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Running Heterogeneous workloads¶

Kubernetes has support for heterogeneous clusters where you can have a mixture of Linux and Windows nodes in the same cluster. Within that cluster, you can have a mixture of Pods that run on Linux and Pods that run on Windows. You can even run multiple versions of Windows in the same cluster. However, there are several factors (as mentioned below) that will need to be accounted for when making this decision.

Assigning PODs to Nodes Best practices

In order to keep Linux and Windows workloads on their respective OS-specific nodes, you need to use some combination of node selectors and taints/tolerations. The main goal of scheduling workloads in a heterogeneous environment is to avoid breaking compatibility for existing Linux workloads.

Ensuring OS-specific workloads land on the appropriate container host

Users can ensure Windows containers can be scheduled on the appropriate host using nodeSelectors. All Kubernetes nodes today have the following default labels: = [windows|linux] = [amd64|arm64|...]

If a Pod specification does not include a nodeSelector like "": windows, the Pod may be scheduled on any host, Windows or Linux. This can be problematic since a Windows container can only run on Windows and a Linux container can only run on Linux.

In Enterprise environments, it's not uncommon to have a large number of pre-existing deployments for Linux containers, as well as an ecosystem of off-the-shelf configurations, like Helm charts. In these situations, you may be hesitant to make changes to a deployment's nodeSelectors. The alternative is to use Taints.

For example: --register-with-taints='os=windows:NoSchedule'

If you are using EKS, eksctl offers ways to apply taints through clusterConfig:

  - name: windows-ng
    amiFamily: WindowsServer2022FullContainer
      nodeclass: windows2022
      os: "windows:NoSchedule"

Adding a taint to all Windows nodes, the scheduler will not schedule pods on those nodes unless they tolerate the taint. Pod manifest example:

nodeSelector: windows
    - key: "os"
      operator: "Equal"
      value: "windows"
      effect: "NoSchedule"

Handling multiple Windows build in the same cluster

The Windows container base image used by each pod must match the same kernel build version as the node. If you want to use multiple Windows Server builds in the same cluster, then you should set additional node labels, nodeSelectors or leverage a label called windows-build.

Kubernetes 1.17 automatically adds a new label to simplify the management of multiple Windows build in the same cluster. If you're running an older version, then it's recommended to add this label manually to Windows nodes.

This label reflects the Windows major, minor, and build number that need to match for compatibility. Below are values used today for each Windows Server version.

It's important to note that Windows Server is moving to the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) as the primary release channel. The Windows Server Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) was retired on August 9, 2022. There will be no future SAC releases of Windows Server.

Product Name Build Number(s)
Server full 2022 LTSC 10.0.20348
Server core 2019 LTSC 10.0.17763

It is possible to check the OS build version through the following command:

kubectl get nodes -o wide

The KERNEL-VERSION output matches the Windows OS build version.

NAME                          STATUS   ROLES    AGE   VERSION                INTERNAL-IP   EXTERNAL-IP     OS-IMAGE                         KERNEL-VERSION                  CONTAINER-RUNTIME
ip-10-10-2-235.ec2.internal   Ready    <none>   23m   v1.24.7-eks-fb459a0    Windows Server 2022 Datacenter   10.0.20348.1607                 containerd://1.6.6
ip-10-10-31-27.ec2.internal   Ready    <none>   23m   v1.24.7-eks-fb459a0   Windows Server 2019 Datacenter   10.0.17763.4131                 containerd://1.6.6
ip-10-10-7-54.ec2.internal    Ready    <none>   31m   v1.24.11-eks-a59e1f0     Amazon Linux 2                   5.10.173-154.642.amzn2.x86_64   containerd://1.6.19

The example below applies an additional nodeSelector to the pod manifest in order to match the correct Windows-build version when running different Windows node groups OS versions.

nodeSelector: windows '10.0.20348'
    - key: "os"
    operator: "Equal"
    value: "windows"
    effect: "NoSchedule"

Simplifying NodeSelector and Toleration in Pod manifests using RuntimeClass

You can also make use of RuntimeClass to simplify the process of using taints and tolerations. This can be accomplished by creating a RuntimeClass object which is used to encapsulate these taints and tolerations.

Create a RuntimeClass by running the following manifest:

kind: RuntimeClass
  name: windows-2022
handler: 'docker'
  nodeSelector: 'windows' 'amd64' '10.0.20348'
  - effect: NoSchedule
    key: os
    operator: Equal
    value: "windows"

Once the Runtimeclass is created, assign it using as a Spec on the Pod manifest:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: iis-2022
    app: iis-2022
  replicas: 1
      name: iis-2022
        app: iis-2022
      runtimeClassName: windows-2022
      - name: iis

Managed Node Group Support

To help customers run their Windows applications in a more streamlined manner, AWS launched the support for Amazon EKS Managed Node Group (MNG) support for Windows containers on December 15, 2022. To help align operations teams, Windows MNGs are enabled using the same workflows and tools as Linux MNGs. Full and core AMI (Amazon Machine Image) family versions of Windows Server 2019 and 2022 are supported.

Following AMI families are supported for Managed Node Groups(MNG)s.

AMI Family

Additional documentations

AWS Official Documentation:

To better understand how Pod Networking (CNI) works, check the following link:

AWS Blog on Deploying Managed Node Group for Windows on EKS: