Since the early days of Kubernetes, autoscaling has held tremendous promise for organizations that want to reduce resource waste while ensuring service availability and performance. Out of the box, Kubernetes includes two approaches for application autoscaling: the horizontal pod autoscaler (HPA) and the vertical pod autoscaler (VPA).

  • The HPA adds and removes pods in response to a particular threshold being reached, CPU utilization by default.
  • The VPA adds and removes resources (e.g. CPU and memory) assigned to a particular pod in response to a particular threshold being reached, CPU utilization by default.

In theory, this is great. Resources can be dynamically adjusted in response to changing usage either by adding or removing replicas, or by changing resource allocation at the container level. However, according to Datadog, only 40% of organizations that use Kubernetes in production are running the HPA, and less than 1% are running the VPA. And those that are using the HPA are often wasting resources at an unsustainable rate.

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Why are so few organizations leveraging these technologies, and why is there still so much waste?

First, HPA and VPA can’t be used together by default. Because the HPA and VPA both scale based on CPU utilization by default, thrashing will result if both are used together on the same application. While it is possible to configure both the HPA and VPA to scale based on a custom metric, the time, effort and expertise required to do so makes this a nonstarter for most teams.

Cycle diagram with 'HPA adds replicas to lower utilization by 50%' and 'VPA reduces resources to increase utilization to 90%'
Attempting to use HPA and VPA together results in thrashing by default.

Second, the HPA doesn’t scale “intelligently.” By that we mean that the HPA requires the user to determine not only replica size, but also what target utilization to use, i.e. the threshold where replicas are added or removed. However, users have no way of knowing how to set these parameters to minimize waste. What’s optimal for one scenario may result in significant risk for another. So, most teams will tend toward over-provisioning and setting target utilization conservatively to reduce risk, resulting in significant waste.

Graph showing actual usage line with wasted resources beneath replicas line
Using the HPA still results in significant waste because users have no way to set target utilization and requests optimally.

Enabling Bi-dimensional Autoscaling

The new version of StormForge Optimize Live gives teams the ability to combine the benefits of horizontal and vertical pod autoscaling to maximize the savings that can be realized from autoscaling. How does it work?

  • StormForge machine learning analyzes usage and performance data from your observability solution
  • StormForge does the vertical autoscaling for you, recommending and automatically adjusting pod CPU and memory up and down in response to actual usage.
  • StormForge recommends and automatically sets the target utilization for the Kubernetes HPA, which controls when new replicas are added or removed.
  • StormForge coordinates recommendations for CPU, memory, and HPA target utilization to ensure that there is no contention between the two types of autoscaling.
  • Recommendations can be either manually or automatically deployed at a flexible interval that makes sense for the user.

A Smarter HPA

Not only does StormForge Optimize Live enable vertical and horizontal autoscaling to work together, it also makes the HPA smarter and more efficient. StormForge machine learning analyzes historical usage to find the sweet spot for setting the HPA target utilization that minimizes waste without sacrificing application performance or availability.

And because things are constantly changing in production, StormForge keeps watching, analyzing, and updating recommendations at a frequency that you can customize. The result is bi-dimensional autoscaling that is continuously operating to ensure peak efficiency, performance and reliability.

Graph showing StormForge bi-dimensional autoscaling reducing the amount of wasted resources compared to actual usage.
StormForge machine learning recommends target utilization and resource requests & limits for minimal waste without sacrificing application performance.

Getting Started

Getting started with bi-dimensional autoscaling is easy with StormForge Optimize Live. Just set up your application and enable recommendations. If you are running an HPA, StormForge automatically detects it and provides recommendations for HPA target utilization along with the pod-level CPU and memory recommendations it normally provides for vertical scaling. Recommendations can be configured for automatic implementation or manual approval.

That’s all there is to it! Now just sit back and leave the work to StormForge. Our machine learning will start recommending configuration updates within hours to improve efficiency.

StormForge Optimize Live UI with call outs around implementation, HPA, and VPA recommendations
StormForge Optimize Live recommends HPA target utilization, CPU and memory to enable intelligent bi-dimensional autoscaling.

Learn More

Want to learn more about the new release of StormForge Optimize Live? Here are a few more resources: