Make Kubernetes Events useful and safe

Status: Pending

Version: Beta

Implementation Owner:

Approvers: - [X] thockin - API changes - [X] briangrant - API changes - [X] konryd - API changes from UI/UX side - [X] pszczesniak - logging team side - [X] wojtekt - performance side - [ ] derekwaynecarr - “I told you so” Events person:)


This document describes an effort which aims at fixing few issues in current way Events are structured and implemented. This effort has two main goals - reduce performance impact that Events have on the rest of the cluster and add more structure to the Event object which is first and necessary step to make it possible to automate Event analysis.

This doc combines those two goals in a single effort, which includes both API changes and changes in EventRecorder library. To finish this effort audit of all the Events in the system has to be done, “event style guide” needs to be written, but those are not a part of this proposal.

Doc starts with more detailed description of the background and motivation for this change. After that introduction we describe our proposal in detail, including both API changes and EventRecorder/deduplication logic updates. Later we consider various effects of this proposal, including performance impact and backward compatibility. We finish with describing considered alternatives and presenting the work plan.


There’s a relatively wide agreement that current implementation of Events in Kubernetes is problematic. Events are supposed to give app developer insight into what’s happening with his/her app. Important requirement for Event library is that it shouldn’t cause/worsen performance problems in the cluster.

The problem is that neither of those requirements are actually met. Currently Events are extremely spammy (e.g. Event is emitted when Pod is unable to schedule every few seconds) with unclear semantics (e.g. Reason was understood by developers as “reason for taking action” or “reason for emitting event”). Also there are well known performance problems caused by Events (e.g. #47366, #47899) - Events can overload API server if there’s something wrong with the cluster (e.g. some correlated crashloop on many Nodes, user created way more Pods that fit on the cluster which fail to schedule repeatedly). This was raised by the community on number of occasions.

Our goal is to solve both those problems, i.e.: Update Event semantics such that they’ll be considered useful by app developers. Reduce impact that Events have on the system’s performance and stability.

Those two loosely coupled efforts will drastically improve users experience when they’ll need more insight into what’s happening with an application.

In the rest of document I’ll shortly characterize both efforts and explain where they interact.

Style guide for writing Events will be created as a part of this effort and all new Events will need to go through API-like review (process will be described in the style guide).

Non goals

It’s not a goal of this effort to persist Events outside of etcd or for longer time.

Current Event API

Current Event object consists of: - InvolvedObject (ObjectRef) - First/LastSeenTimestamp (1s precision time when Event in a given group was first/last seen) - Reason (short, machine understandable description of what happened that Event was emitted, e.g. ImageNotFound) - Message (longer description of what happened, e.g. “failed to start a Pod “ - Source (component that emits event + its host) - Standard object stuff (ObjectMeta) - Type (Normal/Warning)

Deduplication logic groups together Event which have the same: - Source Component and Host - InvolvedObject Kind, Namespace, Name, API version and UID, - Type (works as Severity) - Reason

In particular it ignores Message. It starts grouping events with different messages only after 10 single ones are emitted, which is confusing.

Current deduplication can be split into two kinds: deduplication happening when “Messages” are different, and one happening when “Messages” are the same.

First one occurs mostly in Controllers, which create Events for creating single Pods, by putting Pod data inside message. Current Event logic means that we’ll create 10 separate Events, with InvolvedObject being, e.g. ReplicationController, and messages saying “RC X created Pod Y” or something equivalent. Afterwards we’ll have single Event object with InvolvedObject being the same ReplicationController, but with the message saying “those events were deduped” and count set to size of RC minus 10. Because part of semantics of a given Event is included in the message field.

Deduplication on identical messages can be seen in retry loops.

