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Cluster Networking

Networking is a central part of Kubernetes, but it can be challenging to understand exactly how it is expected to work. There are 4 distinct networking problems to address:

  1. Highly-coupled container-to-container communications: this is solved by Pods and localhost communications.
  2. Pod-to-Pod communications: this is the primary focus of this document.
  3. Pod-to-Service communications: this is covered by Services.
  4. External-to-Service communications: this is also covered by Services.

Kubernetes is all about sharing machines between applications. Typically, sharing machines requires ensuring that two applications do not try to use the same ports. Coordinating ports across multiple developers is very difficult to do at scale and exposes users to cluster-level issues outside of their control.

Dynamic port allocation brings a lot of complications to the system - every application has to take ports as flags, the API servers have to know how to insert dynamic port numbers into configuration blocks, services have to know how to find each other, etc. Rather than deal with this, Kubernetes takes a different approach.

To learn about the Kubernetes networking model, see here.

How to implement the Kubernetes network model

The network model is implemented by the container runtime on each node. The most common container runtimes use Container Network Interface (CNI) plugins to manage their network and security capabilities. Many different CNI plugins exist from many different vendors. Some of these provide only basic features of adding and removing network interfaces, while others provide more sophisticated solutions, such as integration with other container orchestration systems, running multiple CNI plugins, advanced IPAM features etc.

See this page for a non-exhaustive list of networking addons supported by Kubernetes.

What's next

The early design of the networking model and its rationale are described in more detail in the networking design document. For future plans and some on-going efforts that aim to improve Kubernetes networking, please refer to the SIG-Network KEPs.

Last modified October 02, 2023 at 2:24 PM PST: Cleanup the networking concepts page (4d49a869e4)