The Ops Community ⚙️


Posted on • Originally published at on

AWS: Getting started with Karpenter for autoscaling in EKS, and its installation with Helm

On all my previous projects where Kubernetes was, for its WorkerNodes scaling I’ve used the Cluster Autoscaler (CAS) because actually there were no other options before.

In general, CAS worked well, but in November 2020 AWS released its own solution for scaling nodes in EKS — the Karpenter, and if at first time reviews were mixed, its latest versions are highly praised, so I decided to try it on a new project.

Karpenter overview, and Karpenter vs Cluster Autoscaler

So what the Karpenter is? It is an auto scaler that starts new WorkerNodes when a Kubernetes cluster has Pods that it cannot start due to insufficient resources on existing WorkerNodes.

Unlike CAS, Karpenter can automatically select the most appropriate instance type depending on the needs of the Pods to be launched.

In addition, it can manage Pods on Nodes to optimize their placement across servers in order to de-scaling WorkerNodes that can be stopped to optimize the cost of the cluster.

Another nice feature is that, unlike CAS, you don’t need to create several WorkerNodes groups with different types of instances — Karpenter can itself determine a type of a Node needed for Pod/s, and create a new Node — no more hassle of choosing “Managed or Self- managed node groups” — you just describe a configuration of what types of instances can be used, and Karpenter itself will create a Node that is needed for each new Pod.

In fact, you completely eliminate the need to interact with AWS for EC2 management — this is all handled by the single component, Karpenter.

Also, Karpenter can handle Terminating and Stopping Events on EC2, and move Pods from Nodes that will be stopped — see native interrupt handling.

Karpenter Best Practices

The complete list is on the Karpenter Best Practices page, and I recommend you look at it. There are also EKS Best Practices Guides — also interesting to read.

Here are the main useful tips:

  • The Karpenter control Pod(s) should be run either on the Fargate or on a usual Node from an Autoscale NodeGroup (most likely, I will create one such an ASG for all critical services with a label like “critical-addons” for the Karpenter, aws-load-balancer-controller, coredns, ebs-csi-controller, external-dns, etc.)
  • configure Interruption Handling — then Karpeneter will migrate existing Pods from a Node that will be removed or terminated by Amazon
  • if the Kubernetes API is not available externally (and it should be not), then configure the AWS STS VPC endpoint for a VPC of an EKS cluster
  • create different provisioners for different teams that use different types of instances (e.g. for Bottlerocket and Amazon Linux)
  • configure consolidation for your provisioners — then Karpeneter will try to move running Pods to existing Nodes, or to a smaller Node that will be cheaper than the existing one
  • use Time To Live for Nodes created by Karpenter to remove Nodes that are not in use, see How Carpenter nodes are deprovisioned
  • add the annotation for Pods that you don't want to stop - then Karpenter won't touch a Node on which such Pods are running even after that Node's TTL expires
  • use Limit Ranges to set a default resources limits for Pods

Everything looks quite interesting — let’s try to run it.

Karpenter installation

We will use the Karpenter’s Helm chart.

Later, we will do it normally with automation, but for now, to see it closer let’s do it manually.


KarpenterInstanceNodeRole Role

Go to IAM Roles, and create a new role for WorkerNodes management:

Add Amazon-managed policies:

  • AmazonEKSWorkerNodePolicy
  • AmazonEKS_CNI_Policy
  • AmazonEC2ContainerRegistryReadOnly
  • AmazonSSMManagedInstanceCore

Save as KarpenterInstanceNodeRole :

KarpenterControllerRole Role

Add another, for Karpenter himself, here we describe the policy ourselves in JSON.

Go to IAM > Policies, and create your own policy:

    "Statement": [
            "Action": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Resource": "*",
            "Sid": "Karpenter"
            "Action": "ec2:TerminateInstances",
            "Condition": {
                "StringLike": {
                    "ec2:ResourceTag/Name": "*karpenter*"
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Resource": "*",
            "Sid": "ConditionalEC2Termination"
    "Version": "2012-10-17"
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Save as KarpenterControllerPolicy :

Create a second IAM Role with this policy.

You should already have an IAM OIDC identity provider, if not, then go to the documentation Creating an IAM OIDC provider for your cluster.

At the beginning of creating a Role, select the Web Identity in the Select trusted entity, and choose an OpenID Connect provider URL of your cluster in Identity provider. In the Audience field choose the service:

Next, attach the policy that was made before:

Save as KarpenterControllerRole.

The Trusted Policy should look like this:

An IAM Service Account with the KarpenterControllerRole role will be created by the chart itself.

Security Groups and Subnets tags for Karpenter

Next, you need to add a,Value=${CLUSTER\_NAME} tag to SecurityGroups and Subnets that are used by the existing WorkerNodes, to configure where Karpenter will then create new ones.

In the How do I install Karpenter in my Amazon EKS cluster? there is an example of how to do it with two commands in the terminal, but for the first time, I prefer to do it manually.