Usability issues with the current API

Users would like to be able to use Events also for debugging and trace analysis of Kubernetes clusters. Current implementation makes it hard for the following reasons: 1s granularity of timestamps (system reacts much quicker than that, making it more or less unusable), deduplication, that leaves only count and, first and last timestamps (e.g. when Controller is creating a number of Pods information about it is deduplicated), InvolvedObject, Message, Reason and Source semantics are far from obvious. If we treat Event as a sentence object of this sentence is stored either in Message (if the subject is a Kubernetes object (e.g. Controller)), or in InvolvedObject, if the subject is some kind of a controller (e.g. Kubelet). hard to query for interesting series using standard tools (e.g. all Events mentioning given Pod is pretty much impossible because of deduplication logic) As semantic information is passed in the message, which in turn is ignored by the deduplication logic it is not clear that this mechanism will not cause deduplication of Events that are completely different.


High level ideas (TL;DR):

When this proposal is implemented users and administrators: will be able to better track interesting changes in the state of objects they’re interested in will be convinced that Events do not destabilize their clusters

API changes goals

We want to achieve following things: Make it easy to list all interesting Events in common scenarios using kubectl: Listing Events mentioning given Pod, Listing Events emitted by a given component (e.g. Kubelet on a given machine, NodeController), Make timestamps precise enough to allow better events correlation, Update the field names to better indicate their function.

API changes

Make all semantic information about events first-class fields, allowing better deduplication and querying Add “action” to “reason” to reduce confusion about the semantics of them, Add “related” field to denote second object taking part in the action, Increase timestamp precision.

Performance changes

“Event series” detection and sending only “series start” and “series finish” Events, Add more aggressive backoff policy for Events, API changes We’d like to propose following structure in Events object in the new events API group:

type Event struct {
	// <type and object metadata>

	// Time when this Event was first observed.
	EventTime metav1.MicroTime

	// Data about the Event series this event represents or nil if it's
	// a singleton Event.
	// +optional
	Series *EventSeries

	// Name of the controller that emitted this Event, e.g. ``.
	ReportingController string

	// ID of the controller instance, e.g. `kubelet-xyzf`.
	ReportingInstance string

	// What action was taken or what failed regarding the Regarding object.
	Action string

	// Why the action was taken or why the operation failed.
	Reason string

	// The object this Event is “about”. In most cases it's the object that the
	// given controller implements.
	// +optional
	Regarding ObjectReference

	// Optional secondary object for more complex actions.
	// +optional
	Related *ObjectReference

	// Human readable description of the Event. Possibly discarded when and
	// Event series is being deduplicated.
	// +optional
	Note string

	// Type of this event (Normal, Warning), new types could be added in the
	// future.
	// +optional
	Type string

type EventSeries struct {
	Count int32
	LastObservedTime MicroTime
	State EventSeriesState		

const (
	EventSeriesStateOngoing = "Ongoing"
	EventSeriesStateFinished = "Finished"
	EventSeriesStateUnknown = "Unknown"

Few examples:

| Regarding | Action | Reason | ReportingController | Related | | ———-| ——-| ——-| ——————–|———| | Node X | BecameUnreachable | HeartbeatTooOld | | | | Node Y | FailedToAttachVolume | Unknown | | PVC X | | ReplicaSet X | FailedToInstantiatePod | QuotaExceeded | | | | ReplicaSet X | InstantiatedPod | | | Pod Y | | Ingress X | CreatedLoadBalancer | | | | | Pod X | ScheduledOn | | | Node Y | | Pod X | FailedToSchedule | FitResourcesPredicateFailed | | |

Comparison between old and new API:

Old New
Old Event { New Event {
TypeMeta TypeMeta
ObjectMeta ObjectMeta
InvolvedObject ObjectReference Regarding ObjectReference
Related *ObjectReference
Action string
Reason string Reason string
Message string Note string
Source EventSource
ReportingController string
ReportingInstance string
FirstTimestamp metav1.Time
LastTimestamp metav1.Time
EventTime metav1.MicroTime
Count int32
Series EventSeries
Type string Type string
} }

Namespace in which Event will live will be equal to - Namespace of Regarding object, if it’s namespaced, - NamespaceSystem, if it’s not.

Note that this means that if Event has both Regarding and Related objects, and only one of them is namespaced, it should be used as Regarding object.

The biggest change is the semantics of the Event object in case of loops. If Series is nil it means that Event is a singleton, i.e. it happened only once and the semantics is exactly the same as currently in Events with count = 1. If Series is not nil it means that the Event is either beginning or the end of an Event series - equivalence of current Events with count > 1. Events for ongoing series have Series.State set to EventSeriesStateOngoing, while endings have Series.State set to EventSeriesStateFinished.

This change is better described in the section below.

Performance improvements design

We want to replace current behavior, where EventRecorder patches Event object every time when deduplicated Event occurs with an approach where being in the loop is treated as a state, hence Events only should be updated only when system enters or exits loop state (or is a singleton Event).

Because Event object TTL in etcd we can’t have above implemented cleanly, as we need to update Event objects periodically to prevent etcd garbage collection from removing ongoing series. We can use this need to update users with new data about number of occurrences.

The assumption we make for deduplication logic after API changes is that Events with the same tuples are considered isomorphic. This allows us to define notion of “event series”, which is series of isomorphic events happening not farther away from each other than some defined threshold. E.g. Events happening every second are considered a series, but Events happening every hour are not.

The main goal of this change is to limit number of API requests sent to the API server to the minimum. This is important as overloading the API server can severely impact usability of the system.

In the absence of errors in the system (all Pods are happily running/starting, Nodes are healthy, etc.) the number of Events is easily manageable by the system. This means that it’s enough to concentrate on erroneous states and limit number of Events published when something’s wrong with the cluster.

There are two cases to consider: Event series, which result in ~1 API call per ~30 minutes, so won’t cause a problem until there’s a huge number of them; and huge number of non-series Events. To improve the latter we require that no high-cardinality data are put into any of Regarding, Action, Reason, ReportingController, ReportingInstance, Related fields. Which bound the number of Events to O(number of objects in the system^2).

Changes in EventRecorder

EventRecorder is our client library for Events that are used in components to emit Events. The main function in this library is Eventf, which takes the data and passes it to the EventRecorder backend, which does deduplication and forwards it to the API server.

We need to write completely new deduplication logic for new Events, preserving the old one to avoid necessity to rewrite all places when Events are used together with this change. Additionally we need to add a new Eventf-equivalent function to the interface that will handle creation of new kind of events.

New deduplication logic will work in the following way: - When event is emitted for the first time it’s written to the API server without series field set. - When isomorphic event is emitted within the threshold from the original one EventRecorder detects the start of the series, updates the Event object, with the Series field set carrying count and sets State to EventSeriesStateOngoing. In the EventRecorder it also creates an entry in activeSeries map with the timestamp of last observed Event in the series. - All subsequent isomorphic Events don’t result in any API calls, they only update last observed timestamp value and count in the EventRecorder. - For all active series every 30 minutes EventRecorder will create a “heartbeat” call. Goal of this update is to periodically update user on number of occurrences and prevent garbage collection in etcd. The heartbeat will be an Event update that updates the count and last observed time fields in the series field. - For all active series every 6 minutes (longer that the longest backoff period) EventRecorder will check if it noticed any attempts to emit isomorphic Event. If there were, it’ll check again after aforementioned period (6 minutes). If there weren’t it assumes that series is finished and emits closing Event call. This updates the Event by setting state to EventSeriesStateFinished to true and updating the count and last observed time fields in the series field.

Short example:

After first occurrence, Event looks like:

	regarding: A,
	action: B,
	reportingController: C,

After second occurrence, Event looks like:

	regarding: A,
	action: B,
	reportingController: C,
	series: {count: 2, state: "Ongoing"},

After half an hour of crashlooping, Event looks like:

	regarding: A,
	action: B,
	reportingController: C,
	series: {count: 4242, state: "Ongoing"},

Minute after crashloop stopped, Event looks like:

	regarding: A,
	action: B,
	reportingController: C,
	series: {count: 424242, state: "Finished"},

Client side changes

All clients will need to eventually migrate to use new Events, but no other actions are required from them. Deduplication logic change will be completely transparent after the move to the new API.


