Switching to Unified Cgroups

    Beginning with Flatcar version 2969.0.0, Flatcar Linux has migrated to the unified cgroup hierarchy (aka cgroup v2). Much of the container ecosystem has already moved to default to cgroup v2. Cgroup v2 brings exciting new features in areas such as eBPF and rootless containers.

    Flatcar nodes deployed prior to this change will be kept on cgroups v1 (legacy hierarchy) and will require manual migration. During an update from an older Flatcar version, a post update script does two things:

    • adds the kernel command line parameters systemd.unified_cgroup_hierarchy=0 systemd.legacy_systemd_cgroup_controller to /usr/share/oem/grub.cfg
    • creates a systemd drop-in unit at /etc/systemd/system/containerd.service.d/10-use-cgroupfs.conf that configures containerd to keep using cgroupfs for cgroups.

    Migrating old nodes to unified cgroups

    To undo the changes performed by the post update script, execute the following commands as root (or using sudo):

    rm /etc/systemd/system/containerd.service.d/10-use-cgroupfs.conf
    sed -i -e '/systemd.unified_cgroup_hierarchy=0/d' /usr/share/oem/grub.cfg
    sed -i -e '/systemd.legacy_systemd_cgroup_controller/d' /usr/share/oem/grub.cfg

    Starting new nodes with legacy cgroups

    Nodes deployed with the release incorporating the described changes use cgroups v2 by default. To revert to cgroups v1 on new nodes during provisioning, use the following Ignition snippet (here as CLC YAML to be transpiled to Ignition JSON):

        - name: "OEM"
            device: "/dev/disk/by-label/OEM"
            format: "btrfs"
        - filesystem: "OEM"
          path: "/grub.cfg"
          mode: 0644
          append: true
            inline: |
                        set linux_append="$linux_append systemd.unified_cgroup_hierarchy=0 systemd.legacy_systemd_cgroup_controller"
        - name: containerd.service
            - name: 10-use-cgroupfs.conf
              contents: |

    However, the kernel commandline setting doesn’t take effect on the first boot, and a reboot is required before the snippet becomes active.

    Beware that over time it is expected that upstream projects will drop support for cgroups v1.


    The unified cgroup hierarchy is supported starting with Docker v20.10 and Kubernetes v1.19. Users that need to run older version will need to revert to cgroups v1, but are urged to find a migration path. Flatcar now ships with Docker v20.10, older versions can be deployed following the instructions on running custom docker versions .

    Flatcar nodes that had Kubernetes deployed on them before the introduction of cgroups v2 should be careful when migrating. Depending on the deployment method, the cgroupfs cgroup driver may be hardcoded in the kubelet configuration. Cgroups v2 are only supported with the systemd cgroup driver. See configuring a cgroup driver in the Kubernetes documentation for a discussion of cgroup drivers and how to migrate nodes. We recommend redeploying Kubernetes on fresh nodes instead of migrating inplace.

    The cgroup driver used by kubelet should be the same as the one used by docker daemon. docker defaults to systemd cgroup driver when started on a system running cgroup v2 and cgroupfs when running on a system with cgroup v1. The cgroup driver can be explicitly configured for docker by extending /etc/docker/daemon.json:

      "exec-opts": ["native.cgroupdriver=systemd"]

    or adding a docker.service drop-in at /etc/systemd/system/docker.service.d/10-cgroup-v2.conf:

    Environment="DOCKER_CGROUPS=--exec-opt native.cgroupdriver=systemd"

    Container Runtimes

    When deploying Kubernetes through kubeadm, the default container runtime on Flatcar is currently dockershim. In this setup, kubelet talks to dockershim, which talks to docker, which interfaces with containerd. The SystemdCgroup setting in containerd’s config.toml is ignored. docker’s cgroup driver and kubelet cgroup driver settings must match. Starting with Kubernetes v1.22, kubeadm will default to the systemd cgroupDriver setting if no setting is provided explicitly. Out of the box, Flatcar defaults are compatible with Docker and Kubernetes defaults - everything will use systemd cgroup driver.

    When using kubeadm, add the snippet to your kubeadm-config.yaml to configure the kubelet cgroup driver:

    kind: KubeletConfiguration
    apiVersion: kubelet.config.k8s.io/v1beta1
    cgroupDriver: systemd


    If users choose the containerd runtime, they must ensure that containerd’s setting for SystemdCgroup is consistent with kubelet and docker settings. Flatcar enables SystemdCgroup by default for containerd. Users may change the setting to suit their deployment. If you maintain your own containerd configuration or did follow the instructions on how to customize containerd configuration , you should add the relevant lines to your config.toml:

    version = 2
      # setting runc.options unsets parent settings
      runtime_type = "io.containerd.runc.v2"
        SystemdCgroup = true

    For a more detailed discussion of container runtimes, see the Kubernetes documentation .

    Known issues