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Cluster loader vision

Author: wojtek-t

Last update time: 1st Aug 2018


As of 31/03/2018, all our scalability tests, are regular e2e tests written in Go. It makes them really unfriendly for developers not working on scalability who just want to load test Kubernetes features they are working on. Doing so in many situations requires understanding how those tests really work, modify their code to test the new feature and only then run and debug tests. Alternatively, they may create a dedicated load test for their particular feature on their own, which may be easier, but on the other hand may not exercise important metrics that our performance tests check. This workflow is far from optimal.

That said, long time ago we came up with the idea that users should be able to just bring their own objects definitions in JSON format, potentially annotate them with some metadata to describe how the load should be generated from these and testing infrastructure should do everything else automatically.

In early 2017 the prototype of “Cluster Loader” has been created. It proved that configuring tests with json/yaml files is possible. But its functionality is very limited and it is very far from enabling migration any of existing scalability tests to that framework.

We would like to get back to that and build fully functional Cluster Loader and use it as a framework to run all our scalability tests. This doc is describing high-level vision of how this will work.


At the high level, a single test will consist of a number of steps. In each of those steps we will be creating, updating and/or deleting a number of different objects. Additionally, we will introduce a set of predefined operations (that user will be able to use as phases). They will allow users to monitor/measure performance impact of user-defined phases. The following subsections will describe this in a bit more detail.


A single test scenario will be defined by a Config. Its schema will be as following:

struct Config {
	// Number of namespaces automanaged by ClusterLoader.
	Namespaces int32
	// Steps of the test.
	Steps []Step
	// Tuning sets that are used by steps.
	TuningSets []TuningSet

With a test being defined by a single json/yaml file, it should be pretty simple to modify scenarios, and fork them to new ones.

Note that before running any steps, ClusterLoader will create all the requested namespaces and after running all of them will delete them (together with all objects that remained undeleted after running the test). Namespaces are described in more details in the later part of this document.


Each step will consist of a number of create, update and delete operations (potentially on many different object types) or a number of monitoring/measurement-related actions. A single step is defined as following:

struct Step {
	// Only one of these can be non-empty.
	Phases       []Phase
	Measurements []string

We make Phases and Measurements separate concepts to ensure correct ordering between those two types of actions. It's very important to ensure that proper measurements are started before we start given actions and they are stopped when all actions are done.

Also note that all Phases and Measurements within a single Step will be run in parallel - a Step ends when all its Phases or Measurements finish. That also means, that individual steps run in serial.


Phase declaratively defines state of objects we should reach in the underlying Kubernetes cluster. A single declaration may result in a number of create, update and delete operations depending on the current state of the cluster.

We define the phase as following:

struct Phase {
	// Set of namespaces in which objects should be reconciled.
	// If null, objects are assumed to be cluster scoped.
	NamespaceRange *NamespaceRange
	// Number of instances of a given object to exist in each
	// of referenced namespaces.
	ReplicasPerNamespace int32
	// Name of TuningSet to be used.
	TuningSet string
	// A set of objects that should be reconciled.
	Objects []Object
struct Object {
	// Type definition for a given object.
	ObjectType ObjectType
	// Base name from which names of objects will be created.
	// Names of objects will be "basename-0", "basename-1", ...
	Basename string
	// A file path to object definition.
	ObjectTemplatePath string

The semantic of the above structure will be as following:

  • Phases within a single Step will be run in parallel (to recall, individual Steps run in serial).
  • Objects within a single Phase will be reconciled in serial for a given (namespace, replica number) pair. For different (namespace, replica number) pairs they will be spread using a given tuning set.

The rationale for having such structure is the following:

  • Objects represent a collection of Kubernetes objects that can be logically though of as a unit of workload (e.g. application comprised of a service, deployment and a volme). Conceptually, this collection is out unit of replication. Note that we process the Objects slice serially which allows ordering between objects of a unit (e.g. create a service before deployment). The replication itself is done according to TuningSet and ReplicasPerNamespace parameters of the Phase.
  • Running multiple Phases in parallel allows to run different workloads at the same time. As an example, it allows to create two different types of applications in parallel (possibly using different tuning sets).
  • Running Steps in serial allow you to synchronize between Phases (and for example block finishing measurement on all phases from previous step to be finished).

Within an single Phase we make an explicit assumption that if ReplicasPerNamespace changes, any of ObjectTemplatePath cannot change at the same time (assuming it already exists for a given set of objects). That basically means that within a single Phase operations for a given Object may only be of a single type (create, update of delete).

To make it more explicit:

  • if ReplicasPerNamespace is different than it previously was, we will create or delete a number of objects to reach expected cluster state
  • if ReplicasPerNamespace is the same as it previously was, we will update all objects to the referenced template.

An appropriate validation will be added to cluster loader to ensure the above for a given input config.

Note that (namespace number, object type, basename) tuple defines a set of replicad objects.

All Object changes for a given (namespace, replica number) pair are treated as a unit of action. Such units will be spread over time using a referenced tuning set (described below).

The following definition makes the API declarative and thus a bit similar with Kubernetes API.


  • Note that even with such declarative approach, we may e.g. express a phase of randomly scaling a number of objects. This would be possible by expressing e.g. spec.replicas: <3+RAND()%5> in DeploymentSpec. This will require evaluating templates once for every object, but that should be fine.