Event recorder library will list all Events emitted by corresponding components and reconstruct internal activeSeries map from it.

Defence in depth

Because Events proved problematic we want to add multiple levels of protection in the client library to reduce chances that Events will be overloading API servers in the future. We propose to do two things.

Aggressive backoff

We need to make sure that kubernetes client used by EventRecorder uses properly configured and backoff pretty aggressively. Events should not destabilize the cluster, so if EventRecorder receives 429 response it should exponentially back off for non-negligible amount of time, to let API server recover.

To allow easier querying we need to make following fields selectable for Events: - event.reportingComponent - event.reportingInstance - event.action - event.reason - event.regarding… - event.related… - event.type

Kubectl will need to be updated to use new Events if present.


Performance impact

We’re not changing how Events are stored in the etcd (except adding new fields to the storage type). We’ll keep current TTL for all Event objects.

Proposed changes alone will have possibly three effects on performance: we will emit more Events for Pod creation (disable deduplication for “Create Pod” Event emitted by controllers), we will emit fewer Events for hotloops (3 API calls + 1 call/30min per hotloop series, instead of 1/iteration), and Events will be bigger. This means that Event memory footprint will grow slightly, but in the unhealthy looping state number of API calls will be reduced significantly.

We looked at the amount of memory used in our performance tests in cluster of various size. The results are following:

| | 5 nodes | 100 nodes | 500 nodes | 5000 nodes | |-|———|———–|———–|————| | event-etcd | 28MB | 65MB | 161MB | n/a | | All master component | 530MB | 1,2GB | 3,9GB | n/a | | Excess resources in default config | 3,22GB | 13,8GB | 56,1GB | n/a |

The difference in size of the Event object comes from new Action and Related fields. We can safely estimate the increase to be smaller than 30%. We’ll also emit additional Event per Pod creation, as currently Events for that are being deduplicated. There are currently at least 6 Events emitted when Pod is started, so impact of this change can be bounded by 20%. This means that in the worst case the increase in Event size can be bounded by 56%. As can be seen in the table above we can easily afford such increase.

Backward compatibility

Kubernetes API machinery moves towards moving all resources for which it make sense to separate API groups e.g. to allow defining separate storage for it. For this reason we’re going to create a new events API group in which Event resources will live.

In the same time we can’t stop emitting v1.Events from the Core group as this is considered breaking API change. For this reason we decided to create a new API group for events but map it to the same internal type as core Events.

As objects are stored in the versioned format we need to add new fields to the Core group, as we’re going to use Core group as storage format for new Events.

After the change we’ll have three types of Event objects. Internal representation (denoted internal), “old” core API group type (denoted core) and “new” events API group (denoted events). They will look in the following way - green color denotes added fields:

internal.Event core.Event events.Event
TypeMeta TypeMeta TypeMeta
ObjectMeta ObjectMeta ObjectMeta
InvolvedObject ObjectReference InvolvedObject ObjectReference Regarding ObjectReference
Related *ObjectReference Related *ObjectReference Related *ObjectReference
Action string Action string Action string
Reason string Reason string Reason string
Message string Message string Note string
Source.Component string Source.Component string ReportingController string
Source.Host string Source.Host string DeprecatedHost string
ReportingInstance string ReportingInstance string ReportingInstance string
FirstTimestamp metav1.Time FirstTimestamp metav1.Time DeprecatedFirstTimestamp metav1.Time
LastTimestamp metav1.Time LastTimestamp metav1.Time DeprecatedLastTimestamp metav1.Time
EventTime metav1.MicroTime EventTime metav1.MicroTime EventTime metav1.MicroTime
Count int32 Count int32 DeprecatedCount int32
Series.Count int32 Series.Count int32 Series.Count int32
Series.LastObservedTime Series.LastObservedTime Series.LastObservedTime
Series.State string Series.State string Series.State string
Type string Type string Type string

Considered alternative was to create a separate type that will hold all additional fields in core.Event type. It was dropped, as it’s not clear it would help with the clarity of the API.

