Kubernetes Autoscaling Example

In this project, I try to implement Horizontal Pod AutoscalerHPA provided by Kubernetes. The Horizontal Pod Autoscaler automatically scales the number of Pods in a replication controller, deployment, replica set or stateful set based on observed CPU utilization (or, with custom metrics support, on some other application-provided metrics).

We start by creating a golang web-server that publishes messages to a rabbitmq queue. These messages are then consumed by a NodeJS worker. The worker takes 5s to consume 1 message, representing artificial time to process a request. We then try to scale the worker pods on the basis of the rabbitmq queue length. We’ll discuss the entire infra in the upcoming section and role of each part in detail.




A simple golan server with two routes, one for pushing messages to rabbitmq queue and one for exposing metrics. We are collecting 2 metrics, http_request_total and request_status to monitor number of request on and status returned by each route respectively.


GET /generate    # push message to queue
GET /metrics     # expose metrics for Prometheus server


Rabbit MQ is a simple open-source message-broker that can be deployed with ease. The broker has wide support of client libraries across different programming languages. Rabbitmq is widely used in industry and has proven it’s mettle. We use Advance Message Queuing Protocol(AMQP) as our messaging protocol for both web-server and worker.

NodeJS Worker

A simple nodejs application that connects to rabbitmq queue anc consumes messages. In order to generate a real life scenario, we take one message at a time and add a delay of 5 sec, representing the time needed to process a message. This way we’ll be able to generate fake traffic when we try to run our architecture.


As discussed above, our goal is to auto-scale by looking at the queue length anf to achieve this we need to add monitoring service to our Cluster. Prometheus is one of the best options available for monitoring tasks. To make things easy and save ourselves from writing manifest files, we’ll use helm charts for deployment. We use a kube-prometheus-stack chart by prometheus-community. The chart comes with Prometheus, Grafana, Prometheus operator and lot of default configurations for these services. Lets look at the role of each component.

  • Prometheus: a open-sourced CNCF graduate responsible for all our monitoring and alerting needs across the cluster. I was originally built by SoundCloud and then handed over to CNCF for maintenance and further development.

  • Grafana: a open source observability platform using generate beautifully dashboard. We use Grafana to consume Prometheus metrics in a human readable fashion.

  • Prometheus Operator: The Prometheus Operator provides Kubernetes native deployment and management of Prometheus and related monitoring components. The purpose of this project is to simplify and automate the configuration of a Prometheus based monitoring stack for Kubernetes cluster.

RabbitMQ exporter

Most of the service does not support Prometheus metrics out of box and need a middleware to do so. This is where Exporters come in picture. In our case, rabbitmq’s management service collects metrics but they are not compliant for Prometheus. There are community is actively adding exports and thus it likely that you’ll find one for your service. You can check for different available exporter here. We use prometheus-rabbitmq-exporter helm chart to make deployment process easy. Now Prometheus server can pull metrics from this exporter.

Prometheus Adapter

Kubernetes only monitors recourses like compute and memory metrics for pods. While defining our HPA manifest we need to mention the type of metric to look for. There are three types of metrics available

  • Resource: default monitoring by Kubernetes
  • Custom: metrics that are not recorded by k8s but is related to it’s Objects
  • External: metrics that are not related to k8s Objects.

We use External type as Queue length is not monitored by Kubernetes and is not related to Kubernetes Objects. Since all objects talk to API-server, adapter exposes these metrics to API server.

How to run

In this example, we are using minikube as our local cluster setup. We start by deploying our Kube-prometheus-stack first. We’ll use the default config values for this setup.

Building docker images

You can use docker-compose command to build the web-server and Worker node images as they’ll be used in cluster. To build images simply run docker-compose build

$ helm install prometheus prometheus-community/kube-prometheus-stack

Next deploy our RabbitMQ server, Web-Server and NodeJs worker using manifest files.

$ kubectl apply -f rabbitmq/deploy.yml
$ kubectl apply -f web-server/deploy.yml
$ kubectl apply -f worker/deploy.yml

Once our application is up, we proceed with rabbitmq exporter and prometheus adapter.

$ helm install rabbitmq-exporter prometheus-community/prometheus-rabbitmq-exporter -f rabbitmq/values.yml

$ helm install prometheus-adapter prometheus-community/prometheus-adapter -f prometheus/adapter-values.yml

So your now our prometheus adapter is up lets see if our metrics is exposed.

$ kubectl get --raw "/apis/external.metrics.k8s.io/v1beta1/" | jq

  "kind": "APIResourceList",
  "apiVersion": "v1",
  "groupVersion": "external.metrics.k8s.io/v1beta1",
  "resources": [
      "name": "rabbitmq_queue_length",
      "singularName": "",
      "namespaced": true,
      "kind": "ExternalMetricValueList",
      "verbs": [

As seen above, the metric is available and is ready for API server to consume. Now the final setup is to create our HPA. We create a HPA for our worker using manifest file that is available under worker/hpa.yml

$ kubectl apply -f worker/hpa.yml
horizontalpodautoscaler.autoscaling/worker-scaler created

$ kubectl get hpa
worker-scaler   Deployment/worker   0/20      1         10        1          22s

So are HPA is created and is ready to scale our worker deployment. You can see that the current Replica count is 1 since the metric value is under target. Now you can expose your web-server service using kubectl port-forward command and hit /generate route from browser multiple time in order to generate some traffic. You’ll see the metric value rise and Replica count increase.

My learnings

Initially I considered it to be a easy and started very casually, but soon I realised different accepts of the problem. I didn’t know that I’ll have to use Prometheus as a metric server cause rabbitmq’s management image exposed the need metrics on /api/metrics route. So I was in impression that I’ll just need to pass pass this url to HPA and use the metric to scale. I was wrong( or didn’t get a way to achieve this), thats not how Kubernetes work. I got to know about why we need to use Prometheus to use metrics, then I learnt about exporters and there role in this metric capturing setup. Once I was ready with my metric, next challenge was to get to HPA. After some thorough search I got to know about Prometheus Adapter and it’s role in the architecture. Once Adapter was in it’s place, I had to play with HPA and different Adapater config in order to understand it’s working. I tried all three kinds of HPA, Resource,Custom and External and understood when to use which type.

Was fun building such small project to get insights of the Kubernetes and it’s working. I will continue building such project in order to learn more and more about it. I would like to thank Daniele Polencic whose talk motivated to design this architecture.