Owners and Dependents

In Kubernetes, some objects are owners of other objects. For example, a ReplicaSet is the owner of a set of Pods. These owned objects are dependents of their owner.

Ownership is different from the labels and selectors mechanism that some resources also use. For example, consider a Service that creates EndpointSlice objects. The Service uses labels to allow the control plane to determine which EndpointSlice objects are used for that Service. In addition to the labels, each EndpointSlice that is managed on behalf of a Service has an owner reference. Owner references help different parts of Kubernetes avoid interfering with objects they don’t control.

Owner references in object specifications

Dependent objects have a metadata.ownerReferences field that references their owner object. A valid owner reference consists of the object name and a UID within the same namespace as the dependent object. Kubernetes sets the value of this field automatically for objects that are dependents of other objects like ReplicaSets, DaemonSets, Deployments, Jobs and CronJobs, and ReplicationControllers. You can also configure these relationships manually by changing the value of this field. However, you usually don't need to and can allow Kubernetes to automatically manage the relationships.

Dependent objects also have an ownerReferences.blockOwnerDeletion field that takes a boolean value and controls whether specific dependents can block garbage collection from deleting their owner object. Kubernetes automatically sets this field to true if a controller (for example, the Deployment controller) sets the value of the metadata.ownerReferences field. You can also set the value of the blockOwnerDeletion field manually to control which dependents block garbage collection.

A Kubernetes admission controller controls user access to change this field for dependent resources, based on the delete permissions of the owner. This control prevents unauthorized users from delaying owner object deletion.

Ownership and finalizers

When you tell Kubernetes to delete a resource, the API server allows the managing controller to process any finalizer rules for the resource. Finalizers prevent accidental deletion of resources your cluster may still need to function correctly. For example, if you try to delete a PersistentVolume that is still in use by a Pod, the deletion does not happen immediately because the PersistentVolume has the kubernetes.io/pv-protection finalizer on it. Instead, the volume remains in the Terminating status until Kubernetes clears the finalizer, which only happens after the PersistentVolume is no longer bound to a Pod.

Kubernetes also adds finalizers to an owner resource when you use either foreground or orphan cascading deletion. In foreground deletion, it adds the foreground finalizer so that the controller must delete dependent resources that also have ownerReferences.blockOwnerDeletion=true before it deletes the owner. If you specify an orphan deletion policy, Kubernetes adds the orphan finalizer so that the controller ignores dependent resources after it deletes the owner object.

What's next

Last modified January 08, 2022 at 6:09 PM PST: Reorganize Working with Kubernetes Objects section (634c17f61c)