Setting up Cluster Mesh

This is a step-by-step guide on how to build a mesh of Kubernetes clusters by connecting them together, enabling pod-to-pod connectivity across all clusters, define global services to load-balance between clusters and enforce security policies to restrict access.


  • PodCIDR ranges in all clusters must be non-conflicting.
  • This guide and the referenced scripts assume that Cilium was installed using the Installation with managed etcd instructions which leads to etcd being managed by Cilium using etcd-operator. You can use any way to manage etcd but you will have to adjust some of the scripts to account for different secret names and adjust the LoadBalancer to expose the etcd pods.
  • Nodes in all clusters must have IP connectivity between each other. This requirement is typically met by establishing peering or VPN tunnels between the networks of the nodes of each cluster.
  • All nodes must have a unique IP address assigned them. Node IPs of clusters being connected together may not conflict with each other.
  • Cilium must be configured to use etcd as the kvstore. Consul is not supported by cluster mesh at this point.
  • It is highly recommended to use a TLS protected etcd cluster with Cilium. The server certificate of etcd must whitelist the host name * If you are using the cilium-etcd-operator as set up in the Installation with managed etcd instructions then this is automatically taken care of.
  • The network between clusters must allow the inter-cluster communication. The exact ports are documented in the Firewall Rules section.

Prepare the clusters

Specify the cluster name and ID

Each cluster must be assigned a unique human-readable name. The name will be used to group nodes of a cluster together. The cluster name is specified with the --cluster-name=NAME argument or cluster-name ConfigMap option.

To ensure scalability of identity allocation and policy enforcement, each cluster continues to manage its own security identity allocation. In order to guarantee compatibility with identities across clusters, each cluster is configured with a unique cluster ID configured with the --cluster-id=ID argument or cluster-id ConfigMap option. The value must be between 1 and 255.

kubectl -n kube-system edit cm cilium-config
[ ... add/edit ... ]
cluster-name: cluster1
cluster-id: "1"

Repeat this step for each cluster.

Expose the Cilium etcd to other clusters

The Cilium etcd must be exposed to other clusters. There are many ways to achieve this. The method documented in this guide will work with cloud providers that implement the Kubernetes LoadBalancer service type:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: cilium-etcd-external
  annotations: "Internal"
  type: LoadBalancer
  - port: 2379
    app: etcd
    etcd_cluster: cilium-etcd
    io.cilium/app: etcd-operator
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: cilium-etcd-external
  type: LoadBalancer
  - port: 2379
    app: etcd
    etcd_cluster: cilium-etcd
    io.cilium/app: etcd-operator

The example used here exposes the etcd cluster as managed by cilium-etcd-operator installed by the standard installation instructions as an internal service which means that it is only exposed inside of a VPC and not publicly accessible outside of the VPC. It is recommended to use a static IP for the ServiceIP to avoid requiring to update the IP mapping as done in one of the later steps.

If you are running the cilium-etcd-operator you can simply apply the following service to expose etcd:

kubectl apply -f
kubectl apply -f


Make sure that you create the service in namespace in which cilium and/or etcd is running. Depending on which installation method you chose, this could be kube-system or cilium.

Extract the TLS keys and generate the etcd configuration

The cluster mesh control plane performs TLS based authentication and encryption. For this purpose, the TLS keys and certificates of each etcd need to be made available to all clusters that wish to connect.

  1. Clone the cilium/clustermesh-tools repository. It contains scripts to extracts the secrets and generate a Kubernetes secret in form of a YAML file:

    git clone
    cd clustermesh-tools
  2. Ensure that the kubectl context is pointing to the cluster you want to extract the secret from.

  3. Extract the TLS certificate, key and root CA authority.


    This will extract the keys that Cilium is using to connect to the etcd in the local cluster. The key files are written to config/<cluster-name>.*.{key|crt|-ca.crt}

  4. Repeat this step for all clusters you want to connect with each other.

  5. Generate a single Kubernetes secret from all the keys and certificates extracted. The secret will contain the etcd configuration with the service IP or host name of the etcd including the keys and certificates to access it.

    ./ > clustermesh.yaml


The key files in config/ and the secret represented as YAML are sensitive. Anyone gaining access to these files is able to connect to the etcd instances in the local cluster. Delete the files after the you are done setting up the cluster mesh.

Ensure that the etcd service names can be resolved

For TLS authentication to work properly, agents will connect to etcd in remote clusters using a pre-defined naming schema {clustername} In order for DNS resolution to work on these virtual host name, the names are statically mapped to the service IP via the /etc/hosts file.

