HugePages support in Kubernetes

Authors * Derek Carr (@derekwaynecarr) * Seth Jennings (@sjenning) * Piotr Prokop (@PiotrProkop)

Status: In progress


A proposal to enable applications running in a Kubernetes cluster to use huge pages.

A pod may request a number of huge pages. The scheduler is able to place the pod on a node that can satisfy that request. The kubelet advertises an allocatable number of huge pages to support scheduling decisions. A pod may consume hugepages via hugetlbfs or shmget. Huge pages are not overcommitted.


Memory is managed in blocks known as pages. On most systems, a page is 4Ki. 1Mi of memory is equal to 256 pages; 1Gi of memory is 256,000 pages, etc. CPUs have a built-in memory management unit that manages a list of these pages in hardware. The Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) is a small hardware cache of virtual-to-physical page mappings. If the virtual address passed in a hardware instruction can be found in the TLB, the mapping can be determined quickly. If not, a TLB miss occurs, and the system falls back to slower, software based address translation. This results in performance issues. Since the size of the TLB is fixed, the only way to reduce the chance of a TLB miss is to increase the page size.

A huge page is a memory page that is larger than 4Ki. On x86_64 architectures, there are two common huge page sizes: 2Mi and 1Gi. Sizes vary on other architectures, but the idea is the same. In order to use huge pages, application must write code that is aware of them. Transparent Huge Pages (THP) attempts to automate the management of huge pages without application knowledge, but they have limitations. In particular, they are limited to 2Mi page sizes. THP might lead to performance degradation on nodes with high memory utilization or fragmentation due to defragmenting efforts of THP, which can lock memory pages. For this reason, some applications may be designed to (or recommend) usage of pre-allocated huge pages instead of THP.

Managing memory is hard, and unfortunately, there is no one-size fits all solution for all applications.


This proposal only includes pre-allocated huge pages configured on the node by the administrator at boot time or by manual dynamic allocation. It does not discuss how the cluster could dynamically attempt to allocate huge pages in an attempt to find a fit for a pod pending scheduling. It is anticipated that operators may use a variety of strategies to allocate huge pages, but we do not anticipate the kubelet itself doing the allocation. Allocation of huge pages ideally happens soon after boot time.

This proposal defers issues relating to NUMA.

Use Cases

The class of applications that benefit from huge pages typically have - A large memory working set - A sensitivity to memory access latency

Example applications include: - database management systems (MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, Oracle, etc.) - Java applications can back the heap with huge pages using the -XX:+UseLargePages and -XX:LagePageSizeInBytes options. - packet processing systems (DPDK)

Applications can generally use huge pages by calling - mmap() with MAP_ANONYMOUS | MAP_HUGETLB and use it as anonymous memory - mmap() a file backed by hugetlbfs - shmget() with SHM_HUGETLB and use it as a shared memory segment (see Known Issues).

  1. A pod can use huge pages with any of the prior described methods.
  2. A pod can request huge pages.
  3. A scheduler can bind pods to nodes that have available huge pages.
  4. A quota may limit usage of huge pages.
  5. A limit range may constrain min and max huge page requests.

Feature Gate

The proposal introduces huge pages as an Alpha feature.

It must be enabled via the --feature-gates=HugePages=true flag on pertinent components pending graduation to Beta.

Node Specification

Huge pages cannot be overcommitted on a node.

A system may support multiple huge page sizes. It is assumed that most nodes will be configured to primarily use the default huge page size as returned via grep Hugepagesize /proc/meminfo. This defaults to 2Mi on most Linux systems unless overridden by default_hugepagesz=1g in kernel boot parameters.

For each supported huge page size, the node will advertise a resource of the form hugepages-<hugepagesize>. On Linux, supported huge page sizes are determined by parsing the /sys/kernel/mm/hugepages/hugepages-{size}kB directory on the host. Kubernetes will expose a hugepages-<hugepagesize> resource using binary notation form. It will convert <hugepagesize> into the most compact binary notation using integer values. For example, if a node supports hugepages-2048kB, a resource hugepages-2Mi will be shown in node capacity and allocatable values. Operators may set aside pre-allocated huge pages that are not available for user pods similar to normal memory via the --system-reserved flag.

There are a variety of huge page sizes supported across different hardware architectures. It is preferred to have a resource per size in order to better support quota. For example, 1 huge page with size 2Mi is orders of magnitude different than 1 huge page with size 1Gi. We assume gigantic pages are even more precious resources than huge pages.

Pre-allocated huge pages reduce the amount of allocatable memory on a node. The node will treat pre-allocated huge pages similar to other system reservations and reduce the amount of memory it reports using the following formula:

[Allocatable] = [Node Capacity] - 
 [Kube-Reserved] - 
 [System-Reserved] - 
 [Pre-Allocated-HugePages * HugePageSize] -

The following represents a machine with 10Gi of memory. 1Gi of memory has been reserved as 512 pre-allocated huge pages sized 2Mi. As you can see, the allocatable memory has been reduced to account for the amount of huge pages reserved.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Node
  name: node1
    memory: 10Gi
    hugepages-2Mi: 1Gi
    memory: 9Gi
    hugepages-2Mi: 1Gi

Pod Specification

A pod must make a request to consume pre-allocated huge pages using the resource hugepages-<hugepagesize> whose quantity is a positive amount of memory in bytes. The specified amount must align with the <hugepagesize>; otherwise, the pod will fail validation. For example, it would be valid to request hugepages-2Mi: 4Mi, but invalid to request hugepages-2Mi: 3Mi.

