Author: Wei Huang (IBM), Aldo Culquicondor (Google)

Managing Pods distribution across a cluster is hard. The well-known Kubernetes
features for Pod affinity and anti-affinity, allow some control of Pod placement
in different topologies. However, these features only resolve part of Pods
distribution use cases: either place unlimited Pods to a single topology, or
disallow two Pods to co-locate in the same topology. In between these two
extreme cases, there is a common need to distribute the Pods evenly across the
topologies, so as to achieve better cluster utilization and high availability of

The PodTopologySpread scheduling plugin (originally proposed as EvenPodsSpread)
was designed to fill that gap. We promoted it to beta in 1.18.

API changes

A new field topologySpreadConstraints is introduced in the Pod’s spec API:

- maxSkew: <integer>
topologyKey: <string>
whenUnsatisfiable: <string>
labelSelector: <object>

As this API is embedded in Pod’s spec, you can use this feature in all the
high-level workload APIs, such as Deployment, DaemonSet, StatefulSet, etc.

Let’s see an example of a cluster to understand this API.


  • labelSelector is used to find matching Pods. For each topology, we count
    the number of Pods that match this label selector. In the above example, given
    the labelSelector as "app: foo", the matching number in "zone1" is 2; while
    the number in "zone2" is 0.
  • topologyKey is the key that defines a topology in the Nodes’ labels. In
    the above example, some Nodes are grouped into "zone1" if they have the label
    "zone=zone1" label; while other ones are grouped into "zone2".
  • maxSkew describes the maximum degree to which Pods can be unevenly
    distributed. In the above example:

    • if we put the incoming Pod to "zone1", the skew on "zone1" will become 3 (3
      Pods matched in "zone1"; global minimum of 0 Pods matched on "zone2"), which
      violates the "maxSkew: 1" constraint.
    • if the incoming Pod is placed to "zone2", the skew on "zone2" is 0 (1 Pod
      matched in "zone2"; global minimum of 1 Pod matched on "zone2" itself),
      which satisfies the "maxSkew: 1" constraint. Note that the skew is
      calculated per each qualified Node, instead of a global skew.
  • whenUnsatisfiable specifies, when "maxSkew" can’t be satisfied, what
    action should be taken:

    • DoNotSchedule (default) tells the scheduler not to schedule it. It’s a
      hard constraint.
    • ScheduleAnyway tells the scheduler to still schedule it while prioritizing
      Nodes that reduce the skew. It’s a soft constraint.

Advanced usage

As the feature name "PodTopologySpread" implies, the basic usage of this feature
is to run your workload with an absolute even manner (maxSkew=1), or relatively
even manner (maxSkew>=2). See the official

for more details.

In addition to this basic usage, there are some advanced usage examples that
enable your workloads to benefit on high availability and cluster utilization.

Usage along with NodeSelector / NodeAffinity

You may have found that we didn’t have a "topologyValues" field to limit which
topologies the Pods are going to be scheduled to. By default, it is going to
search all Nodes and group them by "topologyKey". Sometimes this may not be the
ideal case. For instance, suppose there is a cluster with Nodes tagged with
"env=prod", "env=staging" and "env=qa", and now you want to evenly place Pods to
the "qa" environment across zones, is it possible?

The answer is yes. You can leverage the NodeSelector or NodeAffinity API spec.
Under the hood, the PodTopologySpread feature will honor that and calculate
the spread constraints among the nodes that satisfy the selectors.


As illustrated above, you can specify spec.affinity.nodeAffinity to limit the
"searching scope" to be "qa" environment, and within that scope, the Pod will be
scheduled to one zone which satisfies the topologySpreadConstraints. In this
case, it’s "zone2".

Multiple TopologySpreadConstraints

It’s intuitive to understand how one single TopologySpreadConstraint works.
What’s the case for multiple TopologySpreadConstraints? Internally, each
TopologySpreadConstraint is calculated independently, and the result sets will
be merged to generate the eventual result set – i.e., suitable Nodes.

In the following example, we want to schedule a Pod to a cluster with 2
requirements at the same time:

  • place the Pod evenly with Pods across zones
  • place the Pod evenly with Pods across nodes


For the first constraint, there are 3 Pods in zone1 and 2 Pods in zone2, so the
incoming Pod can be only put to zone2 to satisfy the "maxSkew=1" constraint. In
other words, the result set is nodeX and nodeY.

For the second constraint, there are too many Pods in nodeB and nodeX, so the
incoming Pod can be only put to nodeA and nodeY.

Now we can conclude the only qualified Node is nodeY – from the intersection of
the sets {nodeX, nodeY} (from the first constraint) and {nodeA, nodeY} (from the
second constraint).

Multiple TopologySpreadConstraints is powerful, but be sure to understand the
difference with the preceding "NodeSelector/NodeAffinity" example: one is to
calculate result set independently and then interjoined; while the other is to
calculate topologySpreadConstraints based on the filtering results of node

Instead of using "hard" constraints in all topologySpreadConstraints, you can
also combine using "hard" constraints and "soft" constraints to adhere to more
diverse cluster situations.

Note: If two TopologySpreadConstraints are being applied for the same {topologyKey,
whenUnsatisfiable} tuple, the Pod creation will be blocked returning a
validation error.

PodTopologySpread defaults

PodTopologySpread is a Pod level API. As such, to use the feature, workload
authors need to be aware of the underlying topology of the cluster, and then
specify proper topologySpreadConstraints in the Pod spec for every workload.
While the Pod-level API gives the most flexibility it is also possible to
specify cluster-level defaults.

The default PodTopologySpread constraints allow you to specify spreading for all
the workloads in the cluster, tailored for its topology. The constraints can be
specified by an operator/admin as PodTopologySpread plugin arguments in the
scheduling profile configuration
when starting

A sample configuration could look like this:

kind: KubeSchedulerConfiguration
- name: PodTopologySpread
- maxSkew: 1
whenUnsatisfiable: ScheduleAnyway

When configuring default constraints, label selectors must be left empty.
kube-scheduler will deduce the label selectors from the membership of the Pod to
Services, ReplicationControllers, ReplicaSets or StatefulSets. Pods can
always override the default constraints by providing their own through the

Note: When using default PodTopologySpread constraints, it is recommended to disable
the old DefaultTopologySpread plugin.


PodTopologySpread allows you to define spreading constraints for your workloads
with a flexible and expressive Pod-level API. In the past, workload authors used
Pod AntiAffinity rules to force or hint the scheduler to run a single Pod per
topology domain. In contrast, the new PodTopologySpread constraints allow Pods
to specify skew levels that can be required (hard) or desired (soft). The
feature can be paired with Node selectors and Node affinity to limit the
spreading to specific domains. Pod spreading constraints can be defined for
different topologies such as hostnames, zones, regions, racks, etc.

Lastly, cluster operators can define default constraints to be applied to all
Pods. This way, Pods don’t need to be aware of the underlying topology of the

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