Sidecar container that watches Kubernetes VolumeAttachment objects and triggers ControllerPublish/Unpublish against a CSI endpoint
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Set dependency based on a tag kubernetes-1.12.0
Latest commit baafe0f Oct 5, 2018

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CSI attacher

The csi-attacher is part of Kubernetes implementation of Container Storage Interface (CSI).


In short, it's an external controller that monitors VolumeAttachment objects and attaches/detaches volumes to/from nodes. Full design can be found at Kubernetes proposal at There is no plan to implement a generic external attacher library, csi-attacher is the only external attacher that exists. If this proves false in future, splitting a generic external-attacher library should be possible with some effort.


External attacher follows controller pattern and uses informers to watch for VolumeAttachment and PersistentVolume create/update/delete events. It filters out VolumeAttachment instances with Attacher==<CSI driver name> and processes these events in workqueues with exponential backoff. Real handling is deferred to Handler interface.

Handler interface has two implementations, trivial and real one.

Trivial handler

Trivial handler will be used for CSI drivers that don't support ControllerPublish calls and marks all VolumeAttachment as attached. It does not use any finalizers. This attacher can also be used for testing.

Real attacher

"Real" attacher talks to CSI over socket (/run/csi/socket by default, configurable by -csi-address). The attacher tries to connect for -connection-timeout (1 minute by default), allowing CSI driver to start and create its server socket a bit later.

The attacher then:

  • Discovers the supported attacher name by GetPluginInfo calls. The attacher only processes VolumeAttachment instances that have Attacher==GetPluginInfoResponse.Name.

  • Uses ControllerGetCapabilities to find out if CSI driver supports ControllerPublish calls. It degrades to trivial mode if not.

  • Processes new/updated VolumeAttachment instances and attaches/detaches volumes:

    • VolumeAttachment without DeletionTimestamp:
      • Ignore VolumeAttachment that wants to attach PV with DeletionTimestamp.
      • A finalizer is added to VolumeAttachment instance to preserve the object after deletion so we can detach the volume.
      • A finalizer is added to referenced PV instance to preserve the PV. Attacher needs information from the PV to detach the volume.
      • CSI ControllerPublishVolume is called.
      • AttachmentMetadata is saved to VolumeAttachment.
      • On any error, the VolumeAttachment is re-queued with exponential backoff.
    • VolumeAttachment with DeletionTimestamp:
      • CSI ControllerUnpublishVolume is called.
      • A finalizer is removed from VolumeAttachment. At this point, the API server is going to delete this instance and "deleted VolumeAttachment" event will be received.
  • Processes deleted VolumeAttachment instances:

    • Pokes PV queue with name of the detached PV. This triggers removal of finalizer on PV, if needed.
  • Processes added/updated PV to remove finalizer on PVs:

    • Ignore PVs that don't have DeletionTimestamp.
    • Checks that the PV is not used by any VolumeAttachment instance.
    • Removes Attacher's finalizer on the PV if so.
    • On any error, the PV is re-queued with exponential backoff.


Both PV queue and VolumeAttachment queue run in parallel. To ensure that removal of PV finalizers work without races:

  • The controller attaches PVs only when the PV has no DeletionTimestamp and has attacher's finalizer.
  • The controller removes finalizer only from PVs that have DeletionTimestamp.

As consequence, the attacher must be available until all PVs that refer to the CSI driver are removed. Even fully detached PVs have attacher's finalizer that is removed only after the PV is marked for deletion.

Alternatives considered

Secondary cache and locks was considered to keep a map PV -> list of VolumeAttachments that use the PV. Attacher's finalizer could be removed from a PV immediately after the last VolumeAttachment was deleted. Keeping this map is either racy or requires long critical sections with complicated error recovery.


Dummy mode

Dummy attacher watches for VolumeAttachment instances with Attacher=="csi/dummy" and marks them attached. It does not use any finalizers and is useful for testing.

To run dummy attacher in hack/ environment:

$ csi-attacher -dummy -kubeconfig ~/.kube/config -v 5

Real attacher

Running on command line

For debugging, it's possible to run the attacher on command line:

$ csi-attacher -kubeconfig ~/.kube/config -v 5 -csi-address /run/csi/socket

Running in a deployment

It is necessary to create a new service account and give it enough privileges to run the attacher. We provide one omnipotent yaml file that creates everything that's necessary, however it should be split into multiple files in production.

$ kubectl create deploy/kubernetes/deployment.yaml

Note that the attacher does not scale with more replicas. Only one attacher is elected as leader and running. The others are waiting for the leader to die. They re-elect a new active leader in ~15 seconds after death of the old leader.


We use dep for management of vendor/.

vendor/ is manually copied from staging/ directory of work-in-progress API for CSI, namely

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