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K8s Cluster Auto-scalers: Autoscaler vs Karpenter


Autoscaling in a nutshell

When we are working with workloads that dynamically demand more or fewer resources in terms of CPU or memory we need to think of solutions that allow us to deploy and fit these workloads in production. In this post we will talk about a few concepts like autoscaling:

"Autoscaling is a method used in cloud computing that dynamically adjusts the number of computational resources in a server farm - typically measured by the number of active servers - automatically based on the load on the farm"

Good, now we know what auto-scaling is and in which case it is used. If you have an e-commerce app is probably that you need auto scalers many times a year, an example is Amazon Prime Day where the traffic going into servers may grow for a few hours.

K8s Autoscaling

Kubernetes is one of the container orchestration platforms with major automation capabilities. Kubernetes autoscaling helps optimize resource usage and costs by automatically scaling a cluster up and down in line with demand. Kubernetes enables autoscaling at the cluster/node level as well as at the pod level, two different but fundamentally connected layers of Kubernetes architecture.

K8s Autoscaler (Native)

Autoscaler is a Kubernetes native tool that increases or decreases the size of a Kubernetes cluster (by adding or removing nodes), based on the presence of pending pods and node utilization metrics. Its functions are:

  • Adds nodes to a cluster whenever it detects pending pods that could not be scheduled due to resource shortages.

  • Removes nodes from a cluster, whenever the utilization of a node falls below a certain threshold defined by the cluster administrator.

K8s Cluster Autoscaler Issues

  • The cluster Autoscaler only functions correctly with Kubernetes node groups/instance groups that have nodes with the same capacity. For public cloud providers like AWS, this might not be optimal, since diversification and availability considerations dictate the use of multiple instance types.

  • When a new pod with different needs that node groups already configured is scheduled, it’s necessary to configure a new node group, tell Autoscaler about it, set how to scale it, set some weights on it.

  • We have no control of the zones where a node will be created.


Karpenter is an open-source node provisioning project built for Kubernetes. The project was started by AWS and currently is supported only and exclusively in it, although Karpenter is designed to work with other cloud providers.

Unlike Autoscaler, Karpenter doesn’t have node groups, it will talk directly to EC2 and “put things” directly in a zone that we want. We can just say “hey EC2, give me that instance in that zone" and that's all.