Karpenter and Cluster Autoscaler are the two most popular solutions for scaling applications in Kubernetes environments. They offer reliable scaling capabilities, but their reliability can depend on various factors. That includes the workload size, the application's complexity, and the underlying infrastructure. This article will explore the differences between Karpenter and Cluster Autoscaler. It will also evaluate their reliability in different scenarios.

karpenter vs cluster autoscaler, aws karpenter vs kubernetes cluster autoscaler

In the world of Kubernetes, autoscaling is a critical component to ensure optimal performance and resource utilization. When it comes to choosing an auto-scaling solution, Karpenter and Cluster Autoscaler stand out. But with each claiming to be the more reliable option, how do you make an informed decision? Karpenter vs cluster autoscaler, which one to choose? 

Fear not, as we delve into the technical intricacies of these two powerful tools. We will be exploring their features, benefits, and drawbacks. So if you're ready for a deep dive into Kubernetes autoscaling, let's get started!

What is AWS Karpenter? 

AWS Karpenter is a Kubernetes-native, open-source project. It simplifies and automates managing node groups in your cluster. It's like the foreman on a construction site. That ensures the right resources are allocated to the right jobs. But AWS Karpenter is more than a fancy name. 

It offers features like intelligent scaling, cluster awareness, and customizable configurations. Plus, with its modular design, it can integrate with your existing workflows. 

So if it's for a small application or a massive workload, AWS Karpenter has the tools to help you scale.

How does AWS Karpenter Work? 

AWS Karpenter uses a set of custom controllers and operators to manage your node groups. It works by monitoring your cluster's workload. Based on that it scales your node groups to meet demand. But it's not a simple matter of adding more nodes. 

AWS Karpenter is intelligent enough to understand your workload's specific resource requirements. Based on that it divides resources. 

The cluster-awareness feature ensures that your node groups are distributed across your cluster. This reduces the risk of resource contention.

While it may seem like another tool in the toolbox, AWS Karpenter is a powerful solution. It can help you scale your Kubernetes workload.

What is Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler?

Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler (CA) is a popular open-source tool. It adjusts the number of nodes in your Kubernetes cluster based on demand. Think of it like a personal assistant for your cluster. It is always ready to add or remove nodes to ensure everything runs well. 

With Cluster Autoscaler, you don't need to worry about scaling your cluster even as traffic patterns change. It got the ability to work across many availability zones. That helps ensure high availability and resiliency for your workloads. Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler can be a reliable, hassle-free way to manage your cluster's resources.

How does Cluster Autoscaler work?

Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler uses a set of custom controllers that are used to automatically adjust the size of your cluster. 

It works by monitoring your nodes' resource utilization and your pods' resource requests. If it detects that a node is running out of resources, Cluster Autoscaler will automatically spin up a new node to handle the demand.

Conversely, if a node is underutilized, Cluster Autoscaler will remove it to save on costs. It's like having a personal assistant. One that monitors your cluster and ensures everything runs smoothly. 

It has the ability to work across multiple availability zones which helps ensure high availability and resiliency for your workloads. Cluster Autoscaler is a reliable, hands-off way to manage your cluster's resources.

Also Read: Should you use Kubernetes for your startup?

Karpenter vs Cluster Autoscaler: Side-by-side Comparison

There are a few factors to consider while choosing Karpenter or Cluster Autoscaler. Let's look at the detailed comparison of each so that you can make an informed decision. 


AWS Karpenter

Kubernetes Cluster Autoscaler


Karpenter offers more intelligent scaling capabilities to detect specific workload requirements. Based on that it divides resources. This means that it can scale up based on actual usage.

Cluster Autoscaler focuses more on node-level scaling. That means it can add more nodes to the cluster to meet increased demand.


Karpenter offers more granular and fine-grained control over downscaling. It allows you to specify rules and policies for when and how to scale down based on workload requirements. This can help prevent underutilization and reduce costs. 

Cluster Autoscaler focuses more on node-level scaling. That means it may be less effective in downscaling specific resources. However, it does have the advantage as well. It can be more established and reliable in production environments. 


Karpenter is a newer solution that is still in active development. Since AWS backs it and has the potential for great scalability and efficiency. But it may not yet have the same level of maturity and stability as Cluster Autoscaler.

Cluster Autoscaler has a clear advantage. That has been around for much longer than Karpenter. It is also battle-tested in many production environments. It is a well-established and reliable solution. That can be optimized for a variety of Kubernetes configurations and use cases.

Scheduling Configuration 

Karpenter can schedule workloads based on specific criteria. The criteria can be resource requirements, availability zones, and cost. It can optimize workload scheduling to cut costs and maximize efficiency. But might need more configuration and fine-tuning to get the scheduling right.

Cluster Autoscaler is simpler scheduling. It is designed to scale up or down based on demand. It may not have the same level of scheduling granularity as Karpenter. But it is generally more reliable and requires less maintenance.


Karpenter is built on top of Kubernetes. It is designed to be available and fault-tolerant. This means that Karpenter can use Kubernetes' robust infrastructure. And also failover mechanisms to ensure that it is always up and running.  

Cluster Autoscaler is a standalone tool. It can be installed on any Kubernetes cluster. It also has mechanisms to ensure high availability. That includes leader election and automatic failover. But, since it is not integrated with Kubernetes like Karpenter. So it may need more manual intervention to maintain availability in certain situations. 


Karpenter is a native component of AWS EKS and can be easily enabled through a few simple commands. This makes it a breeze to set up and use, especially if you already use AWS EKS.

Karpenter is a native component of AWS EKS and can be done through a few simple commands. This makes it a breeze to set up and use, especially if you already use AWS EKS.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How is Karpenter different from Cluster Autoscaler?

Karpenter is a Kubernetes-native autoscaler for AWS EKS. Cluster Autoscaler is a general-purpose Kubernetes autoscaler. Karpenter uses custom resource definitions (CRDs) to manage auto-scaling. Cluster Autoscaler uses Kubernetes API objects.

What are the different types of autoscalers in Kubernetes?

There are two types of auto scalers in Kubernetes. They are Horizontal Pod Autoscaler (HPA) and Cluster Autoscaler. HPA scales the number of replicas of a deployment based on CPU utilization or custom metrics. Cluster Autoscaler scales the number of nodes in a cluster based on resource demand.

What is the pod limit in Karpenter?

Karpenter has no fixed limit on the number of pods that can be created. It adjusts the number of nodes in the cluster based on the workload demands. That ensures enough resources are available to schedule the pods.

What are alternatives to Karpenter?

There are several alternatives to Karpenter. It includes Cluster Autoscaler, Vertical Pod Autoscaler, and Horizontal Pod Autoscaler.