One major difference between running k8s in a corporate setting vs running in a homelab is the extreme amount of custom hardware you end up wanting to put into the cluster. But this isn’t really how k8s was meant to be used. Any workload should be able to run anywhere, and be killed at any time and pop back up again. At least, for the most part. But I wanted to do some machine learning in my cluster using Google Coral TPU. This is a small usb or pci connected device that’s super optimized for running machine learning on edge devices. It uses very little power and is blazingly fast compared to running the same workloads on a CPU.

Node Feature Discovery

The main solution here was to use the Node-feature-discovery (NFD) project, deployed with a k8s-at-home helm chart. This tool basically let’s you define hardware by creating some filters for it. Let’s take a peak at my config.

      - "02"
      - "0e"
      - "ef"
      - "fe"
      - "ff"
      - "class"
      - "vendor"
      - "device"
    - name: "conbee" # Zigbee usb controller
        - usbId:
            vendor: ["1cf1"]
            device: ["0030"]
    - name: "apc-ups" # Uninterruptible power supply
        - usbId:
            vendor: ["051d"]
            device: ["0002"]
    - name: "rtl" # RTL2838 radio dongel
        - usbId:
            vendor: ["0bda"]
            device: ["2838"]
    - name: "intel-gpu" # Intel integrated GPU
        - pciId:
            class: ["0300"]
            vendor: ["8086"]
    - name: "coral-tpu" # Coral TPU <--- This is the one
        - pciId:
            class: ["0880"]
            vendor: ["1ac1"]

So the whitelist let’s me add some standard devices automatically, but the juice is in the custom section. Here I’m giving the vendor and device identifiers as reported by lsusb or lspci, and adding a label that makes sense to me. NFD will then add these labels to nodes which have the given device available. An example should give a good idea of what this looks like in real life.

  kubectl get nodes -o yaml | yq '.items[].metadata.labels'
    "": "amd64",
    "": "linux",
    "": "true",
    "": "true",
    "": "true",
    "": "true",
    "": "true",
    "": "true",
    "": "true",
    "": "amd64",
    "": "example.local",
    "": "linux"

Here we see my custom device labels added to this one node. For the most part my nodes only have a subset of these but this is my experimentation box so it has everything.

Now we know which nodes have a certain piece of hardware, the next step is to instruct k8s to schedule our pods on a node with the Google Coral.

To do this I’ve added a node-selector definition to my deployment.

  nodeSelector: "true"

Now my deployment will be scheduled only on a node which has the Coral available. Neat!

Intel GPU Plugin

For some hardware though we need some extra steps to get everything working. My cluster is mostly made up of machines with the Intel i7 processor which often comes with an embedded GPU. This is useful for things like transcoding media from security cameras or for a media server. To take full advantage of these I use the Intel GPU device plugin. This is again installed through a k8s-at-home helm chart and deployed with a similar node-selector as the one above.

This solution gives me greater control over the resource allocation as I can control how many pods can use the same GPU at the time, and even set requirements on the deployment itself regarding how much GPU power it needs, just like we can with CPU and Memory.

    limits: 1
      cpu: 200m
      memory: 2000Mi
    requests: 1
      cpu: 35m
      memory: 500Mi

I spent quite a bit of time wrapping my head around this so hopefully I saved you some effort! :)