Kubernetes Upgrade

Kubernetes clusters must be kept updated. This becomes even more important if you are self-managing your Kubernetes clusters, especially on bare metal.

Planning and executing regular updates is a way for your organization to clean up the technical debt and reduce the business risks, despite the introduction in your Kubernetes infrastructure of controlled downtimes that temporarily take out a node from the cluster for maintenance reasons (recommended reading: "Embracing Risk" from the Site Reliability Engineering book).

For example, you might need to apply security updates on the Linux servers where Kubernetes is installed, or to replace a malfunctioning hardware component such as RAM, CPU, or RAID controller, or even upgrade the cluster to the latest version of Kubernetes.

Usually, maintenance operations in a cluster are performed one node at a time by:

  1. evicting the workloads from the node to be updated (drain)
  2. performing the actual operation (for example, system update)
  3. re-joining the node to the cluster (uncordon)

The above process requires workloads to be either stopped for the entire duration of the upgrade or migrated to another node.

While the latest case is the expected one in terms of service reliability and self-healing capabilities of Kubernetes, there can be situations where it is advised to operate with a temporarily degraded cluster and wait for the upgraded node to be up again.

In particular, if your PostgreSQL cluster relies on node-local storage - that is storage which is local to the Kubernetes worker node where the PostgreSQL database is running. Node-local storage (or simply local storage) is used to enhance performance.


If your database files are on shared storage over the network, you may not need to define a maintenance window. If the volumes currently used by the pods can be reused by pods running on different nodes after the drain, the default self-healing behavior of the operator will work fine (you can then skip the rest of this section).

When using local storage for PostgreSQL, you are advised to temporarily put the cluster in maintenance mode through the nodeMaintenanceWindow option to avoid standard self-healing procedures to kick in, while, for example, enlarging the partition on the physical node or updating the node itself.


Limit the duration of the maintenance window to the shortest amount of time possible. In this phase, some of the expected behaviors of Kubernetes are either disabled or running with some limitations, including self-healing, rolling updates, and Pod disruption budget.

The nodeMaintenanceWindow option of the cluster has two further settings:

inProgress: Boolean value that states if the maintenance window for the nodes is currently in progress or not. By default, it is set to off. During the maintenance window, the reusePVC option below is evaluated by the operator.

reusePVC: Boolean value that defines if an existing PVC is reused or not during the maintenance operation. By default, it is set to on. When enabled, Kubernetes waits for the node to come up again and then reuses the existing PVC; the PodDisruptionBudget policy is temporarily removed. When disabled, Kubernetes forces the recreation of the Pod on a different node with a new PVC by relying on PostgreSQL's physical streaming replication, then destroys the old PVC together with the Pod. This scenario is generally not recommended unless the database's size is small, and re-cloning the new PostgreSQL instance takes shorter than waiting. This behavior does not apply to clusters with only one instance and reusePVC disabled: see section below.


When performing the kubectl drain command, you will need to add the --delete-local-data option. Don't be afraid: it refers to another volume internally used by the operator - not the PostgreSQL data directory.

Single instance clusters with reusePVC set to false


We recommend to always create clusters with more than one instance in order to guarantee high availability.

Deleting the only PostgreSQL instance in a single instance cluster with reusePVC set to false would imply all data being lost, therefore we prevent users from draining nodes such instances might be running on, even in maintenance mode.

However, in case maintenance is required for such a node you have two options:

  1. Enable reusePVC, accepting the downtime
  2. Replicate the instance on a different node and switch over the primary

As long as a database service downtime is acceptable for your environment, draining the node is as simple as setting the nodeMaintenanceWindow to inProgress: true and reusePVC: true. This will allow the instance to be deleted and recreated as soon as the original PVC is available (e.g. with node local storage, as soon as the node is back up).

Otherwise you will have to scale up the cluster, creating a new instance on a different node and promoting the new instance to primary in order to shut down the original one on the node undergoing maintenance. The only downtime in this case will be the duration of the switchover.

A possible approach could be:

  1. Cordon the node on which the current instance is running.
  2. Scale up the cluster to 2 instances, could take some time depending on the database size.
  3. As soon as the new instance is running, the operator will automatically perform a switchover given that the current primary is running on a cordoned node.
  4. Scale back down the cluster to a single instance, this will delete the old instance
  5. The old primary's node can now be drained successfully, while leaving the new primary running on a new node.