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Published: Jan 17, 2019 License: Apache-2.0



Multicluster-scheduler is a system of Kubernetes controllers that intelligently schedules workloads across clusters. It is simple to use and simple to integrate with other tools.

  1. Install the scheduler in any cluster and the agent in each cluster that you want to federate.
  2. Annotate any pod or pod template (e.g., of a Deployment or Argo Workflow) in any member cluster with"".
  3. Multicluster-scheduler replaces the elected pods by pod proxies and deploys delegate pods to other clusters.

Check out Admiralty's blog post demonstrating how to run an Argo workflow across clusters to better utilize resources and combine data from different regions or clouds.

How it Works

Multicluster-scheduler is a system of Kubernetes controllers managed by the scheduler, deployed in any cluster, and its agents, deployed in the member clusters. The scheduler manages a single eponymous controller, while each agent manages five controllers: the pod admission, observations, decisions, feedback, and node pool controllers.

  1. The pod admission controller, a dynamic, mutating admission webhook, intercepts pod creation requests. If a pod is annotated with"", its original manifest is saved as an annotation, and its containers are replaced by a proxy that simply awaits a success or failure signal from the feedback controller (see below).
  2. The observations controller, a multi-cluster controller, watches pods—including proxy pods—nodes, and node pools (created by the node pool controller, see below) in the agent's cluster and reconciles corresponding observations in the scheduler's cluster.
  3. The scheduler watches proxy pod observations and reconciles delegate pod decisions, all in its own cluster. It decides target clusters based on the observations. The scheduler doesn't push anything to the member clusters.
  4. The decisions controller, another multi-cluster controller, watches delegate pod decisions in the scheduler's cluster and reconciles corresponding delegate pods in the agent's cluster.
  5. The feedback controller watches delegate pod observations and reconciles the corresponding proxy pods. If a delegate pod is annotated (e.g., with Argo outputs), the annotations are replicated upstream, into the corresponding proxy pod. When a delegate pod succeeds or fails, the controller kills the corresponding proxy pod's container with the proper signal.
  6. The node pool controller automatically creates node pool objects in the agent's cluster. In GKE and AKS, it uses the or agentpool label, respectively; in the absence of those labels, a default node pool object is created. Min/max node counts and pricing information can be updated by the user, or controlled by other tools. Custom node pool objects can also be created using label selectors. Node pool information can be used for scheduling.

Observations, pod decisions, and node pools are custom resources. Node pools are defined (by CRDs) in each member cluster, whereas all observations and pod decisions are only defined in the scheduler's cluster.

Getting Started

We assume that you are a cluster admin for two clusters, associated with, e.g., the contexts "cluster1" and "cluster2" in your kubeconfig. We're going to install a basic scheduler in cluster1 and agents in cluster1 and cluster2, but the scripts can easily be adapted for other configurations. Then, we will deploy a multi-cluster NGINX.

CLUSTER1=cluster1 # change me
CLUSTER2=cluster2 # change me

Choose a cluster to host the scheduler, download the basic scheduler's manifest and install it:

kubectl config use-context "$SCHEDULER_CLUSTER_NAME"
kubectl apply -f "$RELEASE_URL/scheduler.yaml"

In the same cluster as the scheduler, create a namespace for the federation and, in it, a service account and role binding for each member cluster. The scheduler's cluster can be a member too.

kubectl create namespace "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE"
MEMBER_CLUSTER_NAMES=("$CLUSTER1" "$CLUSTER2") # Add as many member clusters as you want.
    kubectl create serviceaccount "$CLUSTER_NAME" \
    kubectl create rolebinding "$CLUSTER_NAME" \
        --serviceaccount "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE:$CLUSTER_NAME" \
        --clusterrole multicluster-scheduler-member

If you're already running multicluster-service-account in each member cluster, and the scheduler's cluster is known to them as $SCHEDULER_CLUSTER_NAME, you can skip this step and install the agents. Otherwise, read on.

