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Topology Aware Routing

Topology Aware Routing provides a mechanism to help keep network traffic within the zone where it originated. Preferring same-zone traffic between Pods in your cluster can help with reliability, performance (network latency and throughput), or cost.
FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.23 [beta]

Topology Aware Routing adjusts routing behavior to prefer keeping traffic in the zone it originated from. In some cases this can help reduce costs or improve network performance.


Kubernetes clusters are increasingly deployed in multi-zone environments. Topology Aware Routing provides a mechanism to help keep traffic within the zone it originated from. When calculating the endpoints for a Service, the EndpointSlice controller considers the topology (region and zone) of each endpoint and populates the hints field to allocate it to a zone. Cluster components such as kube-proxy can then consume those hints, and use them to influence how the traffic is routed (favoring topologically closer endpoints).

Enabling Topology Aware Routing

You can enable Topology Aware Routing for a Service by setting the annotation to Auto. When there are enough endpoints available in each zone, Topology Hints will be populated on EndpointSlices to allocate individual endpoints to specific zones, resulting in traffic being routed closer to where it originated from.

When it works best

This feature works best when:

1. Incoming traffic is evenly distributed

If a large proportion of traffic is originating from a single zone, that traffic could overload the subset of endpoints that have been allocated to that zone. This feature is not recommended when incoming traffic is expected to originate from a single zone.

2. The Service has 3 or more endpoints per zone

In a three zone cluster, this means 9 or more endpoints. If there are fewer than 3 endpoints per zone, there is a high (≈50%) probability that the EndpointSlice controller will not be able to allocate endpoints evenly and instead will fall back to the default cluster-wide routing approach.

How It Works

The "Auto" heuristic attempts to proportionally allocate a number of endpoints to each zone. Note that this heuristic works best for Services that have a significant number of endpoints.

EndpointSlice controller

The EndpointSlice controller is responsible for setting hints on EndpointSlices when this heuristic is enabled. The controller allocates a proportional amount of endpoints to each zone. This proportion is based on the allocatable CPU cores for nodes running in that zone. For example, if one zone had 2 CPU cores and another zone only had 1 CPU core, the controller would allocate twice as many endpoints to the zone with 2 CPU cores.

The following example shows what an EndpointSlice looks like when hints have been populated:

kind: EndpointSlice
  name: example-hints
  labels: example-svc
addressType: IPv4
  - name: http
    protocol: TCP
    port: 80
  - addresses:
      - ""
      ready: true
    hostname: pod-1
    zone: zone-a
        - name: "zone-a"


The kube-proxy component filters the endpoints it routes to based on the hints set by the EndpointSlice controller. In most cases, this means that the kube-proxy is able to route traffic to endpoints in the same zone. Sometimes the controller allocates endpoints from a different zone to ensure more even distribution of endpoints between zones. This would result in some traffic being routed to other zones.


The Kubernetes control plane and the kube-proxy on each node apply some safeguard rules before using Topology Aware Hints. If these don't check out, the kube-proxy selects endpoints from anywhere in your cluster, regardless of the zone.

  1. Insufficient number of endpoints: If there are less endpoints than zones in a cluster, the controller will not assign any hints.

  2. Impossible to achieve balanced allocation: In some cases, it will be impossible to achieve a balanced allocation of endpoints among zones. For example, if zone-a is twice as large as zone-b, but there are only 2 endpoints, an endpoint allocated to zone-a may receive twice as much traffic as zone-b. The controller does not assign hints if it can't get this "expected overload" value below an acceptable threshold for each zone. Importantly this is not based on real-time feedback. It is still possible for individual endpoints to become overloaded.

  3. One or more Nodes has insufficient information: If any node does not have a label or is not reporting a value for allocatable CPU, the control plane does not set any topology-aware endpoint hints and so kube-proxy does not filter endpoints by zone.

  4. One or more endpoints does not have a zone hint: When this happens, the kube-proxy assumes that a transition from or to Topology Aware Hints is underway. Filtering endpoints for a Service in this state would be dangerous so the kube-proxy falls back to using all endpoints.

  5. A zone is not represented in hints: If the kube-proxy is unable to find at least one endpoint with a hint targeting the zone it is running in, it falls back to using endpoints from all zones. This is most likely to happen as you add a new zone into your existing cluster.


  • Topology Aware Hints are not used when internalTrafficPolicy is set to Local on a Service. It is possible to use both features in the same cluster on different Services, just not on the same Service.

  • This approach will not work well for Services that have a large proportion of traffic originating from a subset of zones. Instead this assumes that incoming traffic will be roughly proportional to the capacity of the Nodes in each zone.

  • The EndpointSlice controller ignores unready nodes as it calculates the proportions of each zone. This could have unintended consequences if a large portion of nodes are unready.

  • The EndpointSlice controller ignores nodes with the or label set. This could be problematic if workloads are also running on those nodes.

  • The EndpointSlice controller does not take into account tolerations when deploying or calculating the proportions of each zone. If the Pods backing a Service are limited to a subset of Nodes in the cluster, this will not be taken into account.

  • This may not work well with autoscaling. For example, if a lot of traffic is originating from a single zone, only the endpoints allocated to that zone will be handling that traffic. That could result in Horizontal Pod Autoscaler either not picking up on this event, or newly added pods starting in a different zone.

Custom heuristics

Kubernetes is deployed in many different ways, there is no single heuristic for allocating endpoints to zones will work for every use case. A key goal of this feature is to enable custom heuristics to be developed if the built in heuristic does not work for your use case. The first steps to enable custom heuristics were included in the 1.27 release. This is a limited implementation that may not yet cover some relevant and plausible situations.

What's next

Last modified July 22, 2023 at 1:18 PM PST: Updated (b5fb01c84f)