Kubernetes is a powerful container orchestration platform that enables developers to deploy, scale, and manage containerized applications. One of the key features of Kubernetes is its ability to schedule automated tasks using CronJobs. In this article, you will learn about CronJobs in Kubernetes, how they work internally, and the best practices for using them. CronJobs are inspired by the cron utility found in Unix-like operating systems and are particularly useful for automating tasks such as backups, report generation, or batch processing jobs.

What is CronJobs in Kubernetes?

With CronJobs, you can tell Kubernetes to do things like running scripts, sending emails, or backing up data automatically at specific times. They are inspired by the cron scheduling utility found in Unix-like operating systems. CronJobs are a Kubernetes resource object that allows you to schedule and run Jobs or workloads on a recurring schedule.

A CronJob creates Job objects based on a defined schedule and Job template. The Job objects, in turn, run one or more Pods to perform the desired tasks or workloads. Some key points about CronJobs:

  • They are designed to run recurring Jobs or batch processes at specific dates/times using standard cron syntax.
  • CronJobs creates new Jobs automatically based on the configured cron schedule.
  • The Jobs themselves run Pods that do the actual work defined in the Job spec.
  • CronJobs are useful for automating tasks like backups, report generation, periodic batch jobs, etc.
  • Each new Job gets scheduled according to the cron timing, regardless of the status of any previously scheduled Jobs.

So in essence, CronJobs acts as a scheduling interface that allows running time-based Jobs or batch processes on a repeating schedule in a Kubernetes cluster. They provide an automated way to create and run Kubernetes Jobs to execute containerized tasks or applications at specified intervals.

Key Features of CronJobs:

  • Flexible Scheduling: CronJobs let you decide when tasks should happen. You can choose the exact time, day, or even minute for a task to run. It’s like setting a reminder for yourself.
  • Reliable Execution: CronJobs make sure tasks happen when they’re supposed to. Kubernetes takes care of starting, running, and cleaning up after tasks, so you can trust that everything will go smoothly.
  • Parallelism and Concurrency: You can run multiple tasks at the same time with CronJobs. This means you can get things done faster by doing several tasks together, like cooking multiple dishes in a big kitchen.
  • Error Handling and Retry: If something goes wrong, CronJobs can try again. They have built-in ways to deal with mistakes and can retry tasks if they fail, making sure nothing gets missed.
  • Integration with Kubernetes Ecosystem: CronJobs work well with other parts of Kubernetes. They can talk to other things in your cluster, like pods or services, making it easy to connect tasks together and create complex workflows.

How to create a CronJob?

CronJobs are based on the Unix Cron utility, which is a time-based job scheduler. In Kubernetes, CronJobs create Job resources that run a specified container or set of containers according to a specified schedule. Here is an example that uses

To create a CronJob in Kubernetes, you need to define a CronJob resource in a YAML or JSON file. Here’s an example of a CronJob that runs a simple container every minute:

apiVersion: batch/v1
kind: CronJob
  name: hello-cronjob
  schedule: "*/1 * * * *" # runs in every minute
          - name: hello
            image: busybox
            - /bin/sh
            - -c
            - date; echo Hello from the Kubernetes cluster
          restartPolicy: OnFailure

This is a CronJob manifest file that runs a job every minute. Here’s a breakdown of the configuration:

  • apiVersion and kind specify the API version and kind of the resource being created, in this case, a CronJob.
  • metadata contains data that helps define the CronJob, such as its name.
  • spec contains the specifications for the CronJob, including its schedule and job template.
  • schedule is set to */1 * * * *, which means the CronJob will run every minute.
  • jobTemplate specifies the template for the Job that will be created when the CronJob runs.
  • spec under jobTemplate contains the specifications for the Job, including its template and restart policy.
  • template under spec contains the template for the Pod that will be created when the Job runs.
  • spec under template contains the specifications for the containers in the Pod, including their names, images, and arguments.
  • containers contains a single container with the name hello, using the busybox image.
  • args contains the arguments passed to the container’s command, including /bin/sh-cdate, and echo Hello from the Kubernetes cluster.
  • restartPolicy is set to OnFailure, which means the container will be restarted if it exits with a non-zero status.

To create the CronJob using kubectl, you can use the create command with the manifest file:

# To create the CronJob
$ kubectl create -f hello-cronjob.yaml

# To get the created CronJobs details
$ kubectl get cronjobs

# To check if there is log after 1 minute
$ kubectl logs -f $(kubectl get pods --selector=cronjob-name=hello-cronjob -o jsonpath='{.items[0]}')

All the CronJob specification Options are explained in this article.

I recommend you to read this next.

Kubernetes CronJob Schedule Syntax:

The schedule field in a CronJob definition specifies the cron schedule for running the Job. The schedule syntax follows the standard cron format:

* * * * *
| | | | |
| | | | +-- Day of the week (0 - 7) (0 or 7 is Sunday)
| | | +---- Month (1 - 12)
| | +------ Day of the month (1 - 31)
| +-------- Hour (0 - 23)
+---------- Minute (0 - 59)

Here are some examples of cron schedules:

  • 0 * * * *: Run every hour on the hour
  • 0 0 * * 0: Run every Sunday at midnight
  • 0 0 1 * *: Run on the first day of every month at midnight
  • */5 * * * *: Run every 5 minutes

You can also use predefined scheduling definitions like @hourly, @daily, @weekly, and @monthly for convenience.

Example of a CronJob running at 9 AM, Monday to Friday

To run a CronJob every weekday (Monday to Friday) at 9 AM, you can use the following schedule syntax in your CronJob spec:

schedule: "0 9 * * 1-5"

Here’s how the schedule syntax is interpreted:

0 9 * * 1-5
| | | | |
| | | | +-- Day of the week (0 - 7) (0 or 7 is Sunday, 1 is Monday, ..., 5 is Friday)
| | | +---- Month (1 - 12)
| | +------ Day of the month (1 - 31)
| +-------- Hour (0 - 23)
+---------- Minute (0 - 59)
  • 0 represents the minute (0-59), which is set to 0 to run at the start of the hour.
  • 9 represents the hour (0-23), which is set to 9 for 9 AM.
  • * represents the day of the month (1-31), which means every day of the month.
  • * represents the month (1-12), which means every month of the year.
  • 1-5 represents the day of the week (0-7, where 0 or 7 is Sunday, 1 is Monday, …, 5 is Friday), which means every weekday from Monday to Friday.

So, the schedule "0 9 * * 1-5" will run the CronJob every weekday (Monday to Friday) at 9 AM, regardless of the day of the month or month of the year.

How CronJob works in Kubernetes internally?

Kubernetes CronJobs work internally by leveraging the Kubernetes controller pattern and the Kubernetes API server. Here’s a high-level overview of how CronJobs operates under the hood:

  1. CronJob Controller: The CronJob controller is a built-in controller in the Kubernetes control plane. It continuously watches for CronJob objects in the cluster and manages their lifecycle.
  2. Scheduler Monitoring: The CronJob controller monitors the specified cron schedule for each CronJob object. It uses the standard cron library of the control plane’s operating system to interpret and calculate the next scheduled time for each CronJob.
  3. Job Creation: When the scheduled time for a CronJob arrives, the CronJob controller creates a new Job object based on the jobTemplate specified in the CronJob definition. This Job object is essentially a regular Kubernetes Job that will be handled by the Job controller.
  4. Job Controller: The Job controller, another built-in controller in Kubernetes, takes over the management of the newly created Job object. It creates Pods based on the Job’s specifications and monitors their execution.
  5. Pod Scheduling and Execution: The Kubernetes scheduler assigns the Pods created by the Job to available nodes in the cluster, considering factors like resource requirements and node constraints. The Pods then run the specified workload or containers.
  6. Job Completion and Tracking: As the Pods complete their execution, the Job controller tracks their successful or failed completion. If the Job’s completion criteria are met (e.g., all Pods succeeded), the Job is marked as completed.
  7. Job History Management: The CronJob controller keeps track of the completed Jobs created by the CronJob. It maintains a history of successful and failed Jobs, subject to the configured limits (successfulJobsHistoryLimit and failedJobsHistoryLimit). Older Jobs beyond these limits are automatically deleted to prevent excessive resource consumption.
  8. Concurrency Management: The CronJob controller enforces the configured concurrencyPolicy for each CronJob. If a new scheduled Job overlaps with an existing Job, the controller takes the appropriate action based on the policy (e.g., allowing concurrent execution, skipping the new Job, or replacing the existing Job).
  9. API Server Interaction: The CronJob controller and Job controller interact with the Kubernetes API server to create, update, and delete CronJob, Job, and Pod objects. The API server persists these objects in the etcd datastore, allowing for consistent state management across the cluster.

It’s important to note that the CronJob controller and Job controller are part of the Kubernetes control plane and run as separate processes or containers within the control plane components (e.g., kube-controller-manager). They communicate with the API server and other Kubernetes components to orchestrate the scheduling and execution of CronJobs and their associated Jobs and Pods.

Common Kubectl Commands for CronJobs:

  • List CronJobs: This command lists all CronJobs in the current namespace.
kubectl get cronjobs
  • Describe a CronJob: This command provides detailed information about a specific CronJob, including its schedule, concurrency policy, Job history, and the last scheduled time.
kubectl describe cronjob <cronjob-name> 
  • List Jobs created by a CronJob: This command lists all Jobs created by a specific CronJob.
kubectl get jobs --selector=cronjob-name=<cronjob-name>
  • Describe a Job:This command provides detailed information about a specific Job, including its Pods and their statuses.
kubectl describe job <job-name>
  • Logs for a Job’s Pod: This command retrieves the logs for a Pod associated with a Job, which can help in troubleshooting.
kubectl logs <pod-name> 
  • Delete a CronJob: To delete a CronJob, you can use the kubectl delete command followed by the CronJob name:
kubectl delete cronjob <cronjob-name>

Troubleshooting Steps for CronJob:

  1. Check CronJob Status: Start by checking the status of your CronJob using the kubectl get cronjobs and kubectl describe cronjob <cronjob-name> commands. Look for any errors or issues reported in the status or events.
  2. Verify CronJob Schedule: Ensure that the schedule specified in your CronJob is correct. Check for any syntax errors or mismatches with your desired schedule.
  3. Check Job History: Use the kubectl get jobs --selector=cronjob-name=<cronjob-name> command to list the Jobs created by your CronJob. Examine the Job statuses and look for any failed or stuck Jobs.
  4. Inspect Job Logs: If a Job failed, use the kubectl describe job <job-name> command to identify the associated Pods, and then retrieve their logs using kubectl logs <pod-name>. The logs may provide insights into the failure reason.
  5. Verify Concurrency Policy: Check the concurrencyPolicy setting of your CronJob. If it’s set to Forbid or Replace, it may skip or replace Jobs if a previous Job is still running.
  6. Check Timezone Configuration: CronJobs use the timezone of the Kubernetes control plane by default. If your cluster spans multiple time zones or if you need to run the CronJob at a specific local time, you may need to configure the timezone settings.
  7. Investigate Resource Limitations: If Jobs are failing due to resource limitations, such as insufficient CPU or memory, you may need to adjust the resource requests or limits for the Pods created by the Jobs.
  8. Suspend and Resume CronJob: If you need to temporarily stop a CronJob from creating new Jobs, you can set the suspend field to true. Once you’re ready to resume, set it back to false.
  9. Clean up Old Jobs: If you have a large number of completed or failed Jobs, consider cleaning them up by setting the successfulJobsHistoryLimit and failedJobsHistoryLimit fields in your CronJob spec.
  10. Check Kubernetes Cluster: Ensure that your Kubernetes cluster is healthy and has enough resources available for scheduling Jobs and Pods created by your CronJob.

By using these commands and following the troubleshooting steps, you can effectively manage and monitor your CronJobs, diagnose and resolve issues, and ensure that your automated tasks are running as expected.

When to use CronJobs in Kubernetes:

CronJobs are useful for running automated tasks that need to be executed at specific times or intervals. For example, you might use a CronJob to:

  • Scheduled Backups CronJobs are well-suited for automating backup tasks for databases, file systems, or application data on a recurring schedule (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly). This ensures that backups are created consistently without manual intervention.
  • Periodic Data Processing If your application requires processing batches of data or logs at regular intervals (e.g., every hour, every night), CronJobs can be used to schedule and run data processing jobs or scripts automatically.
  • Report Generation For applications that need to generate reports periodically (e.g., daily sales reports, monthly usage reports), CronJobs can be leveraged to run report generation tasks on a defined schedule.
  • System Maintenance Tasks CronJobs can be used to schedule and run system maintenance tasks, such as database index rebuilds, log file rotations, or cache cleanups, at specific times or intervals.
  • Sending Notifications or Reminders If your application needs to send periodic notifications, reminders, or alerts to users or systems, CronJobs can be configured to execute tasks that handle these notifications on a schedule.
  • Batch Processes or ETL Jobs For applications that involve batch processing or ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) operations, CronJobs can be used to schedule and run these jobs at specific times or intervals when the system load is low or when new data is available.
  • Recurring Deployments or Updates While not a common use case, CronJobs can be used to automate deployments or updates of applications or services on a recurring schedule, such as for testing or staging environments.


By leveraging the flexibility of cron expressions and the reliability of Kubernetes controllers, CronJobs enable you to schedule and execute tasks with precision and efficiency. Despite the technical challenges involved, such as scheduling accuracy and resource management, CronJobs offer a robust solution for managing periodic tasks, handling errors gracefully, and scaling operations as needed. With CronJobs, you can automate routine maintenance, execute batch jobs, and orchestrate complex workflows, empowering you to focus on innovation and efficiency in your Kubernetes environment.

By |Last Updated: May 8th, 2024|Categories: Kubernetes|