  1. The following script will generate the required segment which has to be inserted into the cilium DaemonSet:

    ./ > ds.patch

    The ds.patch will look something like this:

          - ip: ""
          - ip: ""
  2. Apply the patch to all DaemonSets in all clusters:

    kubectl -n kube-system patch ds cilium -p "$(cat ds.patch)"

Establish connections between clusters

1. Import the cilium-clustermesh secret that you generated in the last chapter into all of your clusters:

kubectl -n kube-system apply -f clustermesh.yaml
  1. Restart the cilium-agent in all clusters so it picks up the new cluster name, cluster id and mounts the cilium-clustermesh secret. Cilium will automatically establish connectivity between the clusters.
kubectl -n kube-system delete pod -l k8s-app=cilium
  1. For global services to work (see below), also restart the cilium-operator:
kubectl -n kube-system delete pod -l name=cilium-operator

Test pod connectivity between clusters

Run cilium node list to see the full list of nodes discovered. You can run this command inside any Cilium pod in any cluster:

$ kubectl -n kube-system exec -ti cilium-g6btl cilium node list
Name                                                   IPv4 Address    Endpoint CIDR   IPv6 Address   Endpoint CIDR
cluster5/     <nil>          f00d::a02:200:0:0/112
cluster5/     <nil>          f00d::a02:300:0:0/112
cluster5/     <nil>          f00d::a02:0:0:0/112
cluster5/     <nil>          f00d::a02:100:0:0/112
cluster7/     <nil>          f00d::a04:200:0:0/112
cluster7/     <nil>          f00d::a04:100:0:0/112
cluster7/     <nil>          f00d::a04:0:0:0/112
$ kubectl exec -ti pod-cluster5-xxx curl <pod-ip-cluster7>

Load-balancing with Global Services

Establishing load-balancing between clusters is achieved by defining a Kubernetes service with identical name and namespace in each cluster and adding the annotation io.cilium/global-service: "true"` to declare it global. Cilium will automatically perform load-balancing to pods in both clusters.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: rebel-base
    io.cilium/global-service: "true"
  type: ClusterIP
  - port: 80
    name: rebel-base

Deploying a simple example service

  1. In cluster 1, deploy:

    kubectl apply -f
  2. In cluster 2, deploy:

    kubectl apply -f
  3. From either cluster, access the global service:

    kubectl exec -ti xwing-xxx -- curl rebel-base

    You will see replies from pods in both clusters.

Security Policies

As addressing and network security is decoupled, network security enforcement automatically spans across clusters. Note that Kubernetes security policies are not automatically distributed across clusters, it is your responsibility to apply CiliumNetworkPolicy or NetworkPolicy in all clusters.

Allowing specific communication between clusters

The following policy illustrates how to allow particular pods to allow communicate between two clusters. The cluster name refers to the name given via the --cluster-name agent option or cluster-name ConfigMap option.

apiVersion: ""
kind: CiliumNetworkPolicy
  name: "allow-cross-cluster"
  description: "Allow x-wing in cluster1 to contact rebel-base in cluster2"
      name: x-wing
      io.cilium.k8s.policy.cluster: cluster1
  - toEndpoints:
    - matchLabels:
        name: rebel-base
        io.cilium.k8s.policy.cluster: cluster2


Use the following list of steps to troubleshoot issues with ClusterMesh:


  1. Validate that the cilium-xxx as well as the cilium-operator-xxx` pods are healthy and ready. It is important that the ``cilium-operator is healthy as well as it is responsible for synchronizing state from the local cluster into the kvstore. If this fails, check the logs of these pods to track the reason for failure.

  2. Validate that the ClusterMesh subsystem is initialized by looking for a cilium-agent log message like this:

    level=info msg="Initializing ClusterMesh routing" path=/var/lib/cilium/clustermesh/ subsys=daemon

Control Plane Connectivity

  1. Validate that the configuration for remote clusters is picked up correctly. For each remote cluster, an info log message New remote cluster configuration along with the remote cluster name must be logged in the cilium-agent logs.

    If the configuration is now found, check the following:

    • The Kubernetes secret clustermesh-secrets is imported correctly.
    • The secret contains a file for each remote cluster with the filename matching the name of the remote cluster.
    • The contents of the file in the secret is a valid etcd configuration consisting of the IP to reach the remote etcd as well as the required certificates to connect to that etcd.
    • Run a kubectl exec -ti [...] bash in one of the Cilium pods and check the contents of the directory /var/lib/cilium/clustermesh/. It must contain a configuration file for each remote cluster along with all the required SSL certificates and keys. The filenames must match the cluster names as provided by the --cluster-name argument or cluster-name ConfigMap option. If the directory is empty or incomplete, regenerate the secret again and ensure that the secret is correctly mounted into the DaemonSet.
  2. Validate that the connection to the remote cluster could be established. You will see a log message like this in the cilium-agent logs for each remote cluster:

    level=info msg="Connection to remote cluster established"

    If the connection failed, you will see a warning like this:

    level=warning msg="Unable to establish etcd connection to remote cluster"

    If the connection fails, the cause can be one of the following:

    • Validate that the hostAliases section in the Cilium DaemonSet maps each remote cluster to the IP of the LoadBalancer that makes the remote control plane available.

