Elevating Kubernetes Operations: The Professional's Guide to GKE Autopilot

18 Jun 2024


In this article, we delve into Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) Autopilot, an advanced managed Kubernetes service that offers an automated, hands-off experience while preserving the flexibility and power of Kubernetes. We will explore key features, setup processes, deployment strategies, and best practices for GKE Autopilot. Additionally, we will highlight some of the latest useful features of GKE and provide case studies demonstrating where GKE Autopilot can be most beneficial.

Key Features of GKE Autopilot

  • Automated Cluster and Node Management: GKE Autopilot takes care of provisioning, configuring, and scaling clusters, ensuring optimal performance at all times. This includes infrastructure, networking, and node health management, allowing teams to focus on their applications.
  • Advanced Networking with Managed Anthos Service Mesh: GKE Autopilot supports Managed Anthos Service Mesh, which enhances network security, observability, and traffic management using Istio’s service mesh technology. It simplifies service mesh deployment and management for a seamless experience.
  • Image Streaming: Available in both standard GKE and GKE Autopilot, image streaming speeds up container startup by only downloading necessary image portions, reducing latency and improving scaling efficiency.
  • Robust Security and Compliance: GKE Autopilot adheres to Google's best practices for securing Kubernetes environments, offering advanced security controls, secure defaults, regular updates, and integrated security tools.
  • Cost Optimization: With a pay-per-use model, GKE Autopilot charges only for the resources consumed by running workloads, facilitating efficient resource utilization and cost management.

Setting Up GKE Autopilot


  1. Google Cloud Account: Ensure you have an active Google Cloud account. New users can sign up for a $300 free credit.
  2. Google Kubernetes Engine API: Enable this API in your Google Cloud project.
  3. Google Cloud CLI (gcloud): Install and configure the gcloud CLI. Follow the official guide for installation and initialization. Set the compute/region and compute/zone properties to avoid errors.
  4. Permissions: Ensure your Google Cloud account has the Kubernetes Engine Cluster Admin role.

Cluster Creation To create a GKE Autopilot cluster, use the following gcloud CLI command:

gcloud container clusters create-auto CLUSTER_NAME \
    --location=LOCATION \

Replace CLUSTER_NAME with your cluster name, LOCATION with the desired region (e.g., us-west1), and PROJECT_ID with your project ID.

Verifying the Setup

  1. Configure kubectl:
gcloud container clusters get-credentials CLUSTER_NAME \
    --location=LOCATION \
  1. Verify Cluster Mode:
gcloud container clusters describe CLUSTER_NAME \

Ensure the output includes:

  enabled: true
  1. Check Cluster Nodes:
kubectl get nodes

This confirms the nodes are managed by GKE Autopilot.

Deploying and Exposing Applications on GKE Autopilot

Deploy applications quickly and efficiently. For example, to deploy an "Emoji Feedback" web service:

kubectl create deployment emoji-feedback --image=gcr.io/google-samples/hello-app:2.0 --port=8080 --expose --type=LoadBalancer

Verify the deployment and service:

kubectl get deployments,services

Access the service via the assigned external IP:


Best Practices and Tips for GKE Autopilot

Cost Optimization

  • Per-Pod Pricing Model: Efficiently designed workloads can save costs since pricing is based on pod resource requests.
  • Committed Use Discounts: Consider these for long-term savings, especially for stable workloads.
  • Utilize Spot Pods: Ideal for non-critical tasks, spot pods can significantly reduce costs.

Common Pitfalls and Troubleshooting

  • Resource Allocation: Ensure accurate resource requests and limits to avoid unnecessary costs or performance issues.
  • Debugging Pod Issues: Check for scheduling failures or delays due to resource constraints or misconfigured network policies.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest GKE Autopilot updates and features.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: E-commerce Platform An e-commerce company experiencing fluctuating traffic patterns benefits from GKE Autopilot’s auto-scaling and cost optimization. The platform handles high traffic during peak times while minimizing costs during off-peak periods.

Case Study 2: Financial Services A financial services firm prioritizing security and compliance utilizes GKE Autopilot’s robust security features. The automated cluster management reduces operational overhead, allowing the firm to focus on delivering secure, high-performance financial applications.


GKE Autopilot offers a serverless-like Kubernetes experience with automatic scaling, advanced security, and cost-effective resource management. By embracing its automated features, you can achieve a streamlined and powerful Kubernetes environment. Explore GKE Autopilot to enhance your Kubernetes journey and contribute to the innovation in your industry.