Create node pools for a cluster in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

In Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), nodes of the same configuration are grouped together into node pools. These node pools contain the underlying VMs that run your applications. When you create an AKS cluster, you define the initial number of nodes and their size (SKU), which creates a system node pool.

To support applications that have different compute or storage demands, you can create user node pools. System node pools serve the primary purpose of hosting critical system pods such as CoreDNS and konnectivity. User node pools serve the primary purpose of hosting your application pods. For example, use more user node pools to provide GPUs for compute-intensive applications, or access to high-performance SSD storage. However, if you wish to have only one pool in your AKS cluster, you can schedule application pods on system node pools.

Note

This feature enables more control over creating and managing multiple node pools and requires separate commands for create/update/delete (CRUD) operations. Previously, cluster operations through az aks create or az aks update used the managedCluster API and were the only options to change your control plane and a single node pool. This feature exposes a separate operation set for agent pools through the agentPool API and requires use of the az aks nodepool command set to execute operations on an individual node pool.

This article shows you how to create one or more node pools in an AKS cluster.

Before you begin

Limitations

The following limitations apply when you create AKS clusters that support multiple node pools:

  • See Quotas, virtual machine size restrictions, and region availability in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS).
  • You can delete system node pools if you have another system node pool to take its place in the AKS cluster. Otherwise, you cannot delete the system node pool.
  • System pools must contain at least one node, and user node pools may contain zero or more nodes.
  • The AKS cluster must use the Standard SKU load balancer to use multiple node pools. This feature isn't supported with Basic SKU load balancers.
  • The AKS cluster must use Virtual Machine Scale Sets for the nodes.
  • The name of a node pool may only contain lowercase alphanumeric characters and must begin with a lowercase letter.
    • For Linux node pools, the length must be between 1-12 characters.
    • For Windows node pools, the length must be between 1-6 characters.
  • All node pools must reside in the same virtual network.
  • When you create multiple node pools at cluster creation time, the Kubernetes versions for the node pools must match the version set for the control plane.

Create an AKS cluster

Important

If you run a single system node pool for your AKS cluster in a production environment, we recommend you use at least three nodes for the node pool. If one node goes down, you lose control plane resources and redundancy is compromised. You can mitigate this risk by having more control plane nodes.

  1. Create an Azure resource group using the az group create command.

    az group create --name myResourceGroup --location eastus
    
  2. Create an AKS cluster with a single node pool using the az aks create command.

    az aks create \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --name myAKSCluster \
        --vm-set-type VirtualMachineScaleSets \
        --node-count 2 \
        --generate-ssh-keys \
        --load-balancer-sku standard
    

    It takes a few minutes to create the cluster.

  3. When the cluster is ready, get the cluster credentials using the az aks get-credentials command.

    az aks get-credentials --resource-group myResourceGroup --name myAKSCluster
    

Add a node pool

The cluster created in the previous step has a single node pool. In this section, we add a second node pool to the cluster.

  1. Create a new node pool using the az aks nodepool add command. The following example creates a node pool named mynodepool that runs three nodes:

    az aks nodepool add \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --name mynodepool \
        --node-count 3
    
  2. Check the status of your node pools using the az aks node pool list command and specify your resource group and cluster name.

    az aks nodepool list --resource-group myResourceGroup --cluster-name myAKSCluster
    

    The following example output shows mynodepool has been successfully created with three nodes. When the AKS cluster was created in the previous step, a default nodepool1 was created with a node count of 2.

    [
      {
        ...
        "count": 3,
        ...
        "name": "mynodepool",
        "orchestratorVersion": "1.15.7",
        ...
        "vmSize": "Standard_DS2_v2",
        ...
      },
      {
        ...
        "count": 2,
        ...
        "name": "nodepool1",
        "orchestratorVersion": "1.15.7",
        ...
        "vmSize": "Standard_DS2_v2",
        ...
      }
    ]
    

ARM64 node pools

The ARM64 processor provides low power compute for your Kubernetes workloads. To create an ARM64 node pool, you need to choose a Dpsv5, Dplsv5 or Epsv5 series Virtual Machine.

Limitations

  • ARM64 node pools aren't supported on Defender-enabled clusters.
  • FIPS-enabled node pools aren't supported with ARM64 SKUs.

Add an ARM64 node pool

  • Add an ARM64 node pool into your existing cluster using the az aks nodepool add.

    az aks nodepool add \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --name armpool \
        --node-count 3 \
        --node-vm-size Standard_D2pds_v5
    

Azure Linux node pools

The Azure Linux container host for AKS is an open-source Linux distribution available as an AKS container host. It provides high reliability, security, and consistency. It only includes the minimal set of packages needed for running container workloads, which improve boot times and overall performance.

Add an Azure Linux node pool

  • Add an Azure Linux node pool into your existing cluster using the az aks nodepool add command and specify --os-sku AzureLinux.

    az aks nodepool add \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --name azlinuxpool \
        --os-sku AzureLinux
    

Migrate Ubuntu nodes to Azure Linux nodes

You can migrate your existing Ubuntu nodes to Azure Linux using one of the following methods:

Node pools with unique subnets

A workload may require splitting cluster nodes into separate pools for logical isolation. Separate subnets dedicated to each node pool in the cluster can help support this isolation, which can address requirements such as having noncontiguous virtual network address space to split across node pools.

Note

Make sure to use Azure CLI version 2.35.0 or later.

Limitations

  • All subnets assigned to node pools must belong to the same virtual network.
  • System pods must have access to all nodes and pods in the cluster to provide critical functionality, such as DNS resolution and tunneling kubectl logs/exec/port-forward proxy.
  • If you expand your VNET after creating the cluster, you must update your cluster before adding a subnet outside the original CIDR block. While AKS errors-out on the agent pool add, the aks-preview Azure CLI extension (version 0.5.66 and higher) now supports running az aks update command with only the required -g <resourceGroup> -n <clusterName> arguments. This command performs an update operation without making any changes, which can recover a cluster stuck in a failed state.
  • In clusters with Kubernetes version less than 1.23.3, kube-proxy SNATs traffic from new subnets, which can cause Azure Network Policy to drop the packets.
  • Windows nodes SNAT traffic to the new subnets until the node pool is reimaged.
  • Internal load balancers default to one of the node pool subnets.

Add a node pool with a unique subnet

  • Add a node pool with a unique subnet into your existing cluster using the az aks nodepool add command and specify the --vnet-subnet-id.

    az aks nodepool add \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --name mynodepool \
        --node-count 3 \
        --vnet-subnet-id <YOUR_SUBNET_RESOURCE_ID>
    

FIPS-enabled node pools

For more information on enabling Federal Information Process Standard (FIPS) for your AKS cluster, see Enable Federal Information Process Standard (FIPS) for Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) node pools.

Windows Server node pools with containerd

Beginning in Kubernetes version 1.20 and higher, you can specify containerd as the container runtime for Windows Server 2019 node pools. Starting with Kubernetes 1.23, containerd is the default and only container runtime for Windows.

Important

When using containerd with Windows Server 2019 node pools:

  • Both the control plane and Windows Server 2019 node pools must use Kubernetes version 1.20 or greater.
  • When you create or update a node pool to run Windows Server containers, the default value for --node-vm-size is Standard_D2s_v3, which was minimum recommended size for Windows Server 2019 node pools prior to Kubernetes version 1.20. The minimum recommended size for Windows Server 2019 node pools using containerd is Standard_D4s_v3. When setting the --node-vm-size parameter, check the list of restricted VM sizes.
  • We recommended using taints or labels with your Windows Server 2019 node pools running containerd and tolerations or node selectors with your deployments to guarantee your workloads are scheduled correctly.

Add a Windows Server node pool with containerd

  • Add a Windows Server node pool with containerd into your existing cluster using the az aks nodepool add.

    Note

    If you don't specify the WindowsContainerRuntime=containerd custom header, the node pool still uses containerd as the container runtime by default.

    az aks nodepool add \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --os-type Windows \
        --name npwcd \
        --node-vm-size Standard_D4s_v3 \
        --kubernetes-version 1.20.5 \
        --aks-custom-headers WindowsContainerRuntime=containerd \
        --node-count 1
    

Upgrade a specific existing Windows Server node pool to containerd

  • Upgrade a specific node pool from Docker to containerd using the az aks nodepool upgrade command.

    az aks nodepool upgrade \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --name npwd \
        --kubernetes-version 1.20.7 \
        --aks-custom-headers WindowsContainerRuntime=containerd
    

Upgrade all existing Windows Server node pools to containerd

  • Upgrade all node pools from Docker to containerd using the az aks nodepool upgrade command.

    az aks nodepool upgrade \
        --resource-group myResourceGroup \
        --cluster-name myAKSCluster \
        --kubernetes-version 1.20.7 \
        --aks-custom-headers WindowsContainerRuntime=containerd
    

Delete a node pool

If you no longer need a node pool, you can delete it and remove the underlying VM nodes.

Caution

When you delete a node pool, AKS doesn't perform cordon and drain, and there are no recovery options for data loss that may occur when you delete a node pool. If pods can't be scheduled on other node pools, those applications become unavailable. Make sure you don't delete a node pool when in-use applications don't have data backups or the ability to run on other node pools in your cluster. To minimize the disruption of rescheduling pods currently running on the node pool you want to delete, perform a cordon and drain on all nodes in the node pool before deleting.

  • Delete a node pool using the az aks nodepool delete command and specify the node pool name.

    az aks nodepool delete -g myResourceGroup --cluster-name myAKSCluster --name mynodepool --no-wait
    

    It takes a few minutes to delete the nodes and the node pool.

Next steps

In this article, you learned how to create multiple node pools in an AKS cluster. To learn about how to manage multiple node pools, see Manage multiple node pools for a cluster in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS).