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Kubernetes DaemonSet – What It is & How to Use (Example)

Kubernetes DeamonSet - What It is & How to Use It (Example)

A DaemonSet is a type of Kubernetes API object that replicates identical Pods across the Nodes in your cluster.

This article will go in-depth on what DaemonSets are, how they work, and when you should use them. We’ll also include a simple tutorial that shows how to deploy a DaemonSet in your own cluster.

We will cover:

  1. What is a Kubernetes DaemonSet?
  2. What is DaemonSet used for?
  3. Examples of using a DaemonSet
  4. Scoping DaemonSets to specific Nodes
  5. How to scale a DeamonSet
  6. DaemonSet Best Practices

What is a Kubernetes DaemonSet?

DaemonSets are Kubernetes API objects that allow you to run Pods as a daemon on each of your Nodes. New Nodes that join the cluster will automatically start running Pods that are part of a DaemonSet. DaemonSets are often used to run long-lived background services such as Node monitoring systems and log collection agents. To ensure complete coverage, it’s important that these apps run a Pod on every Node in your cluster.

By default, Kubernetes manages your DaemonSets so that every Node is always running an instance of the Pod. You can optionally customize a DaemonSet’s configuration so that only a subset of your Nodes schedule a Pod.

When new Nodes join your cluster, they’ll automatically start running applicable Pods that are defined by DaemonSets. Similarly, Kubernetes will deschedule those Pods and run garbage collection when Nodes are deprovisioned.

As DaemonSets are designed to run a Pod on every Node reliably, they come with default tolerations that allow them to schedule new Pods in situations that would normally be prevented. For example, DaemonSet Pods will still be scheduled even if a target Node is facing resource constraints or isn’t accepting new Pods.

What is the difference between Pods, ReplicaSets, Deployments, StatefulSets, and DaemonSets?

Pods are the fundamental unit in Kubernetes: they represent a collection of one or more containers running in your cluster.

ReplicaSets builds upon this foundation by providing a construct that guarantees a specified number of Pod replicas will be running at a given time. Deployments implement declarative management of ReplicaSets and are how most stateless apps are deployed in Kubernetes, while StatefulSets simplify the use of stateful workloads that require persistent data storage.

DaemonSets differ from any of these other Kubernetes workload types because they have unique scheduling behavior. Pods, ReplicaSets, and Deployments schedule to available cluster Nodes automatically, until the requested number of replicas is running. Unless you set affinity rules, you can’t know which Nodes will be selected to run a Pod. DaemonSets, however, ensure every Node runs a replica of the Pod.

Read also Kubernetes StatefulSet vs. Deployment.

What is DaemonSet used for?

As mentioned above, DaemonSets are ideal in a variety of real-world use cases:

Running Node monitoring agents 

In-cluster services that collect metrics data from your Nodes need to reliably deploy a Pod on each one. For maximal coverage, the deployment should occur immediately after the Node joins the cluster. DaemonSets implement this behavior without requiring any special configuration.

Collecting logs from Nodes

Similarly, collecting the contents of Node-level logs (such as Kubelet and kernel logs) helps you audit your environments and troubleshoot problems. Deploying your logging service as a DaemonSet ensures all your Nodes will be included.

Backing up Node data 

Backups are another good candidate for DaemonSets. Using a DaemonSet ensures all your Nodes will be included in your backups without making you scale or reconfigure your backup service when Nodes change. If some Nodes don’t need backups, you can customize your DaemonSet so that only relevant Nodes are covered.

Example of using a DaemonSet

Now we’ve covered the theory behind DaemonSets, let’s look at a simple example you can run in your own cluster.

Because DaemonSets replicate Pods across multiple Nodes, you’ll need access to a multi-Node Kubernetes cluster before you can follow this tutorial.

You can use Minikube to create a new local cluster on your own machine. Follow the guidance on the Minikube website to install Minikube, then run the following command to start a cluster with three virtual Nodes:

$ minikube start --nodes=3
Done! kubectl is now configured to use "minikube" cluster and "default" namespace by default

Wait while your cluster starts up; progress will be shown in your terminal.

Once you see the Done! kubectl is now configured message, run the following Kubectl command to check that your cluster’s Nodes are running:

$ kubectl get nodes
NAME           STATUS   ROLES           AGE   VERSION
minikube       Ready    control-plane   62s   v1.27.4
minikube-m02   Ready    <none>          45s   v1.27.4
minikube-m03   Ready    <none>          31s   v1.27.4

This confirms the three Nodes are operational. One is configured as the cluster control plane and the other two are workers.

How to create a DaemonSet

Here’s a simple manifest for a DaemonSet that runs the Fluentd logging system on each of your cluster’s Nodes:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: DaemonSet
  name: fluentd
      name: fluentd
        name: fluentd
        - name: fluentd-elasticsearch
          image: quay.io/fluentd_elasticsearch/fluentd:latest

The manifest’s spec.selector field must reference the labels assigned to the Pod template in spec.template. The template is a regular Kubernetes Pod spec that defines the containers the DaemonSet will run.

Copy the manifest to fluentd.yaml in your working directory, then use Kubectl to apply it to your cluster:

$ kubectl apply -f fluentd.yaml
daemonset.apps/fluentd created

Wait while the DaemonSet’s Pods start, then use the kubectl get pods command with the -o wide option to list the Pods and the Nodes that they’re scheduled to:

$ kubectl get pods -o wide
NAME            READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE     IP           NODE
fluentd-jn24d   1/1     Running   0          2m10s   minikube-m02
fluentd-pzmjh   1/1     Running   0          2m10s   minikube-m03
fluentd-zcq57   1/1     Running   0          2m10s   minikube

You can see that Kubernetes has automatically scheduled a Fluentd Pod onto each of the three Nodes in your cluster.

The kubectl get daemonsets command will show you the status of the DaemonSet object. This includes the desired number of Pods to run, based on the current number of Nodes in your cluster, as well as the current number of Pods that are ready, available, and in the latest up-to-date configuration.

$ kubectl get daemonset
fluentd   3         3         3       3            3           <none>          3m55s

How to update a DaemonSet

DaemonSets are updated in the same way as other Kubernetes objects. You can use the kubectl update and kubectl patch commands, or take advantage of declarative updates by editing your YAML files, then repeating the kubectl apply command.

Not all DaemonSet fields are updatable, however. You’re prevented from changing the DaemonSet’s spec.selector because any modifications could result in existing Pods being orphaned.

How to delete a DaemonSet

The standard Kubernetes deletion process applies to DaemonSets too. You can use the kubectl delete command to stop and remove all the Pods created by the DaemonSet, then delete the DaemonSet object itself:

$ kubectl delete daemonset/fluentd
daemonset.apps "fluentd" deleted

$ kubectl get daemonsets
No resources found in default namespace.

$ kubectl get pods
No resources found in default namespace.

Optionally, you can delete just the DaemonSet object, while leaving its Pods intact. To do this, you must specify --cascade=orphan when you issue your deletion command:

$ kubectl delete daemonset/fluentd --cascade=orphan
daemonset.apps “fluentd” deleted

The Pods will stay running on their existing Nodes. If you later create another DaemonSet with the same name, then it will automatically adopt the orphaned Pods.

Learn also how to delete a Deployment in Kubernetes.

Scoping DaemonSets to Specific nodes

You can configure DaemonSets with a nodeSelector and affinity rules to run Pods on only some of your cluster’s Nodes. These constraints are set using the DaemonSet’s spec.template.spec.nodeSelector and spec.template.spec.affinity fields, respectively.