Download the multicluster-service-account manifest and install it in each member cluster:

    kubectl --context "$CLUSTER_NAME" apply -f "$MCSA_RELEASE_URL/install.yaml"

Then, download the kubemcsa binary and run the bootstrap command to allow member clusters to import service accounts from the scheduler's cluster:

OS=linux # or darwin (i.e., OS X) or windows
ARCH=amd64 # if you're on a different platform, you must know how to build from source
curl -Lo kubemcsa "$MCSA_RELEASE_URL/kubemcsa-$OS-$ARCH"
chmod +x kubemcsa
sudo mv kubemcsa /usr/local/bin

    kubemcsa bootstrap "$CLUSTER_NAME" "$SCHEDULER_CLUSTER_NAME"

Download the agent manifest and install it in each member cluster:

curl -LO $RELEASE_URL/agent.yaml
        -e "s/CLUSTER_NAME/$CLUSTER_NAME/g" \
        agent.yaml > "agent-$CLUSTER_NAME.yaml"
    kubectl --context "$CLUSTER_NAME" apply -f "agent-$CLUSTER_NAME.yaml"

Check that node pool objects have been created in the agents' clusters and observations appear in the scheduler's cluster:

    kubectl --context "$CLUSTER_NAME" get nodepools # or np
kubectl -n "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE" get nodepoolobservations # or npobs
kubectl -n "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE" get nodeobservations # or nodeobs
kubectl -n "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE" get podobservations # or podobs
# or
kubectl -n "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE" get observations # by category

Deploy NGINX in any of the member cluster, e.g., cluster2, with an annotation on its pod template to notify multicluster-scheduler of your intention:

cat <<EOF | kubectl --context "$CLUSTER2" apply -f -
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: nginx
  replicas: 10
      app: nginx
        app: nginx
      annotations: ""
      - name: nginx
        image: nginx
            cpu: 100m
            memory: 32Mi
        - containerPort: 80

Things to check:

  1. The original pods have been transformed into proxy pods. Notice the replacement container, and the original manifest saved as an annotation.
  2. Proxy pod observations have been created in the scheduler's cluster. Notice their names indicating the proxy pods' cluster name, namespace and names. This information is also stored in status.liveState.metadata.
  3. Delegate pod decisions have been created in the scheduler's cluster as well. Delegate pod decisions are named after the proxy pod observations, but the cluster names in spec.template.metadata don't necessarily match because they indicate the target clusters. Each decision was made based on all of the observations available at the time.
  4. Delegate pods have been created in either cluster. Notice that their spec matches the original manifest.
kubectl --context "$CLUSTER2" get pods # (-o yaml for details)
kubectl -n "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE" get podobs # (-o yaml)
kubectl -n "$FEDERATION_NAMESPACE" get poddecisions # or poddec (-o yaml)
    kubectl --context "$CLUSTER_NAME" get pods # (-o yaml)

You would also need a Service in each cluster, matching the deployment's label selector. You don't need multicluster-scheduler for that. Most continuous delivery tools, e.g., Argo CD, can deploy resources of any kinds to any clusters when placement is predetermined.

Enforcing Placement

In some cases, you may want to specify the target cluster, rather than let the scheduler decide. For example, you may want an Argo workflow to execute certain steps in certain clusters, e.g., to be closer to external dependencies. You can enforce placement using the annotation. Admiralty's blog post presents multicloud Argo workflows. To complete this getting started guide, let's annotate our NGINX deployment's pod template to reschedule all pods to cluster1.

kubectl --context "$CLUSTER2" patch deployment nginx -p '{

Comparison with Federation v2

The goal of Federation v2 is similar to multicluster-scheduler's. However, they differ in several ways:

