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Guide for scheduling Windows containers in Kubernetes

Windows applications constitute a large portion of the services and applications that run in many organizations. This guide walks you through the steps to configure and deploy a Windows container in Kubernetes.


Before you begin

Getting Started: Deploying a Windows container

To deploy a Windows container on Kubernetes, you must first create an example application. The example YAML file below creates a simple webserver application. Create a service spec named win-webserver.yaml with the contents below:

    apiVersion: v1
    kind: Service
      name: win-webserver
        app: win-webserver
      # the port that this service should serve on
      - port: 80
        targetPort: 80
        app: win-webserver
      type: NodePort
    apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
    kind: Deployment
        app: win-webserver
      name: win-webserver
      replicas: 2
            app: win-webserver
          name: win-webserver
          - name: windowswebserver
            - powershell.exe
            - -command
            - "<#code used from> ; $$listener = New-Object System.Net.HttpListener ; $$listener.Prefixes.Add('http://*:80/') ; $$listener.Start() ; $$callerCounts = @{} ; Write-Host('Listening at http://*:80/') ; while ($$listener.IsListening) { ;$$context = $$listener.GetContext() ;$$requestUrl = $$context.Request.Url ;$$clientIP = $$context.Request.RemoteEndPoint.Address ;$$response = $$context.Response ;Write-Host '' ;Write-Host('> {0}' -f $$requestUrl) ;  ;$$count = 1 ;$$k=$$callerCounts.Get_Item($$clientIP) ;if ($$k -ne $$null) { $$count += $$k } ;$$callerCounts.Set_Item($$clientIP, $$count) ;$$ip=(Get-NetAdapter | Get-NetIpAddress); $$header='<html><body><H1>Windows Container Web Server</H1>' ;$$callerCountsString='' ;$$callerCounts.Keys | % { $$callerCountsString+='<p>IP {0} callerCount {1} ' -f $$ip[1].IPAddress,$$callerCounts.Item($$_) } ;$$footer='</body></html>' ;$$content='{0}{1}{2}' -f $$header,$$callerCountsString,$$footer ;Write-Output $$content ;$$buffer = [System.Text.Encoding]::UTF8.GetBytes($$content) ;$$response.ContentLength64 = $$buffer.Length ;$$response.OutputStream.Write($$buffer, 0, $$buffer.Length) ;$$response.Close() ;$$responseStatus = $$response.StatusCode ;Write-Host('< {0}' -f $$responseStatus)  } ; "
Note: Port mapping is also supported, but for simplicity in this example the container port 80 is exposed directly to the service.
  1. Check that all nodes are healthy:

    kubectl get nodes
  2. Deploy the service and watch for pod updates:

    kubectl apply -f win-webserver.yaml
    kubectl get pods -o wide -w

    When the service is deployed correctly both Pods are marked as Ready. To exit the watch command, press Ctrl+C.

  3. Check that the deployment succeeded. To verify:

    • Two containers per pod on the Windows node, use docker ps
    • Two pods listed from the Linux master, use kubectl get pods
    • Node-to-pod communication across the network, curl port 80 of your pod IPs from the Linux master to check for a web server response
    • Pod-to-pod communication, ping between pods (and across hosts, if you have more than one Windows node) using docker exec or kubectl exec
    • Service-to-pod communication, curl the virtual service IP (seen under kubectl get services) from the Linux master and from individual pods
    • Service discovery, curl the service name with the Kubernetes default DNS suffix
    • Inbound connectivity, curl the NodePort from the Linux master or machines outside of the cluster
    • Outbound connectivity, curl external IPs from inside the pod using kubectl exec
Note: Windows container hosts are not able to access the IP of services scheduled on them due to current platform limitations of the Windows networking stack. Only Windows pods are able to access service IPs.

Managing Workload Identity with Group Managed Service Accounts

Starting with Kubernetes v1.14, Windows container workloads can be configured to use Group Managed Service Accounts (GMSA). Group Managed Service Accounts are a specific type of Active Directory account that provides automatic password management, simplified service principal name (SPN) management, and the ability to delegate the management to other administrators across multiple servers. Containers configured with a GMSA can access external Active Directory Domain resources while carrying the identity configured with the GMSA. Learn more about configuring and using GMSA for Windows containers here.

Taints and Tolerations

Users today need to use some combination of taints and node selectors in order to keep Linux and Windows workloads on their respective OS-specific nodes. This likely imposes a burden only on Windows users. The recommended approach is outlined below, with one of its main goals being that this approach should not break compatibility for existing Linux workloads.

Ensuring OS-specific workloads land on the appropriate container host

Users can ensure Windows containers can be scheduled on the appropriate host using Taints and Tolerations. All Kubernetes nodes today have the following default labels:

If a Pod specification does not specify a nodeSelector like "": windows, it is possible the Pod can be scheduled on any host, Windows or Linux. This can be problematic since a Windows container can only run on Windows and a Linux container can only run on Linux. The best practice is to use a nodeSelector.

However, we understand that in many cases users have a pre-existing large number of deployments for Linux containers, as well as an ecosystem of off-the-shelf configurations, such as community Helm charts, and programmatic Pod generation cases, such as with Operators. In those situations, you may be hesitant to make the configuration change to add nodeSelectors. The alternative is to use Taints. Because the kubelet can set Taints during registration, it could easily be modified to automatically add a taint when running on Windows only.

For example: --register-with-taints='os=Win1809:NoSchedule'

By adding a taint to all Windows nodes, nothing will be scheduled on them (that includes existing Linux Pods). In order for a Windows Pod to be scheduled on a Windows node, it would need both the nodeSelector to choose Windows, and the appropriate matching toleration.

    "": windows
    - key: "os"
      operator: "Equal"
      value: "Win1809"
      effect: "NoSchedule"