Getting Started with Terraform

Karpenter automatically provisions new nodes in response to unschedulable pods. Karpenter does this by observing events within the Kubernetes cluster, and then sending commands to the underlying cloud provider.

In this example, the cluster is running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS). Karpenter is designed to be cloud provider agnostic, but currently only supports AWS. Contributions are welcomed.

This guide should take less than 1 hour to complete, and cost less than $0.25. Follow the clean-up instructions to reduce any charges.


Karpenter is installed in clusters with a helm chart.

Karpenter additionally requires IAM Roles for Service Accounts (IRSA). IRSA permits Karpenter (within the cluster) to make privileged requests to AWS (as the cloud provider).

Required Utilities

Install these tools before proceeding:

  1. AWS CLI
  2. kubectl - the Kubernetes CLI
  3. terraform - infrastructure-as-code tool made by HashiCorp
  4. helm - the package manager for Kubernetes

Login to the AWS CLI with a user that has sufficient privileges to create a cluster.

Setting up Variables

After setting up the tools, set the following environment variables to store commonly used values.

export CLUSTER_NAME=$USER-karpenter-demo
export AWS_DEFAULT_REGION=us-east-1

The first thing we need to do is create our file and place the following in it. This will let us pass in a cluster name that will be used throughout the remainder of our config.

variable "cluster_name" {
  description = "The name of the cluster"
  type        = string

Create a Cluster

We’re going to use two different Terraform modules to create our cluster - one to create the VPC and another for the cluster itself. The key part of this is that we need to tag the VPC subnets that we want to use for the worker nodes.

Place the following Terraform config into your file.

module "vpc" {
  source = "terraform-aws-modules/vpc/aws"

  name = var.cluster_name
  cidr = ""

  azs             = ["us-east-1a", "us-east-1b", "us-east-1c"]
  private_subnets = ["", "", ""]
  public_subnets  = ["", "", ""]

  enable_nat_gateway     = true
  single_nat_gateway     = true
  one_nat_gateway_per_az = false

  private_subnet_tags = {
    "${var.cluster_name}" = "owned"
    "" = var.cluster_name

module "eks" {
  source          = "terraform-aws-modules/eks/aws"
  version         = "<18"

  cluster_version = "1.21"
  cluster_name    = var.cluster_name
  vpc_id          = module.vpc.vpc_id
  subnets         = module.vpc.private_subnets
  enable_irsa     = true

  # Only need one node to get Karpenter up and running
  worker_groups = [
      instance_type = "t3a.medium"
      asg_max_size  = 1

  tags = {
    "" = var.cluster_name

At this point, go ahead and apply what we’ve done to create the VPC and EKS cluster. This may take some time.

terraform init
terraform apply -var cluster_name=$CLUSTER_NAME

There’s a good chance it will fail when trying to configure the aws-auth ConfigMap. And that’s because we need to use the kubeconfig file that was generated during the cluster install. To use it, run the following. This will configure both your local CLI and Terraform to use the file. Then try the apply again.

export KUBECONFIG=${PWD}/kubeconfig_${CLUSTER_NAME}
terraform apply -var cluster_name=$CLUSTER_NAME

Everything should apply successfully now!

Create the EC2 Spot Service Linked Role

This step is only necessary if this is the first time you’re using EC2 Spot in this account. More details are available here.

aws iam create-service-linked-role --aws-service-name
# If the role has already been successfully created, you will see:
# An error occurred (InvalidInput) when calling the CreateServiceLinkedRole operation: Service role name AWSServiceRoleForEC2Spot has been taken in this account, please try a different suffix.

Configure the KarpenterNode IAM Role

The EKS module creates an IAM role for worker nodes. We’ll use that for Karpenter (so we don’t have to reconfigure the aws-auth ConfigMap), but we need to add one more policy and create an instance profile.

Place the following into your to add the policy and create an instance profile.

data "aws_iam_policy" "ssm_managed_instance" {
  arn = "arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonSSMManagedInstanceCore"

resource "aws_iam_role_policy_attachment" "karpenter_ssm_policy" {
  role       = module.eks.worker_iam_role_name
  policy_arn = data.aws_iam_policy.ssm_managed_instance.arn

resource "aws_iam_instance_profile" "karpenter" {
  name = "KarpenterNodeInstanceProfile-${var.cluster_name}"
  role = module.eks.worker_iam_role_name

Go ahead and apply the changes.

terraform apply -var cluster_name=$CLUSTER_NAME

Now, Karpenter can use this instance profile to launch new EC2 instances and those instances will be able to connect to your cluster.

