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kube-spawn is a tool for creating a multi-node Kubernetes (>= 1.8) cluster on a single Linux machine, created mostly for developers of Kubernetes but is also a Certified Kubernetes Distribution and, therefore, perfect for running and testing deployments locally.

It attempts to mimic production setups by making use of OS containers to set up nodes.




  • systemd-nspawn in at least version 233

  • Large enough /var/lib/machines partition.

    If /var/lib/machines is not its own filesystem, systemd-nspawn will create /var/lib/machines.raw and loopback mount it as a btrfs filesystem. You may wish to increase the default size:

    machinectl set-limit 20G

    We recommend you create a partition of sufficient size, format it as btrfs, and mount it on /var/lib/machines, rather than letting the loopback mechanism take hold.

    In the event there is a loopback file mounted on /var/lib/machines, kube-spawn will attempt to enlarge the underlying image /var/lib/machines.raw on cluster start, but this can only succeed when the image is not in use by another cluster or machine. Not enough disk space is a common source of error. See doc/troubleshooting for instructions on how to increase the size manually.

  • qemu-img


kube-spawn should run well on a modern Linux system (for example Fedora 27 or Debian testing). If you want to test it in a controlled environment, you can use Vagrant.

To install kube-spawn on your machine, download a single binary release or build from source.

kube-spawn uses CNI to setup networking for its containers. For that, you need to download the CNI plugins (v.0.6.0 or later) from GitHub.


cd /tmp
curl -fsSL -O
sudo mkdir -p /opt/cni/bin
sudo tar -C /opt/cni/bin -xvf cni-plugins-amd64-v0.6.0.tgz

By default, kube-spawn expects the plugins in /opt/cni/bin. The location can be configured with --cni-plugin-dir= from the command line or by setting cni-plugin-dir: ... in the configuration file.

Alternatively, you can use go get to fetch the plugins into your GOPATH:

go get -u


Create and start a 3 node cluster with the name "default":

sudo ./kube-spawn create
sudo ./kube-spawn start [--nodes 3]

Reminder: if the CNI plugins can't be found in /opt/cni/bin, you need to pass --cni-plugin-dir path/to/plugins.

create prepares the cluster environment in /var/lib/kube-spawn/clusters.

start brings up the nodes and configures the cluster using kubeadm.

Shortly after, the cluster should be initialized:


Cluster "default" initialized
Export $KUBECONFIG as follows for kubectl:

        export KUBECONFIG=/var/lib/kube-spawn/clusters/default/admin.kubeconfig

After another 1-2 minutes the nodes should be ready:

export KUBECONFIG=/var/lib/kube-spawn/clusters/default/admin.kubeconfig
kubectl get nodes
NAME                          STATUS    ROLES     AGE       VERSION
kube-spawn-c1-master-q9fd4y   Ready     master    5m        v1.9.6
kube-spawn-c1-worker-dj7xou   Ready     <none>    4m        v1.9.6
kube-spawn-c1-worker-etbxnu   Ready     <none>    4m        v1.9.6


kube-spawn can be configured by command line flags, configuration file (default /etc/kube-spawn/config.yaml or --config path/to/config.yaml), environment variables or a mix thereof.


# /etc/kube-spawn/config.yaml
cni-plugin-dir: /home/user/code/go/bin
cluster-name: cluster1
container-runtime: rkt
rktlet-binary-path: /home/user/code/go/src/

CNI plugins

kube-spawn supports weave, flannel, calico. It defaults to weave.

To configure with flannel:

kube-spawn create --pod-network-cidr --cni-plugin flannel --kubernetes-version=v1.10.5
kube-spawn start --cni-plugin flannel --nodes 5

To configure with calico:

kube-spawn create --pod-network-cidr --cni-plugin calico --kubernetes-version=v1.10.5
kube-spawn start --cni-plugin calico --nodes 5

To configure with canal:

kube-spawn create --pod-network-cidr --cni-plugin canal --kubernetes-version=v1.10.5
kube-spawn start --cni-plugin canal --nodes 5

Accessing kube-spawn nodes

All nodes can be seen with machinectl list. machinectl shell can be used to access a node, for example:

sudo machinectl shell kube-spawn-c1-master-fubo3j

The password is root.


See doc/


To build kube-spawn in a Docker build container, simply run:


Optionally, install kube-spawn under a system directory:

sudo make install

PREFIX can be set to override the default target /usr.


See doc/troubleshooting


Discuss the project on Slack.


A tool for creating multi-node Kubernetes clusters on a Linux machine using kubeadm & systemd-nspawn. Brought to you by the Kinvolk team.








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