Create vSphere cluster

Create an EKS Anywhere cluster on VMware vSphere

EKS Anywhere supports a VMware vSphere provider for EKS Anywhere deployments. This document walks you through setting up EKS Anywhere on vSphere in a way that:

  • Deploys an initial cluster on your vSphere environment. That cluster can be used as a self-managed cluster (to run workloads) or a management cluster (to create and manage other clusters)
  • Deploys zero or more workload clusters from the management cluster

If your initial cluster is a management cluster, it is intended to stay in place so you can use it later to modify, upgrade, and delete workload clusters. Using a management cluster makes it faster to provision and delete workload clusters. Also it lets you keep vSphere credentials for a set of clusters in one place: on the management cluster. The alternative is to simply use your initial cluster to run workloads. See Cluster topologies for details.

Note: Before you create your cluster, you have the option of validating the EKS Anywhere bundle manifest container images by following instructions in the Verify Cluster Images page.

Prerequisite Checklist

EKS Anywhere needs to:

Also, see the Ports and protocols page for information on ports that need to be accessible from control plane, worker, and Admin machines.


The following steps are divided into two sections:

  • Create an initial cluster (used as a management or self-managed cluster)
  • Create zero or more workload clusters from the management cluster

Create an initial cluster

Follow these steps to create an EKS Anywhere cluster that can be used either as a management cluster or as a self-managed cluster (for running workloads itself).

  1. Optional Configuration

    Set License Environment Variable

    Add a license to any cluster for which you want to receive paid support. If you are creating a licensed cluster, set and export the license variable (see License cluster if you are licensing an existing cluster):

    export EKSA_LICENSE='my-license-here'

    After you have created your eksa-mgmt-cluster.yaml and set your credential environment variables, you will be ready to create the cluster.

    Configure Curated Packages

    The Amazon EKS Anywhere Curated Packages are only available to customers with the Amazon EKS Anywhere Enterprise Subscription. To request a free trial, talk to your Amazon representative or connect with one here . Cluster creation will succeed if authentication is not set up, but some warnings may be genered. Detailed package configurations can be found here .

    If you are going to use packages, set up authentication. These credentials should have limited capabilities :

    export EKSA_AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID="your*access*id"
    export EKSA_AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY="your*secret*key"
    export EKSA_AWS_REGION="us-west-2"  
  2. Generate an initial cluster config (named mgmt for this example):

    eksctl anywhere generate clusterconfig $CLUSTER_NAME \
       --provider vsphere > eksa-mgmt-cluster.yaml
  3. Modify the initial cluster config (eksa-mgmt-cluster.yaml) as follows:

    • Refer to vsphere configuration for information on configuring this cluster config for a vSphere provider.
    • Add Optional configuration settings as needed. See Github provider to see how to identify your Git information.
    • Create at least two control plane nodes, three worker nodes, and three etcd nodes, to provide high availability and rolling upgrades.
  4. Set Credential Environment Variables

    Before you create the initial cluster, you will need to set and export these environment variables for your vSphere user name and password. Make sure you use single quotes around the values so that your shell does not interpret the values:

    export EKSA_VSPHERE_USERNAME='billy'
    export EKSA_VSPHERE_PASSWORD='t0p$ecret'
  5. Create cluster

    eksctl anywhere create cluster \
       -f eksa-mgmt-cluster.yaml \
       # --install-packages packages.yaml \ # uncomment to install curated packages at cluster creation      
  6. Once the cluster is created you can use it with the generated KUBECONFIG file in your local directory:

    export KUBECONFIG=${PWD}/${CLUSTER_NAME}/${CLUSTER_NAME}-eks-a-cluster.kubeconfig
  7. Check the cluster nodes:

    To check that the cluster completed, list the machines to see the control plane, etcd, and worker nodes:

    kubectl get machines -A

    Example command output

    NAMESPACE   NAME                PROVIDERID        PHASE    VERSION
    eksa-system mgmt-b2xyz          vsphere:/xxxxx    Running  v1.24.2-eks-1-24-5
    eksa-system mgmt-etcd-r9b42     vsphere:/xxxxx    Running  
    eksa-system mgmt-md-8-6xr-rnr   vsphere:/xxxxx    Running  v1.24.2-eks-1-24-5

    The etcd machine doesn’t show the Kubernetes version because it doesn’t run the kubelet service.