Find the SecurityGroups and Subnets of our WorkerNode AutoScaling Group — we have only one for now, so it will be simple:

Add tags:

Repeat for Subnets.

aws-auth ConfigMap

Add a new role to the aws-auth ConfgiMap for future WorkerNodes to join the cluster.

See Enabling IAM principal access to your cluster.

Let’s back up the ConfigMap:

$ kubectl -n kube-system get configmap aws-auth -o yaml > aws-auth-bkp.yaml
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Edit it:

$ kubectl -n kube-system edit configmap aws-auth
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Add a new mapping to the mapRoles block - our IAM role for WorkerNodes to RBACgroups system:bootstrappersand system:nodes. In the rolearn we set the KarpenterInstanceNodeRole IAM role, which was made for future WorkerNodes:

- groups:
  - system:bootstrappers
  - system:nodes
  rolearn: arn:aws:iam::492***148:role/KarpenterInstanceNodeRole
  username: system:node:{{EC2PrivateDNSName}}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

For some reason, my aws-auth ConfigMap was made in one line instead of the common Yaml, maybe because it was created by the AWS CDK, because as far as I remember, with eksctl it was created normally:

Let’s rewrite a bit, and add a new mapping.

Be careful here, because you can break the cluster. Do not do such things in Production — it all should be done with a Terraform/CDK/Pulumi/etc automation code:

Check that access has not been broken — let’s look at the Nodes:

$ kk get node
ip-10–0–2–173.ec2.internal Ready <none> 28d v1.26.4-eks-0a21954
ip-10–0–2–220.ec2.internal Ready <none> 38d v1.26.4-eks-0a21954
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Works? OK.

Installing the Karpenter Helm chart

In the How do I install Karpenter in my Amazon EKS cluster? mentioned above they suggest using the helm template to build values. A weird solution, as for me, but anyway it's working.

We will simply create our own values.yaml - this will be useful for future automation, and we will set the nodeAffinity and other parameters for the chart.

The default values ​​of the chart itself are here>>>.

Check the labels of our WorkerNode:

$ kk get node ip-10–0–2–173.ec2.internal -o json | jq -r '.metadata.labels.""'
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode


In our values.yaml file add an affinity - do not change the first part, but in the second set the with the name of the Node Group, the EKSClusterNodegroupNodegrou-zUKXsgSLIy6y:

      - matchExpressions:
        - key:
          operator: DoesNotExist
      - matchExpressions:
        - key:
          operator: In
          - EKSClusterNodegroupNodegrou-zUKXsgSLIy6y
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

In the serviceAccount add an annotation with the ARN of our KarpenterControllerRole IAM role :

  create: true
  annotations: arn:aws:iam::492***148:role/KarpenterControllerRole
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Add a settings block. Actually, everything is clear from the names of the parameter.

The only thing to note is that in the defaultInstanceProfile field do not specify the full ARN of the role, but only its name:

    clusterName: eks-dev-1-26-cluster
    clusterEndpoint: [https://2DC\*\*\*](https://2DC***
    defaultInstanceProfile: KarpenterInstanceNodeRole
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Now we are ready to deploy.

Find the current version of Karpenter on the releases page.

Since we are deploying for the test, you can take the latest one for today — v0.30.0-rc.0.

Let’s deploy from the Helm OCI registry:

$ helm upgrade --install --namespace dev-karpenter-system-ns --create-namespace -f values.yaml karpenter oci:// --version v0.30.0-rc.0 --wait
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Check Pods:

$ kk -n dev-karpenter-system-ns get pod
karpenter-78f4869696-cnlbh 1/1 Running 0 44s
karpenter-78f4869696-vrmrg 1/1 Running 0 44s
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Okay, all good here.

Creating a Default Provisioner

Now we can begin to configure autoscaling.

For this, we first need to add a Provisioner, see Create Provisioner.

In the Provisioner resource, we describe what types of EC2 instances to use, in the providerRef set a value of the resource name AWSNodeTemplate, in the consolidation - enable moving Pods between Nodes to optimize the use of WorkerNodes.

All parameters are in Provisioners — it is very useful to look at them.

Ready-made examples are available in the repository — examples/provisioner.

The resource AWSNodeTemplate describes exactly where to create new nodes - according to the tag that we set earlier on SecurityGroups and Subnets.

All parameters for the AWSNodeTemplate can be found on the Node Templates page.

So, what do we need:

  • use only T3 small, medium, or large instances
  • place new Nodes only in AvailabilityZone us-east-1a or us-east-1b

Create a manifest:

kind: Provisioner
  name: default
    - key:
      operator: In
      values: [t3]
    - key:
      operator: In
      values: [small, medium, large]
    - key:
      operator: In
      values: [us-east-1a, us-east-1b]
    name: default
    enabled: true
  ttlSecondsUntilExpired: 2592000
  ttlSecondsAfterEmpty: 30
kind: AWSNodeTemplate
  name: default
  subnetSelector: eks-dev-1-26-cluster
  securityGroupSelector: eks-dev-1-26-cluster
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Create resources:

$ kk -n dev-karpenter-system-ns apply -f provisioner.yaml created created
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Testing autoscaling with Karpenter

To check that everything is working, you can scale the existing NodeGroup by removing some of the EC2 instances from it.

