GKE custom OSS K8s cluster autoscaler

Update 2023-03-27: Added instructions for clusters using Workload Identity

This blog post described how to deploy your own K8s cluster autoscaler instead of the cluster autoscaler that's bundled with GKE. This can be helpful in the rare case that the bundled GKE cluster autoscaler doesn't work for you.

Note that the GKE bundled cluster autoscaler is vastly different from the OSS cluster autoscaler. GKE has done optimizations to make it perform better and scale based on cost. So in general you are strongly recommended to use the bundled GKE cluster autoscaler.


Now you might ask why would I do this instead of just using the bundled GKE cluster autoscaler? The short answer is you shouldn't unless you:


You're stubborn and persistent and still believe you have to do this then let's look at how this can be done.

1. Create a GKE cluster without cluster autoscaler enabled

PROJECT_ID=$(gcloud config get-value project)
gcloud container clusters create no-autoscaler \
  --no-enable-autoscaling \
  --region us-central1 --node-locations us-central1-a \
  --release-channel None \
  --cluster-version $GKE_VERSION \
  --workload-pool $PROJECT_ID.svc.id.goog

2. Configure Workload Identity

Create a serviceAccount to be used for cluster autoscaler:

gcloud iam service-accounts create k8s-cluster-autoscaler

Grant permission to the service account:

gcloud projects add-iam-policy-binding $PROJECT_ID \
    --member "serviceAccount:k8s-cluster-autoscaler@$PROJECT_ID.iam.gserviceaccount.com" \
    --role "roles/compute.instanceAdmin.v1"

Allow K8s Service Account to use the Google Service Account:

gcloud iam service-accounts add-iam-policy-binding k8s-cluster-autoscaler@$PROJECT_ID.iam.gserviceaccount.com \
    --role roles/iam.workloadIdentityUser \
    --member "serviceAccount:$PROJECT_ID.svc.id.goog[kube-system/cluster-autoscaler-gce-cluster-autoscaler]"

3. Deploy the K8s cluster autoscaler using helm

Create a file named values.yaml that contains the config for autoscaler:

  # The name prefix of of the GCE managed instance groups
  # this will be different in your case and in general follows this pattern
  # gke-$CLUSTER_NAME (in my case cluster name is no-autoscaler)
  - name: gke-no-autoscaler
    minSize: 1
    maxSize: 10

  # the cluster name of the GKE cluster, change to your cluster name
  clusterName: no-autoscaler

  # I had to do this to prevent this error:
  # lock is held by gke-2ff9d20265d64621837d-14fa-96a3-vm and has not yet expired
  # failed to acquire lease kube-system/cluster-autoscaler
  leader-elect: false

cloudProvider: gce
  # Change the image tag version to match the GKE version. So if running
  # GKE 1.25.6 make sure this version also is 1.25.0. there is no 1.25.6 image
  tag: v1.25.0

Deploy K8s cluster autoscaler with the just created values.yaml:

helm repo add autoscaler https://kubernetes.github.io/autoscaler
helm install cluster-autoscaler autoscaler/cluster-autoscaler -f values.yaml --namespace kube-system

You should now have a K8s cluster autoscaler working. Try spinning up many pods with high resource requests and the cluster should automatically add more nodes.