  8. Check the initial cluster’s CRD:

    To ensure you are looking at the initial cluster, list the CRD to see that the name of its management cluster is itself:

    kubectl get clusters mgmt -o yaml

    Example command output

    kubernetesVersion: "1.28"
      name: mgmt

Create separate workload clusters

Follow these steps if you want to use your initial cluster to create and manage separate workload clusters.

  1. Set License Environment Variable (Optional)

    Add a license to any cluster for which you want to receive paid support. If you are creating a licensed cluster, set and export the license variable (see License cluster if you are licensing an existing cluster):

    export EKSA_LICENSE='my-license-here'
  2. Generate a workload cluster config:

    eksctl anywhere generate clusterconfig $CLUSTER_NAME \
       --provider vsphere > eksa-w01-cluster.yaml

    Refer to the initial config described earlier for the required and optional settings.

    NOTE: Ensure workload cluster object names (Cluster, vSphereDatacenterConfig, vSphereMachineConfig, etc.) are distinct from management cluster object names.

  3. Be sure to set the managementCluster field to identify the name of the management cluster.

    For example, the management cluster, mgmt is defined for our workload cluster w01 as follows:

    kind: Cluster
      name: w01
        name: mgmt
  4. Create a workload cluster in one of the following ways:

    • GitOps: See Manage separate workload clusters with GitOps

    • Terraform: See Manage separate workload clusters with Terraform

      NOTE: spec.users[0].sshAuthorizedKeys must be specified to SSH into your nodes when provisioning a cluster through GitOps or Terraform, as the EKS Anywhere Cluster Controller will not generate the keys like eksctl CLI does when the field is empty.

    • eksctl CLI: To create a workload cluster with eksctl, run:

      eksctl anywhere create cluster \
          -f eksa-w01-cluster.yaml  \
          --kubeconfig mgmt/mgmt-eks-a-cluster.kubeconfig \
          # --install-packages packages.yaml \ # uncomment to install curated packages at cluster creation      

      As noted earlier, adding the --kubeconfig option tells eksctl to use the management cluster identified by that kubeconfig file to create a different workload cluster.

    • kubectl CLI: The cluster lifecycle feature lets you use kubectl, or other tools that that can talk to the Kubernetes API, to create a workload cluster. To use kubectl, run:

      kubectl apply -f eksa-w01-cluster.yaml 

      To check the state of a cluster managed with the cluster lifecyle feature, use kubectl to show the cluster object with its status.

      The status field on the cluster object field holds information about the current state of the cluster.

      kubectl get clusters w01 -o yaml

      The cluster has been fully upgraded once the status of the Ready condition is marked True. See the cluster status guide for more information.

  5. To check the workload cluster, get the workload cluster credentials and run a test workload:

    • If your workload cluster was created with eksctl, change your credentials to point to the new workload cluster (for example, w01), then run the test application with:

      export CLUSTER_NAME=w01
      export KUBECONFIG=${PWD}/${CLUSTER_NAME}/${CLUSTER_NAME}-eks-a-cluster.kubeconfig
      kubectl apply -f ""
    • If your workload cluster was created with GitOps or Terraform, the kubeconfig for your new cluster is stored as a secret on the management cluster. You can get credentials and run the test application as follows:

      kubectl get secret -n eksa-system w01-kubeconfig -o jsonpath={.data.value}' | base64 —decode > w01.kubeconfig
      export KUBECONFIG=w01.kubeconfig
      kubectl apply -f ""
  6. Add more workload clusters:

    To add more workload clusters, go through the same steps for creating the initial workload, copying the config file to a new name (such as eksa-w02-cluster.yaml), modifying resource names, and running the create cluster command again.

Next steps

  • See the Cluster management section for more information on common operational tasks like scaling and deleting the cluster.

  • See the Package management section for more information on post-creation curated packages installation.