Ignition support

  • Feature status: Experimental
  • Feature gate: BootstrapFormatIgnition=true

The default configuration engine for bootstrapping workload cluster machines is cloud-init. Ignition is an alternative engine used by Linux distributions such as Flatcar Container Linux and Fedora CoreOS and therefore should be used when choosing an Ignition-based distribution as the underlying OS for workload clusters.

This document explains how Ignition support works.

For more generic information, see Cluster API documentation on Ignition Bootstrap configuration.


By default machine controller stores EC2 instance user data using SSM to store it encrypted, which underneath use multi part mime types, which are unlikely to be supported by Ignition.

EC2 user data is also limited to 64 KB, which is often not enough to provision Kubernetes controlplane because of the size of required certificates and configuration files.

To address those limitations CAPA can create and use S3 Bucket to store encrypted user data, which will be then pulled by the instances during provisioning.

IAM Permissions

To manage S3 Buckets and objects inside them, CAPA controllers require additional IAM permissions.

If you use clusterawsadm for managing the IAM roles, you can use the configuration below to create S3-related IAM permissions.

apiVersion: bootstrap.aws.infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: AWSIAMConfiguration
    enable: true

See Using clusterawsadm to fulfill prerequisites for more details.


When deploying CAPA using clusterctl, make sure you set BOOTSTRAP_FORMAT_IGNITION=true and EXP_KUBEADM_BOOTSTRAP_FORMAT_IGNITION=true environment variables to enable experimental Ignition bootstrap support.

# Enable the feature gates controlling Ignition bootstrap.
export EXP_KUBEADM_BOOTSTRAP_FORMAT_IGNITION=true # Used by the kubeadm bootstrap provider.
export EXP_BOOTSTRAP_FORMAT_IGNITION=true # Used by the AWS provider.

# Initialize the management cluster.
clusterctl init --infrastructure aws

Bucket and object management

When you want to use Ignition user data format for you machines, you need to configure your cluster to specify which S3 bucket to use. Controller will then make sure that the bucket exists and that required policies are in place.

See the configuration snippet below to learn how to configure AWSCluster to manage S3 bucket.

apiVersion: infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: AWSCluster
    controlPlaneIAMInstanceProfile: control-plane.cluster-api-provider-aws.sigs.k8s.io
    name: cluster-api-provider-aws-unique-suffix
    - nodes.cluster-api-provider-aws.sigs.k8s.io

Buckets are safe to be reused between clusters.

After successful machine provisioning, bootstrap data is removed from the bucket.

During cluster removal, if S3 bucket is empty, it will be removed as well.

Bucket naming

Bucket naming must follow S3 Bucket naming rules.

In addition, by default clusterawsadm creates IAM roles to only allow interacting with buckets with cluster-api-provider-aws- prefix to reduce the permissions of CAPA controller, so all bucket names should use this prefix.

To change it, use spec.s3Buckets.namePrefix field in AWSIAMConfiguration.

apiVersion: bootstrap.aws.infrastructure.cluster.x-k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: AWSIAMConfiguration
    namePrefix: my-custom-secure-bucket-prefix-

Supported bootstrap providers

At the moment only CABPK is known to support producing bootstrap data in Ignition format.

Trying it out

If you want to test Ignition support, use flatcar cluster flavor.

Other bootstrap providers

If you want to use Ignition support with custom bootstrap provider which supports producing Ignition bootstrap data, ensure that bootstrap provider sets the format field in machine bootstrap secret to ignition. This information is used by the machine controller to determine which user data format to use for the instances.