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Create an External Load Balancer

This page shows how to create an external load balancer.

When creating a Service, you have the option of automatically creating a cloud load balancer. This provides an externally-accessible IP address that sends traffic to the correct port on your cluster nodes, provided your cluster runs in a supported environment and is configured with the correct cloud load balancer provider package.

You can also use an Ingress in place of Service. For more information, check the Ingress documentation.

Before you begin

You need to have a Kubernetes cluster, and the kubectl command-line tool must be configured to communicate with your cluster. It is recommended to run this tutorial on a cluster with at least two nodes that are not acting as control plane hosts. If you do not already have a cluster, you can create one by using minikube or you can use one of these Kubernetes playgrounds:

Your cluster must be running in a cloud or other environment that already has support for configuring external load balancers.

Create a Service

Create a Service from a manifest

To create an external load balancer, add the following line to your Service manifest:

    type: LoadBalancer

Your manifest might then look like:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: example-service
    app: example
    - port: 8765
      targetPort: 9376
  type: LoadBalancer

Create a Service using kubectl

You can alternatively create the service with the kubectl expose command and its --type=LoadBalancer flag:

kubectl expose deployment example --port=8765 --target-port=9376 \
        --name=example-service --type=LoadBalancer

This command creates a new Service using the same selectors as the referenced resource (in the case of the example above, a Deployment named example).

For more information, including optional flags, refer to the kubectl expose reference.

Finding your IP address

You can find the IP address created for your service by getting the service information through kubectl:

kubectl describe services example-service

which should produce output similar to:

Name:                     example-service
Namespace:                default
Labels:                   app=example
Annotations:              <none>
Selector:                 app=example
Type:                     LoadBalancer
IP Families:              <none>
LoadBalancer Ingress:
Port:                     <unset>  8765/TCP
TargetPort:               9376/TCP
NodePort:                 <unset>  30593/TCP
Session Affinity:         None
External Traffic Policy:  Cluster
Events:                   <none>

The load balancer's IP address is listed next to LoadBalancer Ingress.

Preserving the client source IP

By default, the source IP seen in the target container is not the original source IP of the client. To enable preservation of the client IP, the following fields can be configured in the .spec of the Service:

  • .spec.externalTrafficPolicy - denotes if this Service desires to route external traffic to node-local or cluster-wide endpoints. There are two available options: Cluster (default) and Local. Cluster obscures the client source IP and may cause a second hop to another node, but should have good overall load-spreading. Local preserves the client source IP and avoids a second hop for LoadBalancer and NodePort type Services, but risks potentially imbalanced traffic spreading.
  • .spec.healthCheckNodePort - specifies the health check node port (numeric port number) for the service. If you don't specify healthCheckNodePort, the service controller allocates a port from your cluster's NodePort range.
    You can configure that range by setting an API server command line option, --service-node-port-range. The Service will use the user-specified healthCheckNodePort value if you specify it, provided that the Service type is set to LoadBalancer and externalTrafficPolicy is set to Local.

Setting externalTrafficPolicy to Local in the Service manifest activates this feature. For example:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: example-service
    app: example
    - port: 8765
      targetPort: 9376
  externalTrafficPolicy: Local
  type: LoadBalancer

Caveats and limitations when preserving source IPs

Load balancing services from some cloud providers do not let you configure different weights for each target.

With each target weighted equally in terms of sending traffic to Nodes, external traffic is not equally load balanced across different Pods. The external load balancer is unaware of the number of Pods on each node that are used as a target.

Where NumServicePods << _NumNodes or NumServicePods >> NumNodes, a fairly close-to-equal distribution will be seen, even without weights.

Internal pod to pod traffic should behave similar to ClusterIP services, with equal probability across all pods.

Garbage collecting load balancers

FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.17 [stable]

In usual case, the correlating load balancer resources in cloud provider should be cleaned up soon after a LoadBalancer type Service is deleted. But it is known that there are various corner cases where cloud resources are orphaned after the associated Service is deleted. Finalizer Protection for Service LoadBalancers was introduced to prevent this from happening. By using finalizers, a Service resource will never be deleted until the correlating load balancer resources are also deleted.

Specifically, if a Service has type LoadBalancer, the service controller will attach a finalizer named The finalizer will only be removed after the load balancer resource is cleaned up. This prevents dangling load balancer resources even in corner cases such as the service controller crashing.

External load balancer providers

It is important to note that the datapath for this functionality is provided by a load balancer external to the Kubernetes cluster.

When the Service type is set to LoadBalancer, Kubernetes provides functionality equivalent to type equals ClusterIP to pods within the cluster and extends it by programming the (external to Kubernetes) load balancer with entries for the nodes hosting the relevant Kubernetes pods. The Kubernetes control plane automates the creation of the external load balancer, health checks (if needed), and packet filtering rules (if needed). Once the cloud provider allocates an IP address for the load balancer, the control plane looks up that external IP address and populates it into the Service object.

What's next