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Kubernetes Volume Plugin FAQ for Storage Vendors

Last Updated: 2022/09/21

What is Kubernetes volume plugin?

A Kubernetes Volume plugin extends the Kubernetes volume interface to support a block and/or file storage system.

In-tree vs. Out-of-Tree Volume Plugins

How do I implement a Volume plugin?

There are three methods to implement a volume plugin:

  1. In-tree volume plugin [deprecated]
  2. Out-of-tree FlexVolume driver [deprecated]
  3. Out-of-tree CSI driver

The Kubernetes Storage SIG, which is responsible for all volume code in the Kubernetes core repository, is no longer accepting new in-tree volume plugins. Instead, the SIG recommends storage vendors develop plugins as CSI drivers. See the Kubernetes CSI developer documentation for details.

What is an in-tree vs. out-of-tree volume plugin?

Before the introduction of the Container Storage Interface (CSI) and FlexVolume, all volume plugins were in-tree meaning they were built, linked, compiled, and shipped with the core Kubernetes binaries and extend the core Kubernetes API. This meant that adding a new storage system to Kubernetes (a volume plugin) required checking code into the core Kubernetes code repository.

Out-of-tree volume plugins are developed independently of the Kubernetes code base, and are deployed (installed) on Kubernetes clusters as extensions.

Why are new in-tree volume plugins not allowed?

In-tree volume plugins require checking code in to the core Kubernetes repository which is undesirable for many reasons, including:

  1. In-tree volume plugins make volume plugin development tightly coupled and dependent on Kubernetes releases.
  2. In-tree volume plugins make Kubernetes developers/community responsible for testing and maintaining all volume plugins (which is nearly impossible).
  3. In-tree volume plugins allow bugs in volume plugins to crash critical Kubernetes components, instead of just the plugin.
  4. In-tree volume plugins grant volume plugins the same privileges as kubernetes components (like kubelet and kube-controller-manager).
  5. In-tree volume plugins force volume plugin developers to make plugin source code public.

For these reasons, the Kubernetes Storage SIG choose to stop accepting new in-tree volume plugins, and instead requires new volume plugins be developed out-of-tree.

What options do I now have to implement a Kubernetes volume plugin?

As of Kubernetes 1.9, there are two out-of-tree methods to implement volume plugins: CSI and FlexVolume. As of Kubernetes 1.13, CSI is GA and the recommended way to implement volume plugins (while FlexVolume will continue to be maintained, new functionality will only be added to CSI, not FlexVolume).

What happens to existing in-tree volume plugins?

One of the goals of SIG Storage is to eventually have a CSI-compatible plugin for most existing in-tree plugins and migrate the in-tree plugins to CSI. For more details on that effort see:

Container Storage Interface (CSI)

What is the Container Storage Interface (CSI)?

Container Storage Interface (CSI) is a standardized mechanism for Container Orchestration Systems (COs), including Kubernetes, to expose arbitrary storage systems to containerized workloads.

CSI is the primary volume plugin system for Kubernetes. It was introduced in Kubernetes 1.9 as alpha. It was promoted to beta with Kubernetes 1.10, and GA in Kubernetes 1.13.

For more information about CSI, see:

How do I write a CSI Driver?

For more information on how to write and deploy a CSI Driver on Kubernetes, see


What is FlexVolume?

FlexVolume is an out-of-tree plugin interface that has existed in Kubernetes since version 1.2 (before CSI). It uses an exec-based model to interface with drivers. FlexVolume driver binaries must be installed on host machines. Kubernetes performs volume operations by executing pre-defined commands in the FlexVolume API against the driver on the host. FlexVolume is GA as of Kubernetes 1.8.

For more information about Flex, see:

Although FlexVolumes is still maintained, new functionality is only added to CSI, not to FlexVolume.

What are the limitations of FlexVolume?

  • FlexVolume requires root access on host machine to install FlexVolume driver files.
  • FlexVolume drivers assume all volume mount dependencies, e.g. mount and filesystem tools, are available on the host OS. Installing these dependencies also require root access.

Working with Out-of-Tree Volume Plugin Options

Should I use CSI or FlexVolume?

The Storage SIG strongly suggests implementing a CSI driver. CSI is GA in Kubernetes as of v1.13. CSI overcomes the limitations of FlexVolume listed above, and the SIG plans to focus future development efforts on CSI.

If I already have FlexVolume driver implemented, how do I migrate to CSI?

If you have a legacy FlexVolume driver that satisfies your requirements, there is no need to migrate to CSI. The Kubernetes Storage-SIG plans to continue to support and maintain the Flex Volume API. So you can continue to use it without worry of deprecation, but note that additional features (like topology, snapshots, etc.) will only be added to CSI not to FlexVolume.

There was an archived project that aims at allowing existing FlexVolume implementations to be containerized and deployed as a CSI plugin, however, no one is working on it any more. See this link for details. In any case, the adapter was supposed to be a stop-gap solution, and if migration to CSI is the goal, we recommend writing a CSI driver from scratch to take full advantage of the API.