• Home
  • Learning Center
  • Kubernetes EOL: Understanding the K8s Release Cycle and How to Prepare for EOL

Kubernetes EOL: Understanding the K8s Release Cycle and How to Prepare for EOL

What Is Kubernetes End of Life (EOL)? 

Kubernetes End of Life (EOL) refers to the stage when a specific version of Kubernetes no longer receives updates, including security patches, bug fixes, or enhancements. Each version of Kubernetes follows a predetermined schedule: starting with release, followed by end of active support, and ending with end of maintenance support, which is also known as EOL.

Understanding how Kubernetes releases work and being aware of EOL timelines is essential for organizations that rely on Kubernetes. Teams must be aware of the need to transition to supported versions to maintain operational efficiency, security, and access to the latest features. 

As of the time of this writing, the support window for new Kubernetes releases is 14 months (12 months of active support and 2 months of maintenance support). The following image illustrates the support window for Kubernetes releases in the past few years.

Source: endoflife.date

This is part of a series of articles about Kubernetes versions.

4 Risks of Using Outdated and EOL Kubernetes Versions

Failure to migrate from an EOL version can expose systems to severe risks, including:

  1. Security vulnerabilities: Without access to updates, older Kubernetes versions become prime targets for attackers exploiting known vulnerabilities. The absence of security patches means that any newly discovered flaws remain unaddressed, increasing the likelihood of successful cyber attacks.
  2. Compatibility issues: Using outdated or EOL Kubernetes versions can lead to compatibility challenges with newer applications, tools, and APIs. As the Kubernetes ecosystem evolves, new features and improvements are introduced, which may not be supported by older versions.
  3. Performance limitations: Over time, the Kubernetes community makes optimizations, improves efficiency, and enhances scalability features in newer releases. These improvements are not backported to EOL versions, meaning that users miss out on enhancements that could significantly impact application performance.
  4. Limited support: Once Kubernetes reaches its EOL, the community and vendors stop offering official support. This lack of support means that users can find it difficult to troubleshoot issues, as there is no access to security updates, bug fixes, or technical assistance.

Recent Versions of Kubernetes and their EOL Date

The following table shows the most recent Kubernetes versions and their release timeline.

ReleaseReleasedActive Support EndsMaintenance Support Ends
1.2913 Dec 202328 Dec 202428 Feb 2025
1.2815 Aug 202328 Aug 202428 Oct 2024
1.2711 Apr 202328 Apr 202428 Jun 2024
1.2608 Dec 202228 Dec 202328 Feb 2024

Understanding the Kubernetes Release Policy 

Kubernetes employs an N-2 support policy. This means that the three most recent minor versions receive critical fixes, including security and bug updates. Minor versions are released on a 15-week cycle. 

Kubernetes provides a 14-month support window for each release—12 months of active support followed by a 2-month upgrade period. The protocol for backporting fixes is dictated by the severity and feasibility of issues across these versions. Regular patch releases are issued, with the Release Managers group determining the need for urgent releases beyond the scheduled cadence. 

The release and EOL dates for all active branches, as well as specific features introduced or deprecated in each version, are well documented in the Kubernetes release notes.

What Is the Version Skew Policy? 

The Kubernetes version skew policy is designed to manage the compatibility between various components of the system, ensuring smooth operation and support across different versions. This policy specifies the maximum version discrepancies allowed between components.

Here are a few examples showing how the version skew policy applies to specific components:

  • kube-apiserver: In HA clusters, the newest and oldest instances can only differ by one minor version (e.g., newest at 1.29, others at 1.29 or 1.28).
  • kubelet: Must not be newer than kube-apiserver and can be up to three minor versions older (e.g., kube-apiserver at 1.29 supports kubelet versions 1.29, 1.28, 1.27, and 1.26).
  • kube-proxy: Similar to kubelet, cannot be newer than kube-apiserver and may be up to three minor versions older.
  • kube-controller-manager, kube-scheduler, and cloud-controller-manager: These must match or be one minor version older than kube-apiserver instances they communicate with, ensuring alignment and compatibility during upgrades.

The above version skew policies are correct as of the time of this writing. For up-to-date version skew details for all Kubernetes components see the official documentation.

How Often Should You Update Kubernetes? 

