Understanding AWS Karpenter: A Modern Autoscaling Solution

29 May 2024

This guide provides a comprehensive overview and step-by-step instructions for integrating AWS Karpenter with Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS). It demonstrates how to set up Karpenter, configure it for efficient autoscaling, and verify its functionality in managing compute resources based on real-time application demands. By the end of this guide, you will have a fully functional setup of Karpenter on EKS, optimized for dynamic workload management.

Autoscaling with AWS Karpenter on EKS

AWS Karpenter represents a significant evolution in autoscaling for Kubernetes environments. Developed by Amazon Web Services, it optimizes scaling clusters efficiently and intelligently. Karpenter stands out with its rapid adjustment to workload demands by provisioning the right types and quantities of instances within minutes.

One key benefit of Karpenter is its application-aware scaling. Unlike conventional autoscalers that focus on cluster state and metrics, Karpenter considers the specific needs of the applications running on the cluster. This ensures resources are scaled appropriately, aligning closely with the actual requirements of the workloads.

How Karpenter Complements EKS

Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) is a widely-used managed Kubernetes service that simplifies running Kubernetes on AWS. Integrating Karpenter with EKS enhances scalability and resource optimization.

Karpenter dynamically adjusts compute resources based on workload demands, beneficial for scenarios with fluctuating workloads, such as e-commerce platforms or data processing applications. Additionally, Karpenter's flexibility in handling various AWS instance types allows EKS clusters to use the most cost-effective and suitable resources for their workloads.


Before setting up AWS Karpenter for EKS, ensure all necessary prerequisites are in place. This guide is tailored for a Linux environment.

AWS Account and EKS Cluster

  • AWS Account: Ensure you have an active AWS account.
  • Amazon EKS Cluster: You need an existing EKS cluster. Follow the EKS Getting Started Guide for setup.

IAM Permissions

  • IAM User with Necessary Permissions: Ensure the IAM user has permissions to manage EKS clusters, EC2 instances, and IAM roles.
  • IAM Role for Karpenter: Create an IAM role for Karpenter to manage EC2 instances.

Tools and Configurations

  • AWS CLI: Install the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI).
  • kubectl: Install kubectl, the command-line tool for Kubernetes.
  • Helm: Install Helm, a package manager for Kubernetes.

Configure AWS CLI

Run aws configure to set your credentials and default region.

Update kubeconfig

Update your kubeconfig file with the EKS cluster information:

aws eks update-kubeconfig --name <Your-EKS-Cluster-Name>

Verify Setup

Verify access to your EKS cluster using kubectl:

kubectl get nodes

Environment Variables

Set up the following environment variables:

export KARPENTER_NAMESPACE=kube-system
export KARPENTER_VERSION=v0.33.0
export K8S_VERSION=1.28
export AWS_PARTITION="aws"
export CLUSTER_NAME="${USER}-karpenter-demo"
export AWS_DEFAULT_REGION="us-east-1"
export AWS_ACCOUNT_ID="$(aws sts get-caller-identity --query Account --output text)"
export TEMPOUT=$(mktemp)

Setting Up Karpenter

Setting up Karpenter in your EKS cluster involves installing the Karpenter software and configuring the provisioner.

Installing Karpenter in EKS

Run the following command to install Karpenter:

helm upgrade --install karpenter oci://public.ecr.aws/karpenter/karpenter \
  --version "${KARPENTER_VERSION}" --namespace "${KARPENTER_NAMESPACE}" \
  --create-namespace \
  --set "settings.clusterName=${CLUSTER_NAME}" \
  --set "settings.interruptionQueue=${CLUSTER_NAME}" \
  --set controller.resources.requests.cpu=1 \
  --set controller.resources.requests.memory=1Gi \
  --set controller.resources.limits.cpu=1 \
  --set controller.resources.limits.memory=1Gi \

Node Pool

Create NodePool using commands from the official Karpenter guide:


Testing and Verification

  • Monitor Cluster Resources: Use tools like Kubernetes Dashboard to track resource usage.
  • Simulate Load: Test the integration by simulating increased load and observing Karpenter's response:
kubectl create deployment nginx-load-generator --image=nginx:1.19.0 --replicas=5 --port=80 --requests='cpu=100m,memory=100Mi' --limits='cpu=200m,memory=200Mi'
  • Monitor Scaling Activities: Use Kubernetes commands and AWS Management Console to monitor scaling activities:
kubectl get nodes

Check Karpenter logs for insights:

kubectl logs -f -n "${KARPENTER_NAMESPACE}" -l app.kubernetes.io/name=karpenter -c controller 
  • Scale down:
kubectl scale deployment nginx-load-generator --replicas 0

Additional Considerations

  • Best Practice Tip: Regularly review and optimize instance types.
  • Common Troubleshooting Tip: Handling unscheduled pods.


We've successfully integrated AWS Karpenter with Amazon EKS, enhancing autoscaling capabilities. This guide covered the essentials from setup to configuration, demonstrating Karpenter's ability to dynamically adjust resources based on real-time application demands. Continue exploring Karpenter's capabilities to keep your Kubernetes deployments agile and efficient.

Useful Resources