In the previous blog posts, we focused on the improvements that node pools deliver in Strimzi now. In this post - the last one in this series - we look towards the future, discussing next steps and possible future improvements.

This post is part of a series about Kafka node pools. Other posts include:

Feature gate graduation

Kafka node pools are currently behind a KafkaNodePools feature gate and are disabled by default. Over the next Strimzi releases, we will continue to work on improving them We will improve the test coverage in our unit, integration, and system tests. We will also continue fixing the bugs that might be still in the code.

The current plan is that in the Strimzi 0.39 release, the KafkaNodePools feature gate will be promoted to the beta phase and enabled by default. Finally, in Strimzi 0.41, it will graduate to GA and it will not be possible to disable it anymore. The schedule is of course subject to change. It might be adjusted depending on the feedback we receive from you or based on the number of bugs we discover. Keep in mind that just because the feature gate is enabled, you do not have to use the KafkaNodePool resources. You can continue using the Kafka resource only and the operator will internally convert it to what we call a virtual node pool that exists only in the memory of the Strimzi Cluster Operator. This ensures that we provide good backward compatibility and can guarantee smooth migration.

In parallel to the work on improving the node pools, we are also continuing to address the remaining limitations on KRaft. The migration from ZooKeeper-based Kafka clusters to KRaft will be the main turning point where everyone will have to start using the KafkaNodePool resources. Already today, if you want to try the KRaft mode, you have to do it using the KafkaNodePool resources. As Apache Kafka completes the work on the KRaft mode and completely drops support for ZooKeeper, everyone will need to migrate from ZooKeeper-based to KRaft-based Kafka clusters. And as part of this migration, all Strimzi users will also move to use the KafkaNodePool resources.

Strimzi v1 APIs

Once the migration to KRaft and node pools moves forward, we will also start working on the Strimzi v1 API. Evolving the APIs of the Custom Resources can be complicated. However, once the ZooKeeper support is removed from Apache Kafka and Strimzi, we will be able to remove the ZooKeeper-related options from the Kafka custom resource definition. We will be also able to remove from the Kafka resource those options that have moved into the KafkaNodePool resources, such as the number of replicas or storage configuration.

More configurable options

The KafkaNodePool resource currently supports a limited number of configuration options:

  • Number of replicas in the pool
  • Roles assigned to the nodes in this pool
  • Storage configuration
  • Resource requirements (e.g. memory and CPU)
  • JVM configuration options
  • Templates for customizing the resources belonging to this pool, such as pods or containers

This may be expanded in the future. Certain options, like cluster-wide configurations for authorization or listeners, wouldn’t typically be configured at the node pool level. However, other options can easily be added to the configuration at the node pool level if they offer value.

Would there be some use case to configure a different container image for each node pool? Different metrics or logging configurations? Tuning some of the Kafka configuration options that can be applied on a per-node level? If you have a use case in mind for any of these options, feel free to let us know through GitHub Discussions or Issues and we can take a closer look.

Moving nodes between node pools

Support for moving nodes from one node pool to another, mentioned in the original node pool proposal, is not implemented yet. At the moment, you must perform these steps if you want to move a node from one node pool to another:

  1. Create a new node in the target node pool
  2. Move data from the old node to the new node (for example using Cruise Control)
  3. Remove the node from the original node pool

As part of this procedure, the node ID will change. The new Kafka node will get a new ID and the old node ID will be removed after the old node is dropped. But this procedure works well with maintaining the availability of the Apache Kafka cluster. While the data are being moved in the second step, the original partition-replicas are still available and can be used by clients if needed. You can also easily configure the speed at which the data should be moved to make sure it does not harm the performance of your Kafka cluster.

But in some situations, this approach might be complicated by potential limitations on resources. Because you are running the new node and the old node in parallel, you need to have sufficient resources available in your Kubernetes cluster. And when your Kubernetes cluster has only limited resources available - for example when running at the edge - this might be a problem. Being able to move the Kafka node directly would solve this problem.

Just to be clear, the node pools might have completely different configurations. So Strimzi cannot just take the pod and rename it. Instead, it would need to drop the old Kafka node including its storage. And then create a new node with new empty storage. The new node will then need to re-sync all the partition-replicas from the old node.

This might take a lot of time. And while the data are being re-synced, your topics will be without the replicas hosted by the old node, potentially impacting the availability guarantees of your Kafka cluster. So, in most situations, we would recommend our users to use the first approach anyway. But moving the nodes might be useful in some niche situations, so we might get back to it and eventually implement it.

Running stretch Kafka cluster over multiple Kubernetes clusters

Today, the whole Strimzi-based Apache Kafka cluster always runs on a single Kubernetes cluster. One of the stretch goals of Kafka node pools is to add support for stretch clusters - clusters that are stretched over multiple Kubernetes clusters. Imagine, that each node pool will not only have a different storage configuration or number of replicas. But it will also configure the Kubernetes cluster where these Kafka nodes should run. Strimzi will automatically deploy the pods with the Kafka nodes in the different Kubernetes clusters and link them together to form a single stretched Apache Kafka cluster.

To cool down your excitement a bit. The stretched cluster support in Strimzi will not make it possible to run Kafka nodes belonging to some clusters in completely different regions or even on different continents. The Kafka cluster will still be limited by the latency between the different Kubernetes clusters. But even with that in mind, it would add some value. Some users prefer to stretch the Kafka cluster over multiple Kubernetes clusters like this to improve the overall availability.

It would also make it possible to migrate the Kafka cluster from one Kubernetes cluster to another. You can move the nodes one by one until they are all moved, then you can just decommission the old Kubernetes cluster. This all can be done while maintaining the availability of the Kafka cluster and without the need to have two clusters and use mirroring to migrate between them.

The stretch cluster feature is not something you should expect anytime soon. We might look into it at some point next year.


This is the final part of this blog post series on node pools. Hopefully, over the series we managed to show you how to use them and explain some of the motivations behind their implementation. Do give them a try. And don’t hesitate to get in touch. We look forward to hearing your feedback and addressing any issues you encounter.