node kubernetes-minion-9vlv --show-labels
NAME                     STATUS    AGE    VERSION          LABELS
kubernetes-minion-9vlv   Ready     22m    v1.6.0+fff5156   beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-9vlv

Pods are spread across zones

Pods in a replication controller or service are automatically spread across zones. First, let's launch more nodes in a third zone:


KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true MULTIZONE=true KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=gce KUBE_GCE_ZONE=us-central1-f NUM_NODES=3 kubernetes/cluster/kube-up.sh



Verify that you now have nodes in 3 zones:

kubectl get nodes --show-labels

Create the guestbook-go example, which includes an RC of size 3, running a simple web app:

find kubernetes/examples/guestbook-go/ -name '*.json' | xargs -I {} kubectl apply -f {}

The pods should be spread across all 3 zones:

kubectl describe pod -l app=guestbook | grep Node
Node:        kubernetes-minion-9vlv/
Node:        kubernetes-minion-281d/
Node:        kubernetes-minion-olsh/
kubectl get node kubernetes-minion-9vlv kubernetes-minion-281d kubernetes-minion-olsh --show-labels
NAME                     STATUS    ROLES    AGE    VERSION          LABELS
kubernetes-minion-9vlv   Ready     <none>   34m    v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-a,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-9vlv
kubernetes-minion-281d   Ready     <none>   20m    v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-b,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-281d
kubernetes-minion-olsh   Ready     <none>   3m     v1.13.0          beta.kubernetes.io/instance-type=n1-standard-2,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/region=us-central1,failure-domain.beta.kubernetes.io/zone=us-central1-f,kubernetes.io/hostname=kubernetes-minion-olsh

Load-balancers span all zones in a cluster; the guestbook-go example includes an example load-balanced service:

kubectl describe service guestbook | grep LoadBalancer.Ingress

The output is similar to this:

LoadBalancer Ingress:

Set the above IP:

export IP=

Explore with curl via IP:

curl -s http://${IP}:3000/env | grep HOSTNAME

The output is similar to this:

  "HOSTNAME": "guestbook-44sep",

Again, explore multiple times:

(for i in `seq 20`; do curl -s http://${IP}:3000/env | grep HOSTNAME; done)  | sort | uniq

The output is similar to this:

  "HOSTNAME": "guestbook-44sep",
  "HOSTNAME": "guestbook-hum5n",
  "HOSTNAME": "guestbook-ppm40",

The load balancer correctly targets all the pods, even though they are in multiple zones.

Shutting down the cluster

When you're done, clean up:


KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=gce KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true KUBE_GCE_ZONE=us-central1-f kubernetes/cluster/kube-down.sh
KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=gce KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true KUBE_GCE_ZONE=us-central1-b kubernetes/cluster/kube-down.sh
KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=gce KUBE_GCE_ZONE=us-central1-a kubernetes/cluster/kube-down.sh


KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=aws KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true KUBE_AWS_ZONE=us-west-2c kubernetes/cluster/kube-down.sh
KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=aws KUBE_USE_EXISTING_MASTER=true KUBE_AWS_ZONE=us-west-2b kubernetes/cluster/kube-down.sh
KUBERNETES_PROVIDER=aws KUBE_AWS_ZONE=us-west-2a kubernetes/cluster/kube-down.sh