Kubernetes Upgrade and Maintenance

Maintaining an up-to-date Kubernetes cluster is crucial for ensuring optimal performance and security, particularly for self-managed clusters, especially those running on bare metal infrastructure. Regular updates help address technical debt and mitigate business risks, despite the controlled downtimes associated with temporarily removing a node from the cluster for maintenance purposes. For further insights on embracing risk in operations, refer to the "Embracing Risk" chapter from the Site Reliability Engineering book.

Importance of Regular Updates

Updating Kubernetes involves planning and executing maintenance tasks, such as applying security updates to underlying Linux servers, replacing malfunctioning hardware components, or upgrading the cluster to the latest Kubernetes version. These activities are essential for maintaining a robust and secure infrastructure.

Maintenance Operations in a Cluster

Typically, maintenance operations are carried out on one node at a time, following a structured process:

  1. eviction of workloads (drain): workloads are gracefully moved away from the node to be updated, ensuring a smooth transition.
  2. performing the operation: the actual maintenance operation, such as a system update or hardware replacement, is executed.
  3. rejoining the node to the cluster (uncordon): the updated node is reintegrated into the cluster, ready to resume its responsibilities.

This process requires either stopping workloads for the entire upgrade duration or migrating them to other nodes in the cluster.

Temporary PostgreSQL Cluster Degradation

While the standard approach ensures service reliability and leverages Kubernetes' self-healing capabilities, there are scenarios where operating with a temporarily degraded cluster may be acceptable. This is particularly relevant for PostgreSQL clusters relying on node-local storage, where the storage is local to the Kubernetes worker node running the PostgreSQL database. Node-local storage, or simply local storage, is employed to enhance performance.


If your database files reside on shared storage accessible over the network, the default self-healing behavior of the operator can efficiently handle scenarios where volumes are reused by pods on different nodes after a drain operation. In such cases, you can skip the remaining sections of this document.

Pod Disruption Budgets

By default, CloudNativePG safeguards Postgres cluster operations. If a node is to be drained and contains a cluster's primary instance, a switchover happens ahead of the drain. Once the instance in the node is downgraded to replica, the draining can resume. For single-instance clusters, a switchover is not possible, so CloudNativePG will prevent draining the node where the instance is housed. Additionally, in multi-instance clusters, CloudNativePG guarantees that only one replica at a time is gracefully shut down during a drain operation.

Each PostgreSQL Cluster is equipped with two associated PodDisruptionBudget resources - you can easily confirm it with the kubectl get pdb command.

Our recommendation is to leave pod disruption budgets enabled for every production Postgres cluster. This can be effortlessly managed by toggling the .spec.enablePDB option, as detailed in the API reference.

PostgreSQL Clusters used for Development or Testing

For PostgreSQL clusters used for development purposes, often consisting of a single instance, it is essential to disable pod disruption budgets. Failure to do so will prevent the node hosting that cluster from being drained.

The following example illustrates how to disable pod disruption budgets for a 1-instance development cluster:

apiVersion: postgresql.cnpg.io/v1
kind: Cluster
  name: dev
  instances: 1
  enablePDB: false

    size: 1Gi

This configuration ensures smoother maintenance procedures without restrictions on draining the node during development activities.

Node Maintenance Window


While CloudNativePG will continue supporting the node maintenance window, it is currently recommended to transition to direct control of pod disruption budgets, as explained in the previous section. This section is retained mainly for backward compatibility.

Prior to release 1.23, CloudNativePG had just one declarative mechanism to manage Kubernetes upgrades when dealing with local storage: you had 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-emptydir-data option. Don't be afraid: it refers to another volume internally used by the operator - not the PostgreSQL data directory.


PodDisruptionBudget management can be disabled by setting the .spec.enablePDB field to false. In that case, the operator won't create PodDisruptionBudgets and will delete them if they were previously created.

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.