  • Federation v2 has a broader scope than multicluster-scheduler. Any resource can be federated and deployed via a single control plane, even if the same result could be achieved with continuous delivery, e.g., GitOps. Multicluster-scheduler focuses on scheduling.
  • Multicluster-scheduler doesn't require using new federated resource types (cf. Federation v2's templates, placements and overrides). Instead, pods only need to be annotated to be scheduled to other clusters. This makes adopting multicluster-scheduler painless and ensures compatibility with other tools like Argo.
  • Whereas Federation v2's API resides in a single cluster, multicluster-scheduler's annotated pods can be declared in any member cluster and/or the scheduler's cluster. Teams can keep working in separate clusters, while utilizing available resources in other clusters as needed.
  • Federation v2 propagates scheduling resources with a push-sync reconciler. Multicluster-scheduler's agents push observations and pull scheduling decisions to/from the scheduler's cluster. The scheduler reconciles scheduling decisions with observations, but never calls the Kubernetes APIs of the member clusters. Clusters allowing outbound traffic to, but no inbound traffic from the scheduler's cluster (e.g., on-prem, in some cases) can join the federation. Also, if the scheduler's cluster is compromised, attackers don't automatically gain access to the entire federation.


  • Integration with horizontal pod autoscaler
  • Integration with Istio and Knative
  • Advanced scheduling, respecting affinities, anti-affinities, taints, tolerations, quotas, etc.
  • Port-forward between proxy and delegate pods
  • One namespace per member cluster in the scheduler's cluster for better RBAC
  • Integrate node pool concept with other tools

Bring Your Own Scheduler

You can easily implement your own multi-cluster scheduler. Here's a basic manager scaffolding, where the custom scheduler struct, which implements the Scheduler interface, is passed as an argument to the controller:

package main

import (

  appsv1 ""
  corev1 ""
  _ ""

func main() {
  cfg, _, err := config.ConfigAndNamespace()
  if err != nil {
    log.Fatalf("cannot load config: %v", err)
  cl := cluster.New("", cfg, cluster.Options{})

  co, err := schedule.NewController(cl, &scheduler{})
  if err != nil {
    log.Fatalf("cannot create scheduler controller: %v", err)

  m := manager.New()

  if err := m.Start(signals.SetupSignalHandler()); err != nil {
    log.Fatalf("while or after starting manager: %v", err)

type scheduler struct {
    // ... e.g., structured observations

func (s *Scheduler) Reset() {
    // called before the setters to reinitialize internal state

func (s *scheduler) SetNodePool(np *v1alpha1.NodePool) {
    // ... e.g., store to inform scheduling decisions
    // Note: the controller has added a ClusterName to the object's metadata.

func (s *scheduler) SetNode(n *corev1.Node) {
    // ... e.g., store to inform scheduling decisions
    // Note: the controller has added a ClusterName to the object's metadata.
func (s *scheduler) SetPod(p *corev1.Pod) {
    // ... e.g., store to inform scheduling decisions
    // Note: the controller has added a ClusterName to the object's metadata.

func (s *scheduler) Schedule(p *corev1.Pod) (string, error) {
    // ... Given the original pod, decide a cluster name.

API Reference


go get
godoc -http=:6060

then http://localhost:6060/pkg/


Path Synopsis
Package apis contains Kubernetes API groups.
Package apis contains Kubernetes API groups.
Package multicluster contains multicluster API versions
Package multicluster contains multicluster API versions
Package v1alpha1 contains API Schema definitions for the multicluster v1alpha1 API group +k8s:openapi-gen=true +k8s:deepcopy-gen=package,register +k8s:defaulter-gen=TypeMeta Package v1alpha1 contains API Schema definitions for the multicluster v1alpha1 API group +k8s:openapi-gen=true +k8s:deepcopy-gen=package,register +k8s:defaulter-gen=TypeMeta
Package v1alpha1 contains API Schema definitions for the multicluster v1alpha1 API group +k8s:openapi-gen=true +k8s:deepcopy-gen=package,register +k8s:defaulter-gen=TypeMeta Package v1alpha1 contains API Schema definitions for the multicluster v1alpha1 API group +k8s:openapi-gen=true +k8s:deepcopy-gen=package,register +k8s:defaulter-gen=TypeMeta

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