GKE Autopilot

GKE Autopilot is a fully managed service that automates node management and enables developers to focus on deploying applications

By - Manish Kumar Barnwal
Updated on
August 21, 2023


What is GKE Autopilot & how does it work?

When you create a new Autopilot cluster, Google Cloud allocates and manages the underlying infrastructure. This includes setting up and maintaining the control plane, nodes, and networking rules, ensuring high availability, and managing updates and patches.

Autopilot clusters come with a set of best practices built-in, offering automatic scaling, security, and management. Pods in Autopilot mode get automatically adjusted to consume necessary resources based on the real-time requirements of your applications, helping to optimize resource usage and cost.

How to Use GKE Autopilot?

Utilizing GKE Autopilot for your containerized applications involves a few key steps. Let's walk through these stages in a sequential manner:

1. Create a Google Cloud account: If you haven't done so already, establish a Google Cloud account. You can sign up for a free trial or opt for a paid plan tailored to your needs.

2. Enable the Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) API: With your Google Cloud account ready, the next step is activating the GKE API. This step is crucial for leveraging the capabilities of GKE Autopilot.

3. Set up your GKE Autopilot cluster: After enabling the GKE API, it's time to create your GKE Autopilot cluster. This setup can be done via the Google Cloud Console or the gcloud command-line tool. During this process, you'll provide important details such as the cluster name, location, and other configuration options.

4. Deploy your applications: With your GKE Autopilot cluster set up, you can proceed with deploying your containerized applications. Kubernetes Deployment and Kubernetes Service are excellent tools you can utilize to manage your application deployments effectively.

5. Monitor and manage your cluster: Despite being a fully managed service, where Google oversees most of the management and maintenance tasks of the cluster, it's still beneficial to monitor and manage your cluster. Tools like Stackdriver Monitoring and Stackdriver Logging can be instrumental in these tasks.

By adhering to these steps, you'll be equipped to make the most out of GKE Autopilot. This setup allows you to deploy your containerized applications in a fully managed and optimized Kubernetes environment.

How to create an Autopilot Cluster?

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) Autopilot is a managed Kubernetes service provided by Google Cloud that takes care of all the underlying infrastructure for you, enabling developers to focus on deploying applications.

GKE Autopilot ensures your applications are always running optimally, relieving developers from the intricacies of managing, scaling, and securing the underlying Kubernetes infrastructure. GKE Autopilot's automation features guarantee efficiency, security, and consistency throughout your deployments.

GKE Autopilot runs on Google Kubernetes Engine, a managed environment for running containerized applications. Autopilot abstracts away the underlying node management, allowing you to focus on deploying workloads.

With GKE Autopilot, you can deploy your applications on Kubernetes without needing deep knowledge about Kubernetes infrastructure and operations, making it an excellent solution for organizations that want to enjoy the benefits of Kubernetes without the operational overhead.

Features & Advantages

What are the benefits of GKE Autopilot?

GKE Autopilot brings numerous benefits that streamline the deployment and management of Kubernetes applications:

  • Simplified Operations: GKE Autopilot removes the need to manage underlying infrastructure elements like nodes or clusters. Google oversees everything, from node scaling to system upgrades and patches, enabling developers to concentrate on application development and deployment.
  • Optimized Resource Usage: GKE Autopilot intelligently allocates resources such as CPU and memory, tuning them based on the application's actual requirements. This capability enhances the efficiency of applications, minimizing resource wastage, and leading to cost-effective operations and improved performance.
  • Enhanced Security: Security is a core feature of GKE Autopilot. Google routinely scans and updates the operating system and Kubernetes components to maintain a robust security posture. Moreover, nodes are isolated from each other, and all inter-node communication is encrypted, providing a secure environment for application deployment.

Advantages of using GKE Autopilot for Businesses

  1. Cost Efficiency: GKE Autopilot's resource optimization feature can lead to significant cost savings by ensuring you only pay for the resources your applications actually use.
  2. Scalability: Autopilot takes care of scaling your applications up or down based on demand, ensuring your services are always available, even during peak times.
  3. Productivity Boost: With less time spent on infrastructure management, your developers can focus on what matters most: building great applications. This shift can lead to increased productivity and faster time-to-market.
  4. Reliability: Google’s expertise in managing global-scale infrastructure ensures that your applications are always up and running, providing a reliable service for your users.
  5. Compliance and Security: GKE Autopilot comes with Google Cloud's robust security model, ensuring compliance with industry standards and providing a secure environment for your applications.


How much does GKE Autopilot cost?

GKE Autopilot pricing comprises of a flat fee of $0.10/hour for each Autopilot cluster post the free tier, plus the CPU, memory, and ephemeral storage resources requisitioned by the currently scheduled Pods. Importantly, you are not billed for system Pods, operating system overhead, unallocated space, or unscheduled Pods.

The pricing is as follows:

  • vCPU (virtual CPU): $0.0445/hour
  • Pod Memory: $0.0049225/hour
  • Ephemeral Storage: $0.0000548/hour

Note that all Autopilot resources are charged in 1-second increments, with no minimum duration.

Various types of Pods like General-Purpose Pods, Scale-Out Compute Class Pods, Balanced Compute Class Pods, and GPU Pods have different pricing, depending on their vCPU, Memory, and GPU requirements.

GKE Autopilot General and Scale-Out Pricing Table

Here's an illustrative table outlining GKE Autopilot pricing for different pod types based on regular, spot, and commitment pricing:

General-purpose Pods:

Scale-Out Compute Class Pods:

GKE Autopilot GPU and Balanced Compute Pricing Table

Balanced Compute Class Pods:

GPU Pods:

Note: Spot prices are subject to change up to once every 30 days, but they offer substantial discounts of 60-91% off of the corresponding regular price for CPU, memory, and GPU.

Cost Optimization

How to optimize GKE Autopilot Costs?

Understanding GKE Autopilot pricing is only part of the picture; it's equally important to adopt strategies to optimize your Autopilot costs. Here are some proven cost optimization strategies you can leverage with GKE Autopilot:

Right-Size Your Cluster

GKE Autopilot's automatic resource provisioning and management do not negate the importance of a properly sized cluster. By utilizing tools like the Kubernetes Resource Metrics API and Google Cloud Monitoring, you can analyze your resource usage and adjust your cluster size to prevent excess expenditure.

Leverage Cluster Autoscaling

Cluster autoscaling enables your cluster to add or remove nodes based on demand, ensuring you only pay for necessary resources. To prevent overprovisioning or underprovisioning, always set appropriate thresholds.

Adopt Pod Autoscaling

Pod autoscaling is another feature to consider, allowing the number of pods running in your cluster to adjust based on demand automatically. This feature can lead to significant savings by maintaining only the necessary number of pods at any given time.

Utilize Preemptible VMs

Preemptible VMs provide a cost-effective way to run non-critical workloads. These VMs are up to 80% cheaper than regular VMs but can be terminated by Google at any time. They are ideal for batch processing jobs, testing and development environments, and other non-critical tasks.

Use Spot Instances

For workloads that can handle occasional interruptions, Google Cloud's spot instances can be a cost-saver. These are spare compute resources offered at a discounted rate. Bear in mind that they can be terminated at any time, so plan for potential interruptions and devise measures to handle them.

Employ Cost Allocation Tags

Cost allocation tags are a powerful tool for tracking spending and optimizing costs. By tagging your GKE Autopilot resources, you can easily identify high-cost resources and take steps to optimize their usage.

Turn Off Unused Resources

Avoid unnecessary costs by turning off unused resources such as clusters or nodes. This can be achieved through the GK E Autopilot console or the GKE API to stop or delete unused resources.

While GKE Autopilot provides managed infrastructure, cost management and optimization still require active engagement and strategic planning. By implementing the strategies outlined above, you can significantly improve your resource usage efficiency and make the most of your GKE Autopilot deployment.

GKE Autopilot Use Cases & Examples

GKE Autopilot is ideal for various scenarios, including:

  1. Microservices Architecture: If you have an application composed of multiple small, independent services, Autopilot can automatically manage and scale each microservice based on its unique needs.
  2. Continuous Deployment: GKE Autopilot makes deploying updates and changes to your application a breeze, ensuring seamless and continuous delivery of your applications.
  3. Data Processing Workloads: Whether it's batch processing, real-time processing, or extract-transform-load (ETL) jobs, Autopilot can scale your data processing resources up or down based on your needs.
  4. Highly Available Applications: If you need your application to be always available, Autopilot’s automated scaling and self-healing capabilities ensure your application is consistently up and running.
  5. Multitasking: If your team is small or your resources are limited, GKE Autopilot allows you to focus on building and deploying your applications while Google takes care of the underlying infrastructure.

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