Controlling Disruption

Game servers running on Agones may be disrupted by Kubernetes; learn how to control disruption of your game servers.

Disruption in Kubernetes

A Pod in Kubernetes may be disrupted for involuntary reasons, e.g. hardware failure, or voluntary reasons, such as when nodes are drained for upgrades.

By default, Agones assumes your game server should never be disrupted voluntarily and configures the Pod appropriately - but this isn’t always the ideal setting. Here we discuss how Agones allows you to control the two most significant sources of voluntary Pod evictions, node upgrades and Cluster Autoscaler, using the eviction API on the GameServer object.

Benefits of Allowing Voluntary Disruption

It’s not always easy to write your game server in a way that allows for disruption, but it can have major benefits:

  • Compaction of your cluster using Cluster Autoscaler can lead to considerable cost savings for your infrastructure.
  • Allowing automated node upgrades can save you management toil, and lowers the time it takes to patch security vulnerabilites.


When discussing game server pod disruption, it’s important to keep two factors in mind:

  • TERM signal: Is your game server tolerant of graceful termination? If you wish to support voluntary disruption, your game server must handle the TERM signal (even if it runs to completion after receiving TERM).
  • Termination Grace Period: After receiving TERM, how long does your game server need to run? If you run to completion after receiving TERM, this is equivalent to the session length - if not, you can think of this as the cleanup time. In general, we bucket the grace period into “less than 10 minutes”, “10 minutes to an hour”, and “greater than an hour”. (See below if you are curious about grace period considerations.)

eviction API

The eviction API is specified as part of the GameServerSpec, like:

apiVersion: ""
kind: GameServer
  name: "simple-game-server"
    safe: Always

You can set based on your game server’s tolerance for disruption and session length, based on the following diagram:

Eviction Decision Diagram

In words:

  • Does the game server support TERM and terminate within ten minutes?
    • Yes to both: Set safe: Always, and set terminationGracePeriodSeconds to the session length or cleanup time.
    • No to either: Does the game server support TERM and terminate within an hour?
      • Yes to both: Set safe: OnUpgrade, and configure terminationGracePeriodSeconds to the session length or cleanup time.
      • No to either: Set safe: Never. If your game server does not terminate within an hour, see below.

What’s special about ten minutes and one hour?

  • Ten minutes: Cluster Autoscaler respects ten minutes of graceful termination on scale-down. On some cloud products, you can configure --max-graceful-termination-sec to change this, but it is not advised: Cluster Autoscaler is currently only capable of scaling down one node at a time, and larger graceful termination windows slow this down farther (see autoscaler#5079). If the ten minute limit does not apply to you, generally you should choose between safe: Always (for sessions less than an hour), or see below.

  • One hour: On many cloud products, PodDisruptionBudget can only block node upgrade evictions for a certain period of time - on GKE this is 1h. After that, the PDB is ignored, or the node upgrade fails with an error. Controlling Pod disruption for longer than one hour requires cluster configuration changes outside of Agones - see below.

Considerations for long sessions

Outside of Cluster Autoscaler, the main source of disruption for long sessions is node upgrade. On some cloud products, such as GKE Standard, node upgrades are entirely within your control. On others, such as GKE Autopilot, node upgrade is automatic. Typical node upgrades use an eviction based, rolling recreate strategy, and may not honor PodDisruptionBudget for longer than an hour. See Best Practices for information specific to your cloud product.

Implementation / Under the hood

Each option uses a slightly different permutation of:

As a quick reference: setting safe-to-evict pod annotation label
Never (default) false false (matches PDB)
OnUpgrade false true (does not match PDB)
Always true true (does not match PDB)

Further Reading

Last modified July 23, 2024: Graduate Passthrough Port Policy to Beta on Autopilot (#3916) (205e87e)