Microsoft Azure: Stop and Start Kubernetes Clusters Like Pausing a Video

Microsoft Azure: Stop and Start Kubernetes Clusters Like Pausing a Video

The September release of Microsoft's Azure Kubernetes Service includes an interesting new feature: you can stop a cluster when you don’t need it and restart it again when you do – the way you can stop a VM, pause a video or hibernate a laptop.

The September release of Microsoft’s Azure Kubernetes Service includes an interesting new feature: you can stop a cluster when you don’t need it and restart it again when you do — the way you can stop a VM, pause a video or hibernate a laptop. Scaling a cluster to zero still leaves the system pool running (and running up a bill); turning it off stops the control plane and agent nodes completely so there’s no cost, but you don’t need to create the cluster and reinstall images when you want the cluster back.

The new az aks stop and az aks start commands are a response to the way customers are turning to cloud services to achieve the digital transformation the pandemic demands from organizations but also the cost and efficiency they need hand in hand with that, Kubernetes co-founder and Microsoft Corporate vice president Brendan Burns told the New Stack.

The AKS team noticed that a lot of customers were deleting their agent node VMs at night or over the weekend, to keep service costs down, but that means they were still paying for the control plane — and getting the cluster back wasn’t always straightforward, especially if they were still experimenting with their environment and not ready to automate everything.

“A lot of this is DevTest or batch workloads, and since people actually don’t work 24 hours a day, if you have a DevTest cluster, you can actually just stop it,” Burns said. “A lot of people were doing this in CI/CD and we’re helping them do it more easily through an API. Instead of making them write a script to delete a cluster and create a cluster, just like you’d stop and start a VM rather than deleting and recreating a VM, you can stop the cluster, and then restart it at a later date with all of the state and everything that was already in there.”

That takes advantage of the fact that AKS is already backing up the cluster state for resiliency. “Ultimately, the only state in the Kubernetes system is really the contents of etcd; there are caches but everything else is stateless. So, when you stop a cluster, you’re taking the state of the etcd database, and you’re preserving it out to file. We already do that, because we back it up in case something happens, so we can restore it. This is basically proactively pushing that state file down to storage and then shutting down all the compute resources, so you’re not going to get charged for any of the compute resources that you were using.”

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