Pod Inline Volume Support


CSI Ephemeral Inline Volumes

StatusMin K8s VersionMax K8s Version

Generic Ephemeral Inline Volumes

StatusMin K8s VersionMax K8s Version


Traditionally, volumes that are backed by CSI drivers can only be used with a PersistentVolume and PersistentVolumeClaim object combination. Two different Kubernetes features allow volumes to follow the Pod's lifecycle: CSI ephemeral volumes and generic ephemeral volumes.

In both features, the volumes are specified directly in the pod specification for ephemeral use cases. At runtime, nested inline volumes follow the ephemeral lifecycle of their associated pods where Kubernetes and the driver handle all phases of volume operations as pods are created and destroyed.

However, the two features are targeted at different use cases and thus have different APIs and different implementations.

See the CSI inline volumes and generic ephemeral volumes enhancement proposals for design details. The user facing documentation for both features is in the Kubernetes documentation.

Which feature should my driver support?

CSI ephemeral inline volumes are meant for simple, local volumes. All parameters that determine the content of the volume can be specified in the pod spec, and only there. Storage classes are not supported and all parameters are driver specific.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: some-pod
      - name: vol
          driver: inline.storage.kubernetes.io
              foo: bar

A CSI driver is suitable for CSI ephemeral inline volumes if:

  • it serves a special purpose and needs custom per-volume parameters, like drivers that provide secrets to a pod
  • it can create volumes when running on a node
  • fast volume creation is needed
  • resource usage on the node is small and/or does not need to be exposed to Kubernetes
  • rescheduling of pods onto a different node when storage capacity turns out to be insufficient is not needed
  • none of the usual volume features (restoring from snapshot, cloning volumes, etc.) are needed
  • ephemeral inline volumes have to be supported on Kubernetes clusters which do not support generic ephemeral volumes

A CSI driver is not suitable for CSI ephemeral inline volumes when:

  • provisioning is not local to the node
  • ephemeral volume creation requires volumeAttributes that should be restricted to an administrator, for example parameters that are otherwise set in a StorageClass or PV. Ephemeral inline volumes allow these attributes to be set directly in the Pod spec, and so are not restricted to an admin.

Generic ephemeral inline volumes make the normal volume API (storage classes, PersistentVolumeClaim) usable for ephemeral inline volumes.

kind: Pod
apiVersion: v1
  name: some-pod
    - name: scratch-volume
              type: my-frontend-volume
            accessModes: [ "ReadWriteOnce" ]
            storageClassName: "scratch-storage-class"
                storage: 1Gi

A CSI driver is suitable for generic ephemeral inline volumes if it supports dynamic provisioning of volumes. No other changes are needed in the driver in that case. Such a driver can also support CSI ephemeral inline volumes if desired.

Security Considerations

CSI driver vendors that choose to support ephemeral inline volumes are responsible for secure handling of these volumes, and special consideration needs to be given to what volumeAttributes are supported by the driver. As noted above, a CSI driver is not suitable for CSI ephemeral inline volumes when volume creation requires volumeAttributes that should be restricted to an administrator. These attributes are set directly in the Pod spec, and therefore are not automatically restricted to an administrator when used as an inline volume.

CSI inline volumes are only intended to be used for ephemeral storage, and driver vendors should NOT allow usage of inline volumes for persistent storage unless they also provide a third party pod admission plugin to restrict usage of these volumes.

Cluster administrators who need to restrict the CSI drivers that are allowed to be used as inline volumes within a Pod spec may do so by:

  • Removing Ephemeral from volumeLifecycleModes in the CSIDriver spec, which prevents the driver from being used as an inline ephemeral volume.
  • Using an admission webhook to restrict how this driver is used.

Implementing CSI ephemeral inline support

Drivers must be modified (or implemented specifically) to support CSI inline ephemeral workflows. When Kubernetes encounters an inline CSI volume embedded in a pod spec, it treats that volume differently. Mainly, the driver will only receive NodePublishVolume, during the volume's mount phase, and NodeUnpublishVolume when the pod is going away and the volume is unmounted.

Due to these requirements, ephemeral volumes will not be created using the Controller Service, but the Node Service, instead. When the kubelet calls NodePublishVolume, it is the responsibility of the CSI driver to create the volume during that call, then publish the volume to the specified location. When the kubelet calls NodeUnpublishVolume, it is the responsibility of the CSI driver to delete the volume.

To support inline, a driver must implement the followings:

  • Identity service
  • Node service

CSI Extension Specification


  • volume_id: Volume ID will be created by the Kubernetes and passed to the driver by the kubelet.
  • volume_context["csi.storage.k8s.io/ephemeral"]: This value will be available and it will be equal to "true".

The driver will receive the appropriate arguments as defined above when an ephemeral volume is requested. The driver will create and publish the volume to the specified location as noted in the NodePublishVolume request. Volume size and any other parameters required will be passed in verbatim from the inline manifest parameters to the NodePublishVolumeRequest.volume_context.

There is no guarantee that NodePublishVolume will be called again after a failure, regardless of what the failure is. To avoid leaking resources, a CSI driver must either always free all resources before returning from NodePublishVolume on error or implement some kind of garbage collection.



No changes


The driver is responsible of deleting the ephemeral volume once it has unpublished the volume. It MAY delete the volume before finishing the request, or after the request to unpublish is returned.

Read-Only Volumes

It is possible for a CSI driver to provide volumes to Pods as read-only while allowing them to be writeable on the node for kubelet, the driver, and the container runtime. This allows the CSI driver to dynamically update contents of the volume without exposing issues like CVE-2017-1002102, since the volume is read-only for the end user. It also allows the fsGroup and SELinux context of files to be applied on the node so the Pod gets the volume with the expected permissions and SELinux label.

To benefit from this behavior, the following can be implemented in the CSI driver:

  • The driver provides an admission plugin that sets ReadOnly: true to all volumeMounts of such volumes. We can't trust that this will be done by every user on every pod.
  • The driver checks that the readonly flag is set in all NodePublish requests. We can't trust that the admission plugin above is deployed on every cluster.
  • When both conditions above are satisfied, the driver MAY ignore the readonly flag in NodePublish and set up the volume as read-write. Ignoring the readonly flag in NodePublish is considered valid CSI driver behavior for inline ephemeral volumes.

The presence of ReadOnly: true in the Pod spec tells kubelet to bind-mount the volume to the container as read-only, while the underlying mount is read-write on the host. This is the same behavior used for projected volumes like Secrets and ConfigMaps.


Kubernetes 1.16 only allows using a CSI driver for an inline volume if its CSIDriver object explicitly declares that the driver supports that kind of usage in its volumeLifecycleModes field. This is a safeguard against accidentally using a driver the wrong way.

Feature gates

To use inline volume, Kubernetes 1.15 binaries must start with the CSIInlineVolume feature gate enabled:


Kubernetes >= 1.16 no longer needs this as the feature is enabled by default.