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Kubernetes / Networking / Service Mesh

Enhancing Kubernetes Networking with the Gateway API

As Kubernetes networking continues to evolve, the Gateway API remains at the forefront, providing a standardized and powerful solution for managing traffic, security, and routing within your clusters.
Nov 3rd, 2023 3:30am by
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Kubernetes, the stalwart of container orchestration, has ushered in a new era of application deployment and management. But as the Kubernetes ecosystem evolves, networking  within these clusters has posed persistent challenges. Enter the Gateway API, a transformative solution poised to redefine Kubernetes networking as we know it.

At its core, the Gateway API represents a paradigm shift in Kubernetes networking. It offers a standardized approach to configuring and managing network routing, traffic shaping, and security policies within Kubernetes clusters. This standardization brings with it a host of compelling advantages.

Firstly, it simplifies the intricate world of networking. By providing a declarative and consistent method to define routing rules, it liberates developers and operators from the complexities of network intricacies. This shift allows them to channel their energies toward refining application logic.

The Gateway API doesn’t stop there; it brings scalability to the forefront. Traditional Kubernetes networking solutions, like Ingress controllers, often falter under the weight of burgeoning workloads. In contrast, the Gateway API is engineered to gracefully handle high loads, promising superior performance for modern, dynamic applications.

Moreover, flexibility is its hallmark