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What is K3s?

Last Updated May 3rd 2022, 12:41:16 am


K3s is a lightweight version of Kubernetes. It’s production ready, easy to install, half the memory, all in a binary less than 100 MB.[1]

K3s is a fully compliant Kubernetes distribution with the following enhancements:[2]

  • Packaged as a single binary.
  • Lightweight storage backend based on sqlite3 as the default storage mechanism. etcd3, MySQL, Postgres also still available.
  • Wrapped in simple launcher that handles a lot of the complexity of TLS and options.
  • Secure by default with reasonable defaults for lightweight environments.
  • Simple but powerful “batteries-included” features have been added, such as: a local storage provider, a service load balancer, a Helm controller, and the Traefik ingress controller.
  • Operation of all Kubernetes control plane components is encapsulated in a single binary and process. This allows K3s to automate and manage complex cluster operations like distributing certificates.
  • External dependencies have been minimized (just a modern kernel and cgroup mounts needed). K3s packages required dependencies, including:
    • containerd
    • Flannel
    • CoreDNS
    • CNI
    • Host utilities (iptables, socat, etc)
    • Ingress controller (traefik)
    • Embedded service loadbalancer
    • Embedded network policy controller

Use Cases

K3s is great for. . .

  • Edge
  • IoT
  • CI
  • Development
  • ARM
  • Embedding K8s
  • Situations where a PhD in k8s clusterology is infeasible[1:1]

K3s can provide similar capabilities to EVE through other CNCF and cloud native projects, and, when built as part of a complete architecture, can resemble a complete system more like EdgeX Foundry.[3]

Perfect for Edge

K3s is highly available and designed for production workloads in unattended, resource-constrained, remote locations or inside IoT appliances.[4]

Simplified & Secure

K3s is packaged as a single <50MB binary that reduces the dependencies and steps needed to install, run and auto-update a production Kubernetes cluster.[4:1]

Optimized for ARM

Both ARM64 and ARMv7 are supported with binaries and multiarch images available for both. K3s works great from something as small as a Raspberry Pi to an AWS a1.4xlarge 32GiB server.[4:2]


K3s is an open source project.[1:2] It was originally developed by Rancher Labs, a market leader in Kubernetes management software.[2:1]

In August 2020, Rancher Labs donated K3s to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) who officially added K3s as a sandbox-level project managed under the auspices of the open source consortium. This action helped to ensure that open source governance policies would be applied in a way that does not unduly influence future product decisions in favor of any one vendor.[5]

SUSE, the German-based multinational open-source software company, acquired Rancher Labs in December of 2020.[6]

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  3. The Linux Foundation: Introduction to Kubernetes on Edge with K3s ↩︎

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