Persistent storage overview

Managing storage is a distinct problem from managing compute resources. OpenShift Container Platform uses the Kubernetes persistent volume (PV) framework to allow cluster administrators to provision persistent storage for a cluster. Developers can use persistent volume claims (PVCs) to request PV resources without having specific knowledge of the underlying storage infrastructure.

PVCs are specific to a project, and are created and used by developers as a means to use a PV. PV resources on their own are not scoped to any single project; they can be shared across the entire OpenShift Container Platform cluster and claimed from any project. After a PV is bound to a PVC, that PV can not then be bound to additional PVCs. This has the effect of scoping a bound PV to a single namespace, that of the binding project.

PVs are defined by a PersistentVolume API object, which represents a piece of existing storage in the cluster that was either statically provisioned by the cluster administrator or dynamically provisioned using a StorageClass object. It is a resource in the cluster just like a node is a cluster resource.

PVs are volume plugins like Volumes but have a lifecycle that is independent of any individual pod that uses the PV. PV objects capture the details of the implementation of the storage, be that NFS, iSCSI, or a cloud-provider-specific storage system.

High availability of storage in the infrastructure is left to the underlying storage provider.

PVCs are defined by a PersistentVolumeClaim API object, which represents a request for storage by a developer. It is similar to a pod in that pods consume node resources and PVCs consume PV resources. For example, pods can request specific levels of resources, such as CPU and memory, while PVCs can request specific storage capacity and access modes. For example, they can be mounted once read-write or many times read-only.

Lifecycle of a volume and claim

PVs are resources in the cluster. PVCs are requests for those resources and also act as claim checks to the resource. The interaction between PVs and PVCs have the following lifecycle.

Provision storage

In response to requests from a developer defined in a PVC, a cluster administrator configures one or more dynamic provisioners that provision storage and a matching PV.

Alternatively, a cluster administrator can create a number of PVs in advance that carry the details of the real storage that is available for use. PVs exist in the API and are available for use.

Bind claims

When you create a PVC, you request a specific amount of storage, specify the required access mode, and create a storage class to describe and classify the storage. The control loop in the master watches for new PVCs and binds the new PVC to an appropriate PV. If an appropriate PV does not exist, a provisioner for the storage class creates one.

The size of all PVs might exceed your PVC size. This is especially true with manually provisioned PVs. To minimize the excess, OpenShift Container Platform binds to the smallest PV that matches all other criteria.

Claims remain unbound indefinitely if a matching volume does not exist or can not be created with any available provisioner servicing a storage class. Claims are bound as matching volumes become available. For example, a cluster with many manually provisioned 50Gi volumes would not match a PVC requesting 100Gi. The PVC can be bound when a 100Gi PV is added to the cluster.

Use pods and claimed PVs

Pods use claims as volumes. The cluster inspects the claim to find the bound volume and mounts that volume for a pod. For those volumes that support multiple access modes, you must specify which mode applies when you use the claim as a volume in a pod.

Once you have a claim and that claim is bound, the bound PV belongs to you for as long as you need it. You can schedule pods and access claimed PVs by including persistentVolumeClaim in the pod’s volumes block.

If you attach persistent volumes that have high file counts to pods, those pods can fail or can take a long time to start. For more information, see When using Persistent Volumes with high file counts in OpenShift, why do pods fail to start or take an excessive amount of time to achieve "Ready" state?.

Storage Object in Use Protection

The Storage Object in Use Protection feature ensures that PVCs in active use by a pod and PVs that are bound to PVCs are not removed from the system, as this can result in data loss.

Storage Object in Use Protection is enabled by default.

A PVC is in active use by a pod when a Pod object exists that uses the PVC.

If a user deletes a PVC that is in active use by a pod, the PVC is not removed immediately. PVC removal is postponed until the PVC is no longer actively used by any pods. Also, if a cluster admin deletes a PV that is bound to a PVC, the PV is not removed immediately. PV removal is postponed until the PV is no longer bound to a PVC.

Release a persistent volume

When you are finished with a volume, you can delete the PVC object from the API, which allows reclamation of the resource. The volume is considered released when the claim is deleted, but it is not yet available for another claim. The previous claimant’s data remains on the volume and must be handled according to policy.

Reclaim policy for persistent volumes

The reclaim policy of a persistent volume tells the cluster what to do with the volume after it is released. A volume’s reclaim policy can be Retain, Recycle, or Delete.

  • Retain reclaim policy allows manual reclamation of the resource for those volume plugins that support it.

  • Recycle reclaim policy recycles the volume back into the pool of unbound persistent volumes once it is released from its claim.

The Recycle reclaim policy is deprecated in OpenShift Container Platform 4. Dynamic provisioning is recommended for equivalent and better functionality.

  • Delete reclaim policy deletes both the PersistentVolume object from OpenShift Container Platform and the associated storage asset in external infrastructure, such as AWS EBS or VMware vSphere.

Dynamically provisioned volumes are always deleted.

Reclaiming a persistent volume manually

When a persistent volume claim (PVC) is deleted, the persistent volume (PV) still exists and is considered "released". However, the PV is not yet available for another claim because the data of the previous claimant remains on the volume.


To manually reclaim the PV as a cluster administrator:

  1. Delete the PV.

    $ oc delete pv <pv-name>

    The associated storage asset in the external infrastructure, such as an AWS EBS, GCE PD, Azure Disk, or Cinder volume, still exists after the PV is deleted.

  2. Clean up the data on the associated storage asset.

  3. Delete the associated storage asset. Alternately, to reuse the same storage asset, create a new PV with the storage asset definition.

The reclaimed PV is now available for use by another PVC.

Changing the reclaim policy of a persistent volume

To change the reclaim policy of a persistent volume:

  1. List the persistent volumes in your cluster:

    $ oc get pv
    Example output
    NAME                                       CAPACITY   ACCESSMODES   RECLAIMPOLICY   STATUS    CLAIM             STORAGECLASS     REASON    AGE
     pvc-b6efd8da-b7b5-11e6-9d58-0ed433a7dd94   4Gi        RWO           Delete          Bound     default/claim1    manual                     10s
     pvc-b95650f8-b7b5-11e6-9d58-0ed433a7dd94   4Gi        RWO           Delete          Bound     default/claim2    manual                     6s
     pvc-bb3ca71d-b7b5-11e6-9d58-0ed433a7dd94   4Gi        RWO           Delete          Bound     default/claim3    manual                     3s
  2. Choose one of your persistent volumes and change its reclaim policy:

    $ oc patch pv <your-pv-name> -p '{"spec":{"persistentVolumeReclaimPolicy":"Retain"}}'
  3. Verify that your chosen persistent volume has the right policy:

    $ oc get pv
    Example output
    NAME                                       CAPACITY   ACCESSMODES   RECLAIMPOLICY   STATUS    CLAIM             STORAGECLASS     REASON    AGE
     pvc-b6efd8da-b7b5-11e6-9d58-0ed433a7dd94   4Gi        RWO           Delete          Bound     default/claim1    manual                     10s
     pvc-b95650f8-b7b5-11e6-9d58-0ed433a7dd94   4Gi        RWO           Delete          Bound     default/claim2    manual                     6s
     pvc-bb3ca71d-b7b5-11e6-9d58-0ed433a7dd94   4Gi        RWO           Retain          Bound     default/claim3    manual                     3s

    In the preceding output, the volume bound to claim default/claim3 now has a Retain reclaim policy. The volume will not be automatically deleted when a user deletes claim default/claim3.

Persistent volumes

Each PV contains a spec and status, which is the specification and status of the volume, for example:

PersistentVolume object definition example
apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolume
  name: pv0001 (1)
    storage: 5Gi (2)
    - ReadWriteOnce (3)
  persistentVolumeReclaimPolicy: Retain (4)
1 Name of the persistent volume.
2 The amount of storage available to the volume.
3 The access mode, defining the read-write and mount permissions.
4 The reclaim policy, indicating how the resource should be handled once it is released.

Types of PVs

OpenShift Container Platform supports the following persistent volume plugins:

  • AWS Elastic Block Store (EBS)

  • Azure Disk

  • Azure File

  • Cinder

  • Fibre Channel

  • GCE Persistent Disk

  • HostPath

  • iSCSI

  • Local volume

  • NFS

  • OpenStack Manila

  • Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation

  • VMware vSphere


Generally, a persistent volume (PV) has a specific storage capacity. This is set by using the capacity attribute of the PV.

Currently, storage capacity is the only resource that can be set or requested. Future attributes may include IOPS, throughput, and so on.

Access modes

A persistent volume can be mounted on a host in any way supported by the resource provider. Providers have different capabilities and each PV’s access modes are set to the specific modes supported by that particular volume. For example, NFS can support multiple read-write clients, but a specific NFS PV might be exported on the server as read-only. Each PV gets its own set of access modes describing that specific PV’s capabilities.

Claims are matched to volumes with similar access modes. The only two matching criteria are access modes and size. A claim’s access modes represent a request. Therefore, you might be granted more, but never less. For example, if a claim requests RWO, but the only volume available is an NFS PV (RWO+ROX+RWX), the claim would then match NFS because it supports RWO.

Direct matches are always attempted first. The volume’s modes must match or contain more modes than you requested. The size must be greater than or equal to what is expected. If two types of volumes, such as NFS and iSCSI, have the same set of access modes, either of them can match a claim with those modes. There is no ordering between types of volumes and no way to choose one type over another.

All volumes with the same modes are grouped, and then sorted by size, smallest to largest. The binder gets the group with matching modes and iterates over each, in size order, until one size matches.

The following table lists the access modes:

Table 1. Access modes
Access Mode CLI abbreviation Description



The volume can be mounted as read-write by a single node.



The volume can be mounted as read-only by many nodes.



The volume can be mounted as read-write by many nodes.

Volume access modes are descriptors of volume capabilities. They are not enforced constraints. The storage provider is responsible for runtime errors resulting from invalid use of the resource.

For example, NFS offers ReadWriteOnce access mode. You must mark the claims as read-only if you want to use the volume’s ROX capability. Errors in the provider show up at runtime as mount errors.

iSCSI and Fibre Channel volumes do not currently have any fencing mechanisms. You must ensure the volumes are only used by one node at a time. In certain situations, such as draining a node, the volumes can be used simultaneously by two nodes. Before draining the node, first ensure the pods that use these volumes are deleted.

Table 2. Supported access modes for PVs
Volume plugin ReadWriteOnce [1] ReadOnlyMany ReadWriteMany




Azure File

Azure Disk






Fibre Channel


GCE Persistent Disk








Local volume




OpenStack Manila



Red Hat OpenShift Data Foundation


VMware vSphere



  1. ReadWriteOnce (RWO) volumes cannot be mounted on multiple nodes. If a node fails, the system does not allow the attached RWO volume to be mounted on a new node because it is already assigned to the failed node. If you encounter a multi-attach error message a