The request and limit for hugepages-<hugepagesize> must match. Similar to memory, an application that requests hugepages-<hugepagesize> resource is at minimum in the Burstable QoS class.

If a pod consumes huge pages via shmget, it must run with a supplemental group that matches /proc/sys/vm/hugetlb_shm_group on the node. Configuration of this group is outside the scope of this specification.

Initially, a pod may not consume multiple huge page sizes in a single pod spec. Attempting to use hugepages-2Mi and hugepages-1Gi in the same pod spec will fail validation. We believe it is rare for applications to attempt to use multiple huge page sizes. This restriction may be lifted in the future with community presented use cases. Introducing the feature with this restriction limits the exposure of API changes needed when consuming huge pages via volumes.

In order to consume huge pages backed by the hugetlbfs filesystem inside the specified container in the pod, it is helpful to understand the set of mount options used with hugetlbfs. For more details, see “Using Huge Pages” here:

mount -t hugetlbfs \
	-o uid=<value>,gid=<value>,mode=<value>,pagesize=<value>,size=<value>,\
	min_size=<value>,nr_inodes=<value> none /mnt/huge

The proposal recommends extending the existing EmptyDirVolumeSource to satisfy this use case. A new medium=HugePages option would be supported. To write into this volume, the pod must make a request for huge pages. The pagesize argument is inferred from the hugepages-<hugepagesize> from the resource request. If in the future, multiple huge page sizes are supported in a single pod spec, we may modify the EmptyDirVolumeSource to provide an optional page size. The existing sizeLimit option for emptyDir would restrict usage to the minimum value specified between sizeLimit and the sum of huge page limits of all containers in a pod. This keeps the behavior consistent with memory backed emptyDir volumes whose usage is ultimately constrained by the pod cgroup sandbox memory settings. The min_size option is omitted as its not necessary. The nr_inodes mount option is omitted at this time in the same manner it is omitted with medium=Memory when using tmpfs.

The following is a sample pod that is limited to 1Gi huge pages of size 2Mi. It can consume those pages using shmget() or via mmap() with the specified volume.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: example
    - mountPath: /hugepages
      name: hugepage
        hugepages-2Mi: 1Gi
        hugepages-2Mi: 1Gi
  - name: hugepage
      medium: HugePages

CRI Updates

The LinuxContainerResources message should be extended to support specifying huge page limits per size. The specification for huge pages should align with opencontainers/runtime-spec.


The CRI changes are required before promoting this feature to Beta.

Cgroup Enforcement

To use this feature, the --cgroups-per-qos must be enabled. In addition, the hugetlb cgroup must be mounted.

The kubepods cgroup is bounded by the Allocatable value.

The QoS level cgroups are left unbounded across all huge page pool sizes.

The pod level cgroup sandbox is configured as follows, where hugepagesize is the system supported huge page size(s). If no request is made for huge pages of a particular size, the limit is set to 0 for all supported types on the node.

pod<UID>/hugetlb.<hugepagesize>.limit_in_bytes = sum(pod.spec.containers.resources.limits[hugepages-<hugepagesize>])

If the container runtime supports specification of huge page limits, the container cgroup sandbox will be configured with the specified limit.

The kubelet will ensure the hugetlb has no usage charged to the pod level cgroup sandbox prior to deleting the pod to ensure all resources are reclaimed.

Limits and Quota

The ResourceQuota resource will be extended to support accounting for hugepages-<hugepagesize> similar to cpu and memory. The LimitRange resource will be extended to define min and max constraints for hugepages similar to cpu and memory.

Scheduler changes

The scheduler will need to ensure any huge page request defined in the pod spec can be fulfilled by a candidate node.

cAdvisor changes

cAdvisor will need to be modified to return the number of pre-allocated huge pages per page size on the node. It will be used to determine capacity and calculate allocatable values on the node.


Version 1.8

Initial alpha support for huge pages usage by pods.

Version 1.9

Resource Quota support. Limit Range support. Beta support for huge pages (pending community feedback)

Known Issues

Huge pages as shared memory

For the Java use case, the JVM maps the huge pages as a shared memory segment and memlocks them to prevent the system from moving or swapping them out.

There are several issues here: - The user running the Java app must be a member of the gid set in the vm.huge_tlb_shm_group sysctl - sysctl kernel.shmmax must allow the size of the shared memory segment - The user’s memlock ulimits must allow the size of the shared memory segment - vm.huge_tlb_shm_group is not namespaced.


NUMA is complicated. To support NUMA, the node must support cpu pinning, devices, and memory locality. Extending that requirement to huge pages is not much different. It is anticipated that the kubelet will provide future NUMA locality guarantees as a feature of QoS. In particular, pods in the Guaranteed QoS class are expected to have NUMA locality preferences.