There will be conversion functions that’ll allow reading/writing Events as both core.Event and events.Event types. As we don’t want to officially extend core.Event type, new fields will be set only if Event would be written through events.Event endpoint (e.g. if Event will be created by core.Event endpoint EventTime won’t be set).

This solution gives us clean(-ish) events.Event API and possibility to implement separate storage for Events in the future. The cost is adding more fields to core.Event type. We think that this is not a big price to pay, as the general direction would be to use separate API groups more and core group less in the future.

Events API group will be added directly as beta API, as otherwise kubernetes component’s wouldn’t be allowed to use it.

Sample queries with “new” Events

Get all NodeController Events

List Events from the NamespaceSystem with field selector reportingController = ""

Get all Events from lifetime of a given Pod

List all Event with field selector = podName, regarding.namespace = podNamespace, and = podName, related.namespace = podNamespace. You need to join results outside of the kubernetes API.

There’s ongoing effort for adding Event deduplication and teeing to the server side. It will allow even easier usage of Events, but in principle it’s independent work that should not interfere with one proposed here.

Another effort to protect API server from too many Events by dropping requests servers side in admission plugin is worked on by @staebler.

Considered alternatives for API changes

Leaving current dedup mechanism but improve backoff behavior

As we’re going to move all semantic information to fields, instead of passing some of them in message, we could just call it a day, and leave the deduplication logic as is. When doing that we’d need to depend on the client-recorder library on protecting API server, by using number of techniques, like batching, aggressive backing off and allowing admin to reduce number of Events emitted by the system. This solution wouldn’t drastically reduce number of API requests and we’d need to hope that small incremental changes would be enough.

Timestamp list as a dedup mechanism

Another considered solution was to store timestamps of Events explicitly instead of only count. This gives users more information, as people complain that current dedup logic is too strong and it’s hard to “decompress” Event if needed. This change has clearly worse performance characteristic, but fixes the problem of “decompressing” Events and generally making deduplication lossless. We believe that individual repeated events are not interesting per se, what’s interesting is when given series started and when it finished, which is how we ended with the current proposal.

Events as an aggregated object

We considered adding nested information about occurrences into the Event. In other words we’d have single Event object per Subject and instead of having only Count, we could have stored slice of timestamp-object pairs, as a slightly heavier deduplication information. This would have non-negligible impact on size of the event-etcd, and additional price for it would be much harder query logic (querying nested slices is currently not implemented in kubernetes API), e.g. “Give me all Events that refer Pod X” would be hard.

Using new API group for storing data

Instead of adding “new” fields to the “old” versioned type, we could have change the version in which we store Events to the new group and use annotations to store “deprecated” fields. This would allow us to avoid having “hybrid” type, as v1.Events became, but the change would have a much higher risk (we would have been moving battle-tested and simple v1.Event store to new events.Event store with some of the data present only in annotations). Additionally performance would degrade, as we’d need to parse JSONs from annotations to get values for “old” fields. Adding panic button that would stop creation/update of Events If all other prevention mechanism fail we’d like a way for cluster admin to disable Events in the cluster, to stop them overloading the server. However, we dropped this idea, as it’s currently possible to achieve the similar result by changing RBAC rules.

Pivoting towards more machine readable Events by introducing stricter structure

We considered making easier for automated systems to use Events by enforcing “active voice” for Event objects. This would allow us to assure which field in the Event points to the active component, and which to direct and indirect objects. We dropped this idea because Events are supposed to be consumed only by humans.

Pivoting towards making Events more helpful for cluster operator during debugging

We considered exposing more data that cluster operator would need to use Events for debugging, e.g. making ReportingController more central to the semantics of Event and adding some way to easily grep though the logs of appropriate component when looking for context of a given Event. This idea was dropped because Events are supposed to give application developer who’s running his application on the cluster a rough understanding what was happening with his app.

Proposed implementation plan

  • 1.9 - create a beta api-group Events with the new Event type,
  • 1.10 - migrate at controllers running in controller manager to use events API group,
  • 1.11 - finish migrating Events in all components and move and move events storage representation to the new type.