Heptio Ark

Maintainers: Heptio

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Heptio Ark is a utility for managing disaster recovery, specifically for your Kubernetes cluster resources and persistent volumes. It provides a simple, configurable, and operationally robust way to back up and restore applications and PVs from a series of checkpoints. This allows you to better automate in the following scenarios:

  • Disaster recovery with reduced TTR (time to respond), in the case of:

    • Infrastructure loss
    • Data corruption
    • Service outages
  • Cross-cloud-provider migration for Kubernetes API objects (cross-cloud-provider migration of persistent volume snapshots not yet supported)

  • Dev and testing environment setup (+ CI), via replication of prod environment

More concretely, Heptio Ark combines an in-cluster service with a CLI that allows you to record both:

  1. Configurable subsets of Kubernetes API objects – as tarballs stored in object storage
  2. Disk snapshots of Persistent Volumes – via the cloud provider APIs

Heptio Ark currently supports the AWS, GCP, and Azure cloud provider platforms.


This guide gets Ark up and running on your cluster, and goes through an example using the following:

  • Minio, an S3-compatible storage service that runs locally on your cluster. This is the storage service where backup files are uploaded. Note that Ark is intended to run on a cloud provider–we are using Minio here to keep the example convenient and self-contained.

  • A sample nginx app under the nginx-example namespace, used to demonstrate Ark’s backup and restore functionality.

Note that this example does not include a demonstration of PV disk snapshots, because that feature requires integration with a cloud provider API. For snapshotting examples and instructions specific to AWS, GCP, and Azure, see Cloud Provider Specifics.

0. Prerequisites

  • You should have access to an up-and-running Kubernetes cluster (minimum version 1.7). If you do not have a cluster, choose a setup solution from the official Kubernetes docs.

  • You will need to have a DNS server set up on your cluster for the example files to work. You can check this with kubectl get svc -l k8s-app=kube-dns --namespace=kube-system. If said service does not exist, these instructions may help.

  • You should have kubectl installed. If not, follow the instructions for installing via Homebrew (MacOS) or building the binary (Linux).

1. Download

Clone or fork the Heptio Ark repo:

git clone

NOTE: Documentation may change between releases. See the Changelog for links to previous versions of this repository and its docs.

To ensure that you are working off a specific release, git checkout <VERSION_TAG> where <VERSION_TAG> is the appropriate tag for the Ark version you wish to use (e.g. “v0.3.3”). You should git checkout main only if you’re planning on building the Ark image from scratch.

2. Setup

There are two types of Ark instances that work in tandem:

  1. Ark server: Runs persistently on the cluster.
  2. Ark client: Launched by the user whenever they want to initiate an operation (e.g. a backup).

To get the server started on your cluster (as well as the local storage service), execute the following commands in Ark’s root directory:

kubectl apply -f examples/common/00-prereqs.yaml
kubectl apply -f examples/minio/
kubectl apply -f examples/common/10-deployment.yaml

NOTE: If you encounter an error related to Config creation, wait for a minute and run the command again. (The Config CRD does not always finish registering in time.)

Now deploy the example nginx app:

kubectl apply -f examples/nginx-app/base.yaml

Check to see that both the Ark and nginx deployments have been successfully created:

kubectl get deployments -l component=ark --namespace=heptio-ark
kubectl get deployments --namespace=nginx-example

Finally, install the Ark client somewhere in your $PATH:

3. Back up and restore

First, create a backup specifically for any object matching the app=nginx label selector:

ark backup create nginx-backup --selector app=nginx

Now you can mimic a disaster with the following:

kubectl delete namespace nginx-example

Oh no! The nginx deployment and service are both gone, as you can see (though you may have to wait a minute or two for the namespace be fully cleaned up):

kubectl get deployments --namespace=nginx-example
kubectl get services --namespace=nginx-example

Neither commands should yield any results. However, because Ark has your back(up), you can run this command:

ark restore create nginx-backup

To check on the status of the Restore:

ark restore get

The output should look something like the table below:

NAME                          BACKUP         STATUS      WARNINGS   ERRORS    CREATED                         SELECTOR
nginx-backup-20170727200524   nginx-backup   Completed   0          0         2017-07-27 20:05:24 +0000 UTC   <none>

If the Restore’s STATUS column is “Completed”, and WARNINGS and ERRORS are both zero, the restore is a success. All of the objects in the nginx-example namespace should be just as they were before.

Otherwise, if there are warnings or errors indicated, you can run the following command to look at them in more detail:

ark restore get <RESTORE NAME> -o yaml

See the debugging documentation for more details.

NOTE: In the example files, the storage volume is defined via hostPath for better visibility. If you’re curious to see the structure of the backup files firsthand, you can find the compressed results in /tmp/minio/ark/nginx-backup.

4. Tear Down

Using the following command, you can remove all Kubernetes objects associated with this example:

kubectl delete -f examples/common/
kubectl delete -f examples/minio/
kubectl delete -f examples/nginx-app/base.yaml


Each of Heptio Ark’s operations (Backups, Schedules, and Restores) are custom resources themselves, defined using CRDs. Their accompanying custom controllers handle them when they are submitted to the Kubernetes API server.

As mentioned before, Ark runs in two different modes:

  • Ark client: Allows you to query, create, and delete the Ark resources as desired.

  • Ark server: Runs all of the Ark controllers. Each controller watches its respective custom resource for API operations, performs validation, and handles the majority of the cloud API logic (e.g. interfacing with object storage and persistent volumes).

Looking at a specific example–an ark backup create test-backup command triggers the following operations:


  1. The ark client makes a call to the Kubernetes API server, creating a Backup custom resource (which is stored in etcd).

  2. The BackupController sees that a new Backup has been created, and validates it.

  3. Once validation passes, the BackupController begins the backup process. It collects data by querying the Kubernetes API Server for resources.

  4. Once the data has been aggregated, the BackupController makes a call to the object storage service (e.g. Amazon S3) to upload the backup file.

  5. By default, Ark also makes disk snapshots of any persistent volumes, using the appropriate cloud service API. (This can be disabled via the option --snapshot-volumes=false)


Ark has multiple mechanisms for extending the core functionality to meet your individual backup/restore needs:

  • Hooks allow you to specify commands to be executed within running pods during a backup. This is useful if you need to run a workload-specific command prior to taking a backup (for example, to flush disk buffers or to freeze a database).
  • Plugins enable you to develop custom object/block storage back-ends or per-item backup/restore actions that can execute arbitrary logic, including modifying the items being backed up/restored. Plugins can be used by Ark without needing to be compiled into the core Ark binary.

Further documentation

To learn more about Heptio Ark operations and their applications, see the /docs directory.


If you encounter any problems that the documentation does not address, file an issue or talk to us on the Kubernetes Slack team channel #ark-dr.


Thanks for taking the time to join our community and start contributing!

Feedback and discussion is available on the mailing list.

Before you start

  • Please familiarize yourself with the Code of Conduct before contributing.
  • See for instructions on the developer certificate of origin that we require.

Pull requests

  • We welcome pull requests. Feel free to dig through the issues and jump in.


See the list of releases to find out about feature changes.

Getting Started

To help you get started, see the documentation.