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Create a Multi-Node Cluster with k3d

Rancher Desktop provides a single cluster with single node setup, which is adequate for most local development scenarios. However, there are use cases where, the ability to create a multi node cluster or spin up multiple clusters with flexibilty to switch between clusters is required. Eventhough Rancher Desktop doesn't have in-built multi node/cluster functionality, you can use k3d with Rancher Desktop to accomplish the same. k3d is a lightweight wrapper to run k3s (a minimal Kubernetes distribution, which is used by Rancher Desktop as well) in docker. k3d makes it very easy to create single- and multi-node k3s clusters in docker, e.g. for local development on Kubernetes.

Steps to spin up a multi-node cluster

  1. Make sure dockerd(moby) is selected as the Container Runtime in the Kubernetes Settings page.

  2. Install k3d.

wget -q -O - https://raw.githubusercontent.com/k3d-io/k3d/main/install.sh | bash
  1. Run k3d cluster create command to spin up multi node clusters. For example:
k3d cluster create two-node-cluster --agents 2
k3d cluster create three-node-cluster --agents 3
  1. k3d sets the newly created cluster as active. You can switch between clusters via kubectl config use-context command. For example:
kubectl config use-context k3d-two-node-cluster

To learn more about k3s and k3d, refer to these projects' docs at k3s docs and k3d docs.

⚠️ Please note that the clusters created by k3d are not managed by Rancher Desktop GUI.