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Owners and Dependents
In Kubernetes, some objects are owners of other objects. For example, a ReplicaSet is the owner of a set of Pods. These owned objects are dependents of their owner.
Ownership is different from the labels and selectors
mechanism that some resources also use. For example, consider a Service that
EndpointSlice objects. The Service uses labels to allow the control plane to
EndpointSlice objects are used for that Service. In addition
to the labels, each
EndpointSlice that is managed on behalf of a Service has
an owner reference. Owner references help different parts of Kubernetes avoid
interfering with objects they don’t control.
Owner references in object specifications
Dependent objects have a
metadata.ownerReferences field that references their
owner object. A valid owner reference consists of the object name and a UID
within the same namespace as the dependent object. Kubernetes sets the value of
this field automatically for objects that are dependents of other objects like
ReplicaSets, DaemonSets, Deployments, Jobs and CronJobs, and ReplicationControllers.
You can also configure these relationships manually by changing the value of
this field. However, you usually don't need to and can allow Kubernetes to
automatically manage the relationships.
Dependent objects also have an
ownerReferences.blockOwnerDeletion field that
takes a boolean value and controls whether specific dependents can block garbage
collection from deleting their owner object. Kubernetes automatically sets this
true if a controller
(for example, the Deployment controller) sets the value of the
metadata.ownerReferences field. You can also set the value of the
blockOwnerDeletion field manually to control which dependents block garbage
A Kubernetes admission controller controls user access to change this field for dependent resources, based on the delete permissions of the owner. This control prevents unauthorized users from delaying owner object deletion.
Cross-namespace owner references are disallowed by design. Namespaced dependents can specify cluster-scoped or namespaced owners. A namespaced owner must exist in the same namespace as the dependent. If it does not, the owner reference is treated as absent, and the dependent is subject to deletion once all owners are verified absent.
Cluster-scoped dependents can only specify cluster-scoped owners. In v1.20+, if a cluster-scoped dependent specifies a namespaced kind as an owner, it is treated as having an unresolvable owner reference, and is not able to be garbage collected.
In v1.20+, if the garbage collector detects an invalid cross-namespace
or a cluster-scoped dependent with an
ownerReference referencing a namespaced kind, a warning Event
with a reason of
OwnerRefInvalidNamespace and an
involvedObject of the invalid dependent is reported.
You can check for that kind of Event by running
kubectl get events -A --field-selector=reason=OwnerRefInvalidNamespace.
Ownership and finalizers
When you tell Kubernetes to delete a resource, the API server allows the
managing controller to process any finalizer rules
for the resource. Finalizers
prevent accidental deletion of resources your cluster may still need to function
correctly. For example, if you try to delete a
PersistentVolume that is still
in use by a Pod, the deletion does not happen immediately because the
PersistentVolume has the
kubernetes.io/pv-protection finalizer on it.
Instead, the volume remains in the
Terminating status until Kubernetes clears
the finalizer, which only happens after the
PersistentVolume is no longer
bound to a Pod.
Kubernetes also adds finalizers to an owner resource when you use either
foreground or orphan cascading deletion.
In foreground deletion, it adds the
foreground finalizer so that the
controller must delete dependent resources that also have
ownerReferences.blockOwnerDeletion=true before it deletes the owner. If you
specify an orphan deletion policy, Kubernetes adds the
orphan finalizer so
that the controller ignores dependent resources after it deletes the owner
- Learn more about Kubernetes finalizers.
- Learn about garbage collection.
- Read the API reference for object metadata.