In my Kubernetes cluster, we have our monitoring running — let’s break it down a bit ;-)

Change the AutoScale Group parameters:

Or create a Deployment with the big requests and the number of replicas:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: my-deployment
  replicas: 50
      app: my-app
        app: my-app
        - name: my-container
          image: nginx
              memory: "2048Mi"
              cpu: "1000m"
              memory: "2048Mi"
              cpu: "1000m"
        - maxSkew: 1
          whenUnsatisfiable: ScheduleAnyway
              app: my-app
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Watch the Karpenter logs — a new instance has been created:

2023–08–18T10:42:11.488Z INFO controller.provisioner computed 4 unready node(s) will fit 21 pod(s) {“commit”: “f013f7b”}
2023–08–18T10:42:11.497Z INFO controller.provisioner created machine {“commit”: “f013f7b”, “provisioner”: “default”, “machine”: “default-p7mnx”, “requests”: {“cpu”:”275m”,”memory”:”360Mi”,”pods”:”9"}, “instance-types”: “t3.large, t3.medium, t3.small”}
2023–08–18T10:42:12.335Z DEBUG controller.machine.lifecycle created launch template {“commit”: “f013f7b”, “machine”: “default-p7mnx”, “provisioner”: “default”, “launch-template-name”: “”, “id”: “lt-0288ed1deab8c37a7”}
2023–08–18T10:42:12.368Z DEBUG controller.machine.lifecycle discovered launch template {“commit”: “f013f7b”, “machine”: “default-p7mnx”, “provisioner”: “default”, “launch-template-name”: “”}
2023–08–18T10:42:12.402Z DEBUG controller.machine.lifecycle discovered launch template {“commit”: “f013f7b”, “machine”: “default-p7mnx”, “provisioner”: “default”, “launch-template-name”: “”}
2023–08–18T10:42:14.524Z INFO controller.machine.lifecycle launched machine {“commit”: “f013f7b”, “machine”: “default-p7mnx”, “provisioner”: “default”, “provider-id”: “aws:///us-east-1b/i-060bca40394a24a62”, “instance-type”: “t3.small”, “zone”: “us-east-1b”, “capacity-type”: “on-demand”, “allocatable”: {“cpu”:”1930m”,”ephemeral-storage”:”17Gi”,”memory”:”1418Mi”,”pods”:”11"}}
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

And in a minute check the Nodes in the cluster:

$ kk get node
ip-10–0–2–183.ec2.internal Ready <none> 6m34s v1.26.6-eks-a5565ad
ip-10–0–2–194.ec2.internal Ready <none> 19m v1.26.4-eks-0a21954
ip-10–0–2–212.ec2.internal Ready <none> 6m38s v1.26.6-eks-a5565ad
ip-10–0–3–210.ec2.internal Ready <none> 6m38s v1.26.6-eks-a5565ad
ip-10–0–3–84.ec2.internal Ready <none> 6m36s v1.26.6-eks-a5565ad
ip-10–0–3–95.ec2.internal Ready <none> 6m35s v1.26.6-eks-a5565ad
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Or in the AWS Console by the tag:


What is left to be done:

  • for the default Node Group, which is created with a cluster from the AWS CDK, add the critical-addons=true tag and tains with NoExecute and NoSchedule rules - this will be a dedicated group for all controllers (see Kubernetes: Pods and WorkerNodes – control the placement of the Pods on the Nodes)
  • add tag,Value=${CLUSTER\_NAME} in the cluster's automation for WorkerNodes, SecurityGroups, and Private Subnets
  • in the chart values ​​for AWS ALB Controller deployment, ExternalDNS, and Karpenter itself, add tolerations with the critical-addons=true tag, and NoExecute with NoSchedule

That’s all for now.

All Pods are up, everything is working.

And a couple of useful commands to check Pod/Nod status.

Output the number of Pods on each Node:

$ kubectl get pods -A -o jsonpath='{range .items[?(@.spec.nodeName)]}{.spec.nodeName}{"\n"}{end}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Display Pods on a Node:

$ kubectl get pods --all-namespaces -o wide --field-selector spec.nodeName=ip-10–0–2–212.ec2.internal
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Also, you can add plugins for kubectl to check used resources on Nodes - see Kubernetes: Krew plugin manager and useful plugins for kubectl.

Oh, and will be good to play around with the Vertical Pod Autoscaler — how Karpenter will deal with it.

Useful links

Originally published at RTFM: Linux, DevOps, and system administration.

Top comments (0)