Kubernetes adopts a release cycle that encourages regular updates, typically offering three to four new versions each year. This frequency is designed to balance innovation with stability, allowing users to access new features and improvements while maintaining a reliable operational environment. 

Organizations should aim to update their Kubernetes clusters at least once per year to benefit from the latest enhancements and ensure they are not using versions approaching or beyond their end of life. Implementing a structured upgrade plan, including testing and validation phases, helps mitigate potential disruptions and ensures a seamless transition to newer versions.

Preparing for Kubernetes EOL: Best Practices 

Stay Informed About Release and EOL Dates

Keeping track of Kubernetes release and EOL dates is essential for effective lifecycle management. The Kubernetes project provides detailed schedules that outline when new versions are expected to launch and when older versions will no longer be supported. By monitoring these dates, organizations can plan their upgrade strategies well in advance, ensuring they remain on supported versions and avoid the pitfalls of using EOL software.

In addition to official Kubernetes resources, several community-driven tools and websites offer notifications and insights into upcoming releases and EOL dates. Subscribing to these services can further streamline the process of staying informed, allowing teams to allocate resources and schedule upgrades appropriately.

Implement Proactive Upgrade Strategies

Developing a proactive approach to Kubernetes upgrades is crucial for navigating EOL lifecycles. This involves scheduling regular assessments of the current Kubernetes environment, identifying versions nearing EOL, and planning upgrades before support ceases. By taking a proactive stance, organizations can avoid the rush and potential challenges associated with last-minute migrations.

An effective upgrade strategy also includes thorough testing in staging environments to identify and resolve any compatibility issues or performance impacts before deploying to production. This preparatory step ensures that the transition to a newer Kubernetes version is smooth and minimizes downtime or service disruptions. Leveraging automation tools for upgrades can further enhance efficiency and reduce the likelihood of human error during the process.

Manage Dependencies and Compatibility

Effectively managing dependencies and ensuring compatibility with the broader ecosystem is vital when upgrading Kubernetes. This includes checking the compatibility of applications, services, and tools that interact with the Kubernetes cluster. Before initiating an upgrade, organizations should review the compatibility matrices provided by software vendors and the Kubernetes community to identify any potential issues.

Addressing dependencies involves updating or modifying applications and tools to work with the new Kubernetes version, which may require code changes or configuration adjustments. By carefully managing dependencies and ensuring compatibility, organizations can maximize the benefits of their Kubernetes upgrades and avoid service disruption.

Monitor and Validate After Upgrades

Monitoring and validation are critical steps following a Kubernetes upgrade. These practices ensure that the new version operates as expected and that applications continue to function without issues. Organizations should implement monitoring solutions that provide visibility into cluster performance, resource utilization, and application health to quickly identify and address any anomalies arising from the upgrade.

Validation involves verifying that security policies, access controls, and network configurations have been correctly applied in the new version. This step is crucial for maintaining the security and compliance of the Kubernetes environment. Regular audits and checks should be part of the post-upgrade process, ensuring that the system remains secure, efficient, and aligned with organizational policies and standards.

Troubleshooting Kubernetes Upgrades with Komodor

Kubernetes upgrades often introduce issues in clusters, which require complex troubleshooting. Without the right tools and expertise in place, the troubleshooting process can become stressful, ineffective and time-consuming. Some best practices can help minimize the chances of things breaking down, but eventually something will go wrong – simply because it can.

This is where Komodor comes in – Komodor is the Continuous Kubernetes Reliability Platform, designed to democratize K8s expertise across the organization and enable engineering teams to leverage its full value.

Komodor’s platform empowers developers to confidently monitor and troubleshoot their workloads while allowing cluster operators to enforce standardization and optimize performance.

Specifically when it comes to Kubernetes version upgrades, Komodor enables you to proactively monitor each cluster’s End-of-Life status, as well as its associated APIs. With Komodor, your infrastructure remains up-to-date and compliant, while preventing potential issues from occurring.

By leveraging Komodor, companies of all sizes significantly improve reliability, productivity, and velocity. Or, to put it simply – Komodor helps you spend less time and resources on managing Kubernetes, and more time on innovating at scale.

If you are interested in checking out Komodor, use this link to sign up for a Free Trial