Kubernetes Deprecation Policy
This document details the deprecation policy for various facets of the system.
Kubernetes is a large system with many components and many contributors. As with any such software, the feature set naturally evolves over time, and sometimes a feature may need to be removed. This could include an API, a flag, or even an entire feature. To avoid breaking existing users, Kubernetes follows a deprecation policy for aspects of the system that are slated to be removed.
Deprecating parts of the API
Since Kubernetes is an API-driven system, the API has evolved over time to reflect the evolving understanding of the problem space. The Kubernetes API is actually a set of APIs, called “API groups”, and each API group is independently versioned. API versions fall into 3 main tracks, each of which has different policies for deprecation:
|v1||GA (generally available, stable)|
A given release of Kubernetes can support any number of API groups and any number of versions of each.
The following rules govern the deprecation of elements of the API. This includes:
- REST resources (aka API objects)
- Fields of REST resources
- Annotations on REST resources, including “beta” annotations but not including “alpha” annotations.
- Enumerated or constant values
- Component config structures
These rules are enforced between official releases, not between arbitrary commits to master or release branches.
Rule #1: API elements may only be removed by incrementing the version of the API group.
Once an API element has been added to an API group at a particular version, it can not be removed from that version or have its behavior significantly changed, regardless of track.
Note: For historical reasons, there are 2 “monolithic” API groups - “core” (no group name) and “extensions”. Resources will incrementally be moved from these legacy API groups into more domain-specific API groups.
Rule #2: API objects must be able to round-trip between API versions in a given release without information loss, with the exception of whole REST resources that do not exist in some versions.
For example, an object can be written as v1 and then read back as v2 and converted to v1, and the resulting v1 resource will be identical to the original. The representation in v2 might be different from v1, but the system knows how to convert between them in both directions. Additionally, any new field added in v2 must be able to round-trip to v1 and back, which means v1 might have to add an equivalent field or represent it as an annotation.
Rule #3: An API version in a given track may not be deprecated until a new API version at least as stable is released.
GA API versions can replace GA API versions as well as beta and alpha API versions. Beta API versions may not replace GA API versions.
Rule #4a: Other than the most recent API versions in each track, older API versions must be supported after their announced deprecation for a duration of no less than:
- GA: 12 months or 3 releases (whichever is longer)
- Beta: 9 months or 3 releases (whichever is longer)
- Alpha: 0 releases
This covers the maximum supported version skew of 2 releases.
Note: Until #52185 is resolved, no API versions that have been persisted to storage may be removed. Serving REST endpoints for those versions may be disabled (subject to the deprecation timelines in this document), but the API server must remain capable of decoding/converting previously persisted data from storage.
Rule #4b: The “preferred” API version and the “storage version” for a given group may not advance until after a release has been made that supports both the new version and the previous version
Users must be able to upgrade to a new release of Kubernetes and then roll back to a previous release, without converting anything to the new API version or suffering breakages (unless they explicitly used features only available in the newer version). This is particularly evident in the stored representation of objects.
All of this is best illustrated by examples. Imagine a Kubernetes release, version X, which introduces a new API group. A new Kubernetes release is made every approximately 3 months (4 per year). The following table describes which API versions are supported in a series of subsequent releases.
|Release||API Versions||Preferred/Storage Version||Notes|
|X+3||v1beta2, v1beta1 (deprecated)||v1beta1||
|X+4||v1beta2, v1beta1 (deprecated)||v1beta2|
|X+5||v1, v1beta1 (deprecated), v1beta2 (deprecated)||v1beta2||
|X+6||v1, v1beta2 (deprecated)||v1||
|X+7||v1, v1beta2 (deprecated)||v1|
|X+11||v2beta2, v2beta1 (deprecated), v1||v1||
|X+12||v2, v2beta2 (deprecated), v2beta1 (deprecated), v1 (deprecated)||v1||
|X+13||v2, v2beta1 (deprecated), v2beta2 (deprecated), v1 (deprecated)||v2|
|X+14||v2, v2beta2 (deprecated), v1 (deprecated)||v2||
|X+15||v2, v1 (deprecated)||v2||
|X+16||v2, v1 (deprecated)||v2|
REST resources (aka API objects)
Consider a hypothetical REST resource named Widget, which was present in API v1 in the above timeline, and which needs to be deprecated. We document and announce the deprecation in sync with release X+1. The Widget resource still exists in API version v1 (deprecated) but not in v2alpha1. The Widget resource continues to exist and function in releases up to and including X+8. Only in release X+9, when API v1 has aged out, does the Widget resource cease to exist, and the behavior get removed.
Fields of REST resources
As with whole REST resources, an individual field which was present in API v1 must exist and function until API v1 is removed. Unlike whole resources, the v2 APIs may choose a different representation for the field, as long as it can be round-tripped. For example a v1 field named “magnitude” which was deprecated might be named “deprecatedMagnitude” in API v2. When v1 is eventually removed, the deprecated field can be removed from v2.
Enumerated or constant values
As with whole REST resources and fields thereof, a constant value which was supported in API v1 must exist and function until API v1 is removed.
Component config structures
Component configs are versioned and managed just like REST resources.
Over time, Kubernetes will introduce more fine-grained API versions, at which point these rules will be adjusted as needed.
Deprecating a flag or CLI
The Kubernetes system is comprised of several different programs cooperating. Sometimes, a Kubernetes release might remove flags or CLI commands (collectively “CLI elements”) in these programs. The individual programs naturally sort into two main groups - user-facing and admin-facing programs, which vary slightly in their deprecation policies. Unless a flag is explicitly prefixed or documented as “alpha” or “beta”, it is considered GA.
CLI elements are effectively part of the API to the system, but since they are not versioned in the same way as the REST API, the rules for deprecation are as follows:
Rule #5a: CLI elements of user-facing components (e.g. kubectl) must function after their announced deprecation for no less than:
- GA: 12 months or 2 releases (whichever is longer)
- Beta: 3 months or 1 release (whichever is longer)
- Alpha: 0 releases
Rule #5b: CLI elements of admin-facing components (e.g. kubelet) must function after their announced deprecation for no less than:
- GA: 6 months or 1 release (whichever is longer)
- Beta: 3 months or 1 release (whichever is longer)
- Alpha: 0 releases
Rule #6: Deprecated CLI elements must emit warnings (optionally disable) when used.
Deprecating a feature or behavior
Occasionally a Kubernetes release needs to deprecate some feature or behavior of the system that is not controlled by the API or CLI. In this case, the rules for deprecation are as follows:
Rule #7: Deprecated behaviors must function for no less than 1 year after their announced deprecation.
This does not imply that all changes to the system are governed by this policy. This applies only to significant, user-visible behaviors which impact the correctness of applications running on Kubernetes or that impact the administration of Kubernetes clusters, and which are being removed entirely.
An exception to the above rule is feature gates. Feature gates are key=value pairs that allow for users to enable/disable experimental features.
Feature gates are intended to cover the development life cycle of a feature - they are not intended to be long-term APIs. As such, they are expected to be deprecated and removed after a feature becomes GA or is dropped.
As a feature moves through the stages, the associated feature gate evolves. The feature life cycle matched to its corresponding feature gate is:
- Alpha: the feature gate is disabled by default and can be enabled by the user.
- Beta: the feature gate is enabled by default and can be disabled by the user.
- GA: the feature gate is deprecated (see “Deprecation”) and becomes non-operational.
- GA, deprecation window complete: the feature gate is removed and calls to it are no longer accepted.
Features can be removed at any point in the life cycle prior to GA. When features are removed prior to GA, their associated feature gates are also deprecated.
When an invocation tries to disable a non-operational feature gate, the call fails in order to avoid unsupported scenarios that might otherwise run silently.
In some cases, removing pre-GA features requires considerable time. Feature gates can remain operational until their associated feature is fully removed, at which point the feature gate itself can be deprecated.
When removing a feature gate for a GA feature also requires considerable time, calls to feature gates may remain operational if the feature gate has no effect on the feature, and if the feature gate causes no errors.
Features intended to be disabled by users should include a mechanism for disabling the feature in the associated feature gate.
Versioning for feature gates is different from the previously discussed components, therefore the rules for deprecation are as follows:
Rule #8: Feature gates must be deprecated when the corresponding feature they control transitions a lifecycle stage as follows. Feature gates must function for no less than:
- Beta feature to GA: 6 months or 2 releases (whichever is longer)
- Beta feature to EOL: 3 months or 1 release (whichever is longer)
- Alpha feature to EOL: 0 releases
Rule #9: Deprecated feature gates must respond with a warning when used. When a feature gate is deprecated it must be documented in both in the release notes and the corresponding CLI help. Both warnings and documentation must indicate whether a feature gate is non-operational.
No policy can cover every possible situation. This policy is a living document, and will evolve over time. In practice, there will be situations that do not fit neatly into this policy, or for which this policy becomes a serious impediment. Such situations should be discussed with SIGs and project leaders to find the best solutions for those specific cases, always bearing in mind that Kubernetes is committed to being a stable system that, as much as possible, never breaks users. Exceptions will always be announced in all relevant release notes.