Multiple copies of the same workload

To fill-in large clusters, we would need to spread objects across different namespaces. In many cases, it will be enough for users for many namespaces to contain the same objects (or to be more specific: objects created from the same templates). Obviously, we want the config for the test to be as small as possible. As a result, we will introduce the following rules:

  • In the top-level test definition, we will define the number of namespaces that will be automanaged by ClusterLoader.
  • The automanaged namespaces will have names of the form “namespace-” for number in range 1..N (where N is the number of namespaces in a test)

However, users may want to create their own namespaces (as part of Phases) and create objects in them. That is perfectly valid usecase that will be supported.

To make it possible to reference a set of namespaces (both automanaged and user-created), we introduce the following type:

struct NamespaceRange {
	Min int32
	Max int32
	Basename *string

The NamespaceRange would select all namespace \<Basename\>-\<i\> for i in the range [Min, Max]. If Basename is unset, it will be default to the basename used for automanaged namespaces (i.e. namespace).

Defining object type

In order to update or delete an object, user need to be able to define type of object that this operation is about. Thus, we introduce the following type for this purpose:

struct ObjectType {
	APIGroup   string
	APIVersion string
	Kind       string

Using this will allow us to easily use dynamic client in most of the places which may significantly simplify Cluster Loader itself.

Tuning Set

Since we would like to be able to fully load even very big clusters, we need to be able to create a number of “similar” objects. A “Tuning Set” concept will allow us to spread those operations across some time. We define Tuning Set as following:

struct TuningSet {
	Name         string
	InitialDelay time.Duration
	// Exactly one of the following should be set.
	QpsLoad        *QpsLoad
	RandomizedLoad *RandomizedLoad
	SteppedLoad    *SteppedLoad

// QpsLoad defines a uniform load with a given QPS.
struct QpsLoad {
	Qps float

// RandomizedLoad defines a load that is spread randomly
// across a given total time.
struct RandomizedLoad {
	AverageQps float

// SteppedLoad defines a load that generates a burst of
// a given size every X seconds.
struct SteppedLoad {
	BurstSize int32
	StepDelay time.Duration

More policies can be introduced in the future.


A critical part of Cluster Loader is an ability to check whether tests (defined by configs) are satisfying set of Kubernetes performance SLOs. Fortunately, for testing a specific functionality, we doesn’t really change the SLO. We may want to, from time to time, tweak how do we measure existing SLOs or introduce a new one, but it is fine to require changes to the framework to achieve that.

As a result, mechanisms to measure specific SLOs (or gather other types of metrics) will be incorporated into Cluster Loader framework. We will expect that developers trying to introduce a new SLO (or change how do we measure the existing one) will be modifying that part of Cluster Loader codebase. Within the codebase, we will try to provide a relatively easy framework to achieve it though.

At the high level, to implement gathering a given portion of data or measure a new SLO, you will need to implement a very simple Go interface:

type Measurement interface {
	Execute(config *MeasurementConfig) error

// An instance of below struct would be constructed by clusterloader during runtime
// and passed to the Execute method.
struct MeasurementConfig {
	// Client to access the k8s api.
	Clientset *k8sclient.ClientSet
	// Interface to access the cloud-provider api (can be skipped for initial version).
	CloudProvider *cloudprovider.Interface
	// Params is a map of {name: value} pairs enabling for injection of arbitrary
	// config into the Execute method. This is copied over from the Params field
	// in the Measurement config (explained later) as it is.
	Params map[string]interface{}

Once you implement such an interface, registering it in the correct place will allow you to use those as phases in your config. As an example, consider gathering resource usage from system components. It will be enough to implement something like the following:

struct ResourceGatherer {
	// Some fields that you need.

func (r *ResourceGatherer) Execute(c MeasurementConfig) error {
	if c.Params["start"] {
		// Initialize gatherer.
		// Start the gathering goroutines.
		return nil
	if c.Params["stop"] {
		// Stop the gatherer goroutines.
		// Validate and/or save the results.
		return nil
	// Handling of any other potential cases.

and registering this type in some factory, to enable use of ResourceGatherer as a measurement 'Method' in your test. And finally, at the config level, each Measurement is defined as:

struct Measurement {
	// The measurement method to be run.
	// Such method has to be registered in ClusterLoader factory.
	Method string
	// Identifier is a string for differentiating this measurement instance
	// from other instances of the same method.
	Identifier string
	// Params is a map of {name: value} pairs which will be passed to the
	// measurement method - allowing for injection of arbitrary parameters to it.
	Params map[string]interface{}

To begin with, we will provide few built-in measurement methods like:


Future enhancements

This section contains future enhancements that will need to happen, but not necessary at the early begining.

  1. Simple templating in json files. This would be extremely useful (necessary) feature to enable referencing objects from other objects. As an example, let's say that we want to reference secret number i from deploymenet number i. We would achieve that by providing very simple templating mechanism at the level of files with object definitions. The exact details are TBD, but the high-level proposal is to:

    • use the {{ param }} syntax for templates
    • support only very simply mathematical operations, and symbols:
      • N would mean the number of that object (as defined in basename-<N>)
      • RAND will be random integer
      • % (modulo) operation will be supported
      • + operation will be supported
    • though, only simple expressions (like {{ N+i%5 }} or {{ RAND%3+5 }} will be supported (at least initially).
  2. Feedback loop from monitoring. Assume that we defined some SLO (that Cluster Loader is able to measure) and now we want to understand what conditions need to be satisfied to meet this SLO (e.g. what throughput we can support to meet the latency SLO). Providing a feedback loop from measurements to load generation tuning can solve that problem automatically for us. There are a number of details that needs to be figured out to do that, that's not needed for the initial version (or for migration existing scalability tests), but that should also happen once the framework is already usable.