Create the KarpenterController IAM Role

Karpenter requires permissions like launching instances, which means it needs an IAM role that grants it access. The config below will create an AWS IAM Role, attach a policy, and authorize the Service Account to assume the role using IRSA. We will create the ServiceAccount and connect it to this role during the Helm chart install.

module "iam_assumable_role_karpenter" {
  source                        = "terraform-aws-modules/iam/aws//modules/iam-assumable-role-with-oidc"
  version                       = "4.7.0"
  create_role                   = true
  role_name                     = "karpenter-controller-${var.cluster_name}"
  provider_url                  = module.eks.cluster_oidc_issuer_url
  oidc_fully_qualified_subjects = ["system:serviceaccount:karpenter:karpenter"]

resource "aws_iam_role_policy" "karpenter_controller" {
  name = "karpenter-policy-${var.cluster_name}"
  role = module.iam_assumable_role_karpenter.iam_role_name

  policy = jsonencode({
    Version = "2012-10-17"
    Statement = [
        Action = [
        Effect   = "Allow"
        Resource = "*"

Since we’ve added a new module, you’ll need to run terraform init again. Then, apply the changes.

terraform init
terraform apply -var cluster_name=$CLUSTER_NAME

Install Karpenter Helm Chart

Use helm to deploy Karpenter to the cluster. We are going to use the helm_release Terraform resource to do the deploy and pass in the cluster details and IAM role Karpenter needs to assume.

resource "helm_release" "karpenter" {
  depends_on       = [module.eks.kubeconfig]
  namespace        = "karpenter"
  create_namespace = true

  name       = "karpenter"
  repository = ""
  chart      = "karpenter"
  version    = "v0.6.1"

  set {
    name  = "serviceAccount.annotations.eks\\.amazonaws\\.com/role-arn"
    value = module.iam_assumable_role_karpenter.iam_role_arn

  set {
    name  = "controller.clusterName"
    value = var.cluster_name

  set {
    name  = "controller.clusterEndpoint"
    value = module.eks.cluster_endpoint

  set {
    name  = "aws.defaultInstanceProfile"
    value =

Now, deploy Karpenter by applying the new Terraform config.

terraform init
terraform apply -var cluster_name=$CLUSTER_NAME

Enable Debug Logging (optional)

kubectl patch configmap config-logging -n karpenter --patch '{"data":{"loglevel.controller":"debug"}}'


A single Karpenter provisioner is capable of handling many different pod shapes. Karpenter makes scheduling and provisioning decisions based on pod attributes such as labels and affinity. In other words, Karpenter eliminates the need to manage many different node groups.

Create a default provisioner using the command below. This provisioner configures instances to connect to your cluster’s endpoint and discovers resources like subnets and security groups using the cluster’s name.

The ttlSecondsAfterEmpty value configures Karpenter to terminate empty nodes. This behavior can be disabled by leaving the value undefined.

Review the provisioner CRD for more information. For example, ttlSecondsUntilExpired configures Karpenter to terminate nodes when a maximum age is reached.

Note: This provisioner will create capacity as long as the sum of all created capacity is less than the specified limit.

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -f -
kind: Provisioner
  name: default
    - key:
      operator: In
      values: ["spot"]
      cpu: 1000
    subnetSelector: ${CLUSTER_NAME}
    securityGroupSelector: ${CLUSTER_NAME}
  ttlSecondsAfterEmpty: 30

First Use

Karpenter is now active and ready to begin provisioning nodes. Create some pods using a deployment, and watch Karpenter provision nodes in response.

Automatic Node Provisioning

This deployment uses the pause image and starts with zero replicas.

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -f -
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: inflate
  replicas: 0
      app: inflate
        app: inflate
      terminationGracePeriodSeconds: 0
        - name: inflate
              cpu: 1
kubectl scale deployment inflate --replicas 5
kubectl logs -f -n karpenter $(kubectl get pods -n karpenter -l karpenter=controller -o name)

Automatic Node Termination

Now, delete the deployment. After 30 seconds (ttlSecondsAfterEmpty), Karpenter should terminate the now empty nodes.

kubectl delete deployment inflate
kubectl logs -f -n karpenter $(kubectl get pods -n karpenter -l karpenter=controller -o name)

Manual Node Termination

If you delete a node with kubectl, Karpenter will gracefully cordon, drain, and shutdown the corresponding instance. Under the hood, Karpenter adds a finalizer to the node object, which blocks deletion until all pods are drained and the instance is terminated. Keep in mind, this only works for nodes provisioned by Karpenter.

kubectl delete node $NODE_NAME


To avoid additional charges, remove the demo infrastructure from your AWS account. Since Karpenter is managing nodes outside of Terraform’s view, we need to remove the pods and node first (if you haven’t already). Once the node is removed, you can remove the rest of the infrastructure and clean up Karpenter created LaunchTemplates.

kubectl delete deployment inflate
kubectl delete node -l
helm uninstall karpenter --namespace karpenter
terraform destroy -var cluster_name=$CLUSTER_NAME
aws ec2 describe-launch-templates \
    | jq -r ".LaunchTemplates[].LaunchTemplateName" \
    | grep -i Karpenter-${CLUSTER_NAME} \
    | xargs -I{} aws ec2 delete-launch-template --launch-template-name {}
Last modified March 7, 2022 : Fixed In all other Versions (#1474) (e16de473)