    • Validate that a local node in the source cluster can reach the IP specified in the hostAliases section. The clustermesh-secrets secret contains a configuration file for each remote cluster, it will point to a logical name representing the remote cluster:


      The name will NOT be resolvable via DNS outside of the cilium pod. The name is mapped to an IP using hostAliases. Run kubectl -n kube-system get ds cilium -o yaml and grep for the FQDN to retrieve the IP that is configured. Then use curl to validate that the port is reachable.

    • A firewall between the local cluster and the remote cluster may drop the control plane connection. Ensure that port 2379/TCP is allowed.

State Propagation

  1. Run cilium node list in one of the Cilium pods and validate that it lists both local nodes and nodes from remote clusters. If this discovery does not work, validate the following:

    • In each cluster, check that the kvstore contains information about local nodes by running:

      cilium kvstore get --recursive cilium/state/nodes/v1/


      The kvstore will only contain nodes of the local cluster. It will not contain nodes of remote clusters. The state in the kvstore is used for other clusters to discover all nodes so it is important that local nodes are listed.

  2. Validate the connectivity health matrix across clusters by running cilium-health status inside any Cilium pod. It will list the status of the connectivity health check to each remote node.

    If this fails:

    • Make sure that the network allows the health checking traffic as specified in the section Firewall Rules.
  3. Validate that identities are synchronized correctly by running cilium identity list in one of the Cilium pods. It must list identities from all clusters. You can determine what cluster an identity belongs to by looking at the label io.cilium.k8s.policy.cluster.

    If this fails:

    • Is the identity information available in the kvstore of each cluster? You can confirm this by running cilium kvstore get --recursive cilium/state/identities/v1/.


      The kvstore will only contain identities of the local cluster. It will not contain identities of remote clusters. The state in the kvstore is used for other clusters to discover all identities so it is important that local identities are listed.

  4. Validate that the IP cache is synchronized correctly by running cilium bpf ipcache list or cilium map get cilium_ipcache. The output must contain pod IPs from local and remote clusters.

    If this fails:

    • Is the IP cache information available in the kvstore of each cluster? You can confirm this by running cilium kvstore get --recursive cilium/state/ip/v1/.


      The kvstore will only contain IPs of the local cluster. It will not contain IPs of remote clusters. The state in the kvstore is used for other clusters to discover all pod IPs so it is important that local identities are listed.

  5. When using global services, ensure that global services are configured with endpoints from all clusters. Run cilium service list in any Cilium pod and validate that the backend IPs consist of pod IPs from all clusters running relevant backends. You can further validate the correct datapath plumbing by running cilium bpf lb list to inspect the state of the BPF maps.

    If this fails:

    • Are services available in the kvstore of each cluster? You can confirm this by running cilium kvstore get --recursive cilium/state/services/v1/.

    • Run cilium debuginfo and look for the section “k8s-service-cache”. In that section, you will find the contents of the service correlation cache. it will list the Kubernetes services and endpoints of the local cluster. It will also have a section externalEndpoints which must list all endpoints of remote clusters.

      #### k8s-service-cache
       services: (map[k8s.ServiceID]*k8s.Service) (len=2) {
         (k8s.ServiceID) default/kubernetes: (*k8s.Service)(0xc000cd11d0)(frontend:[https]/selector=map[]),
         (k8s.ServiceID) kube-system/kube-dns: (*k8s.Service)(0xc000cd1220)(frontend:[metrics dns dns-tcp]/selector=map[k8s-app:kube-dns])
       endpoints: (map[k8s.ServiceID]*k8s.Endpoints) (len=2) {
         (k8s.ServiceID) kube-system/kube-dns: (*k8s.Endpoints)(0xc0000103c0)(,,,
         (k8s.ServiceID) default/kubernetes: (*k8s.Endpoints)(0xc0000103f8)(
       externalEndpoints: (map[k8s.ServiceID]k8s.externalEndpoints) {

      The sections services and endpoints represent the services of the local cluster, the section externalEndpoints lists all remote services and will be correlated with services matching the same ServiceID.


  • L7 security policies currently only work across multiple clusters if worker nodes have routes installed allowing to route pod IPs of all clusters. This is given when running in direct routing mode by running a routing daemon or --auto-direct-node-routes but won’t work automatically when using tunnel/encapsulation mode.
  • The number of clusters that can be connected together is currently limited to 255. This limitation will be lifted in the future when running in direct routing mode or when running in encapsulation mode with encryption enabled.

Roadmap Ahead

  • Future versions will put an API server before etcd to provide better scalability and simplify the installation to support any etcd support
  • Introduction of IPsec and use of ESP or utilization of the traffic class field in the IPv6 header will allow to use more than 8 bits for the cluster-id and thus support more than 256 clusters.