NVIDIA GPU Operator with Azure Kubernetes Service

Approaches for Working with Azure AKS

Create AKS Cluster with a Node Pool to Skip GPU Driver installation

Azure Kubernetes Service has a preview feature that enables a --skip-gpu-driver-install command-line argument to the az aks nodepool add command. This argument prevents installing the NVIDIA GPU Driver in the stock Ubuntu operating system.

This approach enables you to take advantage of the lifecycle management that the NVIDIA GPU Operator provides for managing your cluster.

Sample Node Pool Add Command
$ az aks nodepool add --resource-group <rg-name> --name gpunodes --cluster-name <cluster-name> \
     --node-count <n> \
     --skip-gpu-driver-install \

When you follow this approach, you can install the Operator without any special considerations or arguments. Refer to Install NVIDIA GPU Operator.

For more information about this preview feature, see Skip GPU driver installation (preview) in the Azure Kubernetes Service documentation.

Default AKS configuration without the GPU Operator

By default, you can run Azure AKS images on GPU-enabled virtual machines with NVIDIA GPUs, and not use the NVIDIA GPU Operator.

AKS images include a preinstalled NVIDIA GPU Driver and preinstalled NVIDIA Container Toolkit.

Using the default configuration, without the Operator, has the following limitations:

  • Metrics are not collected or reported with NVIDIA DCGM Exporter.

  • Validating the container runtime is manual rather than automatic with the Operator.

  • Multi-Instance GPU (MIG) profiles must be set when you create the node pool and you cannot change the profile at run time.

If these limitations are acceptable to you, refer to Use GPUs for compute-intensive workloads on Azure Kubernetes Services in the Microsoft Azure product documentation for information about configuring your cluster.

GPU Operator with Preinstalled Driver and Container Toolkit

The images that are available in AKS always include a preinstalled NVIDIA GPU driver and a preinstalled NVIDIA Container Toolkit. These images reduce the primary benefit of installing the Operator so that it can manage the lifecycle of these software components and others.

However, using the Operator can overcome the limitations identified in the preceding section.

Installing the Operator for Preinstalled Driver and Toolkit

After you start your Azure AKS cluster with an image that includes a preinstalled NVIDIA GPU Driver and NVIDIA Container Toolkit, you are ready to install the NVIDIA GPU Operator.

When you install the Operator, you must prevent the Operator from automatically deploying NVIDIA Driver Containers and the NVIDIA Container Toolkit.

  1. Add the NVIDIA Helm repository:

    $ helm repo add nvidia https://helm.ngc.nvidia.com/nvidia \
       && helm repo update
  2. Install the Operator without the driver containers and toolkit:

    $ helm install gpu-operator nvidia/gpu-operator \
        -n gpu-operator --create-namespace \
        --set driver.enabled=false \
        --set toolkit.enabled=false \
        --set operator.runtimeClass=nvidia-container-runtime

    Refer to Chart Customization Options for more information about installation options.

    Example Output

    NAME: gpu-operator
    LAST DEPLOYED: Fri May  5 15:30:05 2023
    NAMESPACE: gpu-operator
    STATUS: deployed
    TEST SUITE: None

    The Operator requires several minutes to install.

  3. Confirm that the Operator is installed and ran the CUDA validation container to completion:

    $ kubectl get pods -n gpu-operator -l app=nvidia-cuda-validator

    Example Output

    NAME                          READY   STATUS      RESTARTS   AGE
    nvidia-cuda-validator-bpvkt   0/1     Completed   0          3m56s

Next Steps