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Ingress Controller

Ingress controllers monitor the cluster events for the creation or modification of Ingress resources, modifying accordingly the underlying load balancers. They are not part of the master kube-controller-manager, so you'll need to install them manually.

There are different Ingress controllers, such as AWS ALB, Nginx, HAProxy or Traefik, using one or other depends on your needs.

Almost all controllers are open sourced and support dynamic service discovery, SSL termination or WebSockets. But they differ in:

  • Supported protocols: HTTP, HTTPS, gRPC, HTTP/2.0, TCP (with SNI) or UDP.
  • Underlying software: NGINX, Traefik, HAProxy or Envoy.
  • Traffic routing: host and path, regular expression support.
  • Namespace limitations: supported or not.
  • Upstream probes: active checks, passive checks, retries, circuit breakers, custom health checks...
  • Load balancing algorithms: round-robin, sticky sessions, rdp-cookie...
  • Authentication: Basic, digest, Oauth, external auth, SSL certificate...
  • Traffic distribution: canary deployments, A/B testing, mirroring/shadowing.
  • Paid subscription: extended functionality or technical support.
  • Graphical user interface:
  • JWT validation:
  • Customization of configuration:
  • Basic DDOS protection mechanisms: rate limit, traffic filtering.
  • WAF:
  • Requests tracing: monitor, trace and debug requests via OpenTracing or other options.

Both ITNext and Flant provide good ingress controller comparisons, a synoptical resume of both articles follows.

Kubernetes Ingress controller

The “official” Kubernetes controller. Not to be confused with the one offered by the NGINX company. Developed by the community, it's based on the Nginx web server with a set of Lua plugins to implement extra features.

Thanks to the popularity of NGINX and minimal modifications over it when using as a controller, it can be the simplest and most straightforward option for an average engineer dealing with K8s.


Originally, this proxy was created for the routing of requests for microservices and their dynamic environment, hence many of its useful features:

  • Continuous update of configuration (no restarts) .
  • Support for multiple load balancing algorithms.
  • Web UI.
  • Metrics export.
  • Support for various protocols.
  • Canary releases.
  • Let’s Encrypt certificates support.
  • TCP/SSL with SNI.
  • Traffic mirroring/shadowing.

The main disadvantage is that in order to organize the high availability of the controller you have to install and connect its own KV-storage.

In 2019, the same developers have developed Maesh. Another service mesh solution built on top of Traefik.


HAProxy is well known as a proxy server and load balancer. As part of the Kubernetes cluster, it offers: * “soft” configuration update (without traffic loss) * DNS-based service discovery * Dynamic configuration through API. * Full customization of a config-files template (via replacing a ConfigMap). * Using Spring Boot functions. * Great number of supported balancing algorithms.

In general, developers put emphasis on high speed, optimization, and efficiency in consumed resources.

It’s worth mentioning a lot of new features have appeared in a recent (June’19) v2.0 release, and even more (including OpenTracing support) is expected with upcoming v2.1.

Istio Ingress

Istio is a comprehensive service mesh solution. It can manage not just all incoming outside traffic (as an Ingress controller) but control all traffic inside the cluster as well. Under the hood, Istio uses Envoy as a sidecar-proxy for each service. In essence, it is a large processor that can do almost anything. Its central idea is maximum control, extensibility, security, and transparency.

With Istio Ingress, you can fine tune traffic routing, access authorization between services, balancing, monitoring, canary releases and much more.

Back to microservices with Istio” is a great intro to learn about Istio.

ALB Ingress controller

The AWS ALB Ingress Controller satisfies Kubernetes ingress resources by provisioning Application Load Balancers.

It's advantages are:

  • AWS managed loadbalancer.
  • Authentication with OIDC or Cognito.
  • AWS WAF support.
  • Natively redirect HTTP to HTTPS.
  • Supports fixed response without forwarding to the application..

It has also the potential advantage of using IP traffic mode. ALB support two types of traffic:

  • instance mode: Ingress traffic starts from the ALB and reaches the NodePort opened for your service. Traffic is then routed to the container Pods within the cluster. The number of hops for the packet to reach its destination in this mode is always two.
  • IP mode: Ingress traffic starts from the ALB and reaches the container Pods within cluster directly. In order to use this mode, the networking plugin for the K8s cluster must use a secondary IP address on ENI as pod IP, aka AWS CNI plugin for K8s. The number of hops for the packet to reach its destination is always one.

The IP mode gives the following advantages:

  • The load balancer can be pod location-aware: reduce the chance to route traffic to an irrelevant node and then rely on kube-proxy and network agent.
  • The number of hops for the packet to reach its destination is always one
  • No extra overlay network comparing to using Network plugins (Calico, Flannel) directly int he cloud (AWS).

It also has it's disadvantages:

ALB ingress deployment

This section is a defunct work in progress. I wasn't able to make it work, but it can be useful if you want to deploy it yourself. If you success, please make a PR.

I've used the AWS Guide, in conjunction with the AWS general ALB controller documentation and the AWS general ALB documentation to define the properties of the incubator helm chart.

Before that you need to an IAM policy ALBIngressControllerIAMPolicy to give the required permissions to manage the certificates, ALB creation and WAF integration. That IAM policy needs to be attached to the eks-alb-ingress-controller IAM role.

You also had to create an IAM OIDC provider, which are entities in IAM that describe an external identity provider (IdP) service that supports the OpenID Connect (OIDC) standard, such as Google or Github. You use an IAM OIDC identity provider when you want to establish trust between an OIDC compatible IdP and your AWS account. This is useful when creating a mobile app or web application that requires access to AWS resources, but you don't want to create custom sign in code or manage your own user identities.

The IAM OIDC provider is going to be used by the AWS EKS pod identity admission controller to attach IAM roles to specific service accounts. This will prevent the attachment of the IAM role to the whole node group. So instead of allowing every pod inside the worker groups to create the ALB, only the ones attached to the eks-alb-ingress-controller service account will be able to do so.