The EndpointSlice API is the mechanism that Kubernetes uses to let your Service scale to handle large numbers of backends, and allows the cluster to update its list of healthy backends efficiently.
FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.21 [stable]

Kubernetes' EndpointSlice API provides a way to track network endpoints within a Kubernetes cluster. EndpointSlices offer a more scalable and extensible alternative to Endpoints.

EndpointSlice API

In Kubernetes, an EndpointSlice contains references to a set of network endpoints. The control plane automatically creates EndpointSlices for any Kubernetes Service that has a selector specified. These EndpointSlices include references to all the Pods that match the Service selector. EndpointSlices group network endpoints together by unique combinations of protocol, port number, and Service name. The name of a EndpointSlice object must be a valid DNS subdomain name.

As an example, here's a sample EndpointSlice object, that's owned by the example Kubernetes Service.

apiVersion: discovery.k8s.io/v1
kind: EndpointSlice
  name: example-abc
    kubernetes.io/service-name: example
addressType: IPv4
  - name: http
    protocol: TCP
    port: 80
  - addresses:
      - ""
      ready: true
    hostname: pod-1
    nodeName: node-1
    zone: us-west2-a

By default, the control plane creates and manages EndpointSlices to have no more than 100 endpoints each. You can configure this with the --max-endpoints-per-slice kube-controller-manager flag, up to a maximum of 1000.

EndpointSlices can act as the source of truth for kube-proxy when it comes to how to route internal traffic.

Address types

EndpointSlices support three address types:

  • IPv4
  • IPv6
  • FQDN (Fully Qualified Domain Name)

Each EndpointSlice object represents a specific IP address type. If you have a Service that is available via IPv4 and IPv6, there will be at least two EndpointSlice objects (one for IPv4, and one for IPv6).


The EndpointSlice API stores conditions about endpoints that may be useful for consumers. The three conditions are ready, serving, and terminating.


ready is a condition that maps to a Pod's Ready condition. A running Pod with the Ready condition set to True should have this EndpointSlice condition also set to true. For compatibility reasons, ready is NEVER true when a Pod is terminating. Consumers should refer to the serving condition to inspect the readiness of terminating Pods. The only exception to this rule is for Services with spec.publishNotReadyAddresses set to true. Endpoints for these Services will always have the ready condition set to true.


FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.26 [stable]

The serving condition is almost identical to the ready condition. The difference is that consumers of the EndpointSlice API should check the serving condition if they care about pod readiness while the pod is also terminating.


FEATURE STATE: Kubernetes v1.22 [beta]

Terminating is a condition that indicates whether an endpoint is terminating. For pods, this is any pod that has a deletion timestamp set.

Topology information

Each endpoint within an EndpointSlice can contain relevant topology information. The topology information includes the location of the endpoint and information about the corresponding Node and zone. These are available in the following per endpoint fields on EndpointSlices:

  • nodeName - The name of the Node this endpoint is on.
  • zone - The zone this endpoint is in.


Most often, the control plane (specifically, the endpoint slice controller) creates and manages EndpointSlice objects. There are a variety of other use cases for EndpointSlices, such as service mesh implementations, that could result in other entities or controllers managing additional sets of EndpointSlices.

To ensure that multiple entities can manage EndpointSlices without interfering with each other, Kubernetes defines the label endpointslice.kubernetes.io/managed-by, which indicates the entity managing an EndpointSlice. The endpoint slice controller sets endpointslice-controller.k8s.io as the value for this label on all EndpointSlices it manages. Other entities managing EndpointSlices should also set a unique value for this label.


In most use cases, EndpointSlices are owned by the Service that the endpoint slice object tracks endpoints for. This ownership is indicated by an owner reference on each EndpointSlice as well as a kubernetes.io/service-name label that enables simple lookups of all EndpointSlices belonging to a Service.

EndpointSlice mirroring

In some cases, applications create custom Endpoints resources. To ensure that these applications do not need to concurrently write to both Endpoints and EndpointSlice resources, the cluster's control plane mirrors most Endpoints resources to corresponding EndpointSlices.

The control plane mirrors Endpoints resources unless:

  • the Endpoints resource has a endpointslice.kubernetes.io/skip-mirror label set to true.
  • the Endpoints resource has a control-plane.alpha.kubernetes.io/leader annotation.
  • the corresponding Service resource does not exist.
  • the corresponding Service resource has a non-nil selector.

Individual Endpoints resources may translate into multiple EndpointSlices. This will occur if an Endpoints resource has multiple subsets or includes endpoints with multiple IP families (IPv4 and IPv6). A maximum of 1000 addresses per subset will be mirrored to EndpointSlices.

Distribution of EndpointSlices

Each EndpointSlice has a set of ports that applies to all endpoints within the resource. When named ports are used for a Service, Pods may end up with different target port numbers for the same named port, requiring different EndpointSlices. This is similar to the logic behind how subsets are grouped with Endpoints.

The control plane tries to fill EndpointSlices as full as possible, but does not actively rebalance them. The logic is fairly straightforward:

  1. Iterate through existing EndpointSlices, remove endpoints that are no longer desired and update matching endpoints that have changed.
  2. Iterate through EndpointSlices that have been modified in the first step and fill them up with any new endpoints needed.
  3. If there's still new endpoints left to add, try to fit them into a previously unchanged slice and/or create new ones.

Importantly, the third step prioritizes limiting EndpointSlice updates over a perfectly full distribution of EndpointSlices. As an example, if there are 10 new endpoints to add and 2 EndpointSlices with room for 5 more endpoints each, this approach will create a new EndpointSlice instead of filling up the 2 existing EndpointSlices. In other words, a single EndpointSlice creation is preferable to multiple EndpointSlice updates.

With kube-proxy running on each Node and watching EndpointSlices, every change to an EndpointSlice becomes relatively expensive since it will be transmitted to every Node in the cluster. This approach is intended to limit the number of changes that need to be sent to every Node, even if it may result with multiple EndpointSlices that are not full.

In practice, this less than ideal distribution should be rare. Most changes processed by the EndpointSlice controller will be small enough to fit in an existing EndpointSlice, and if not, a new EndpointSlice is likely going to be necessary soon anyway. Rolling updates of Deployments also provide a natural repacking of EndpointSlices with all Pods and their corresponding endpoints getting replaced.

Duplicate endpoints

Due to the nature of EndpointSlice changes, endpoints may be represented in more than one EndpointSlice at the same time. This naturally occurs as changes to different EndpointSlice objects can arrive at the Kubernetes client watch / cache at different times.

Comparison with Endpoints

The original Endpoints API provided a simple and straightforward way of tracking network endpoints in Kubernetes. As Kubernetes clusters and Services grew to handle more traffic and to send more traffic to more backend Pods, the limitations of that original API became more visible. Most notably, those included challenges with scaling to larger numbers of network endpoints.

Since all network endpoints for a Service were stored in a single Endpoints object, those Endpoints objects could get quite large. For Services that stayed stable (the same set of endpoints over a long period of time) the impact was less noticeable; even then, some use cases of Kubernetes weren't well served.

When a Service had a lot of backend endpoints and the workload was either scaling frequently, or rolling out new changes frequently, each update to the single Endpoints object for that Service meant a lot of traffic between Kubernetes cluster components (within the control plane, and also between nodes and the API server). This extra traffic also had a cost in terms of CPU use.

With EndpointSlices, adding or removing a single Pod triggers the same number of updates to clients that are watching for changes, but the size of those update message is much smaller at large scale.

EndpointSlices also enabled innovation around new features such dual-stack networking and topology-aware routing.

What's next

Last modified March 14, 2024 at 2:28 PM PST: Add metadata to use mechanism for API reference links (c889d9b251)