Here’s a modified version of the Fluentd DaemonSet manifest from above:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: DaemonSet
  name: fluentd
      name: fluentd
        name: fluentd
        - log-collection-enabled: "true"
        - name: fluentd-elasticsearch
          image: quay.io/fluentd_elasticsearch/fluentd:latest

Before applying the manifest to your cluster, set the log-collection-enabled: true label on one of your Nodes:

$ kubectl label node minikube-m02 log-collection-enabled=true
node/minikube-m02 labeled

Then apply the updated DaemonSet manifest:

$ kubectl apply -f fluentd.yaml

Retrieve the DaemonSet’s details with Kubectl’s get daemonsets command:

$ kubectl get daemonsets
fluentd   1         1         1       1            1           log-collection-enabled=true   13s

This time you can see that a node selector is applied to the DaemonSet. The DaemonSet’s desired, current, and available Pod counts show one, because only one of your has Nodes been assigned the label that matches the selector.

Viewing the Pod list will confirm that the Pod is running on the labelled Node—minikube-m02, in our example:

$ kubectl get pod -o wide
NAME            READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE     IP           NODE
fluentd-dflnq   1/1     Running   0          8m55s   minikube-m02

How to scale a DaemonSet

DaemonSets are scaled differently to other Kubernetes workload objects. They are automatically scaled based on the number of Nodes in your cluster that match the DaemonSet’s configuration.

Therefore, the way to scale a DaemonSet is to simply add or remove matching Nodes. Creating a new Node will deploy an additional replica of your Pod, while deprovisioning a Node effectively scales down the DaemonSet.

How to scale a DaemonSet down to 0?

Sometimes you might want more control over DaemonSet scaling. For example, scaling down to 0 and then back up again is a common way to force Kubernetes to redeploy Pods as new instances.

To achieve this with a DaemonSet, you should patch the DaemonSet’s configuration to apply a nodeSelector that doesn’t match any Nodes:

$ kubectl patch daemonset example-daemonset -p '{"spec": {"nodeSelector": {"dummy-nodeselector": "foobar"}}}'

Removing the nodeSelector afterwards—or replacing it with the correct original one—will allow the DaemonSet to scale back up again.

DaemonSet best practices

Here are some best practices for using DaemonSets that will help you maximize performance and reliability.

1. Only use DaemonSets when Pod scaling is coupled to Node count

DaemonSets are designed to scale Pods across your Nodes. Regular workload objects such as ReplicaSets and Deployments should be used when you will scale Pod counts independently of your cluster’s Node count.

2. Ensure all DaemonSet Pods have a correct restart policy

Pods in a DaemonSet must have their restartPolicy set to Always, if you choose to specify a value. This is so the Pods restart with the Node.

3. Do not manually manage DaemonSet Pods

Pods created as part of a DaemonSet shouldn’t be manually edited or deleted. Making changes outside of the DaemonSet could result in Pods being orphaned.

4. Use rollbacks to quickly revert DaemonSet changes

An advantage of using DaemonSets for your cluster’s background services is the ease with which you can rollback to earlier revisions if a problem occurs. Initiating a rollback is quicker and more reliable than manually reverting the change, then starting a new rollout.

DaemonSets are a good way to run any daemonized software in Kubernetes. However, standard Kubernetes best practices also apply to their use: for example, it’s important to configure proper resource constraints and security context settings for your DaemonSet Pods.

Key points

Kubernetes DaemonSets replicate Pods across the Nodes in your cluster. This functionality isn’t available in the default Kubernetes scheduling implementation used by other API objects such as ReplicaSets and Deployments.

We’ve seen how DaemonSets are an effective way to deploy global cluster services, including logging tools and backup agents. Any app that needs direct interaction with your cluster’s Nodes is a good candidate to run as a DaemonSet.

If you need any assistance with managing your Kubernetes projects, take a look at Spacelift. It brings with it a GitOps flow, so your Kubernetes Deployments are synced with your Kubernetes Stacks, and pull requests show you a preview of what they’re planning to change. It also has an extensive selection of policies, which lets you automate compliance checks and build complex multi-stack workflows. You can check it for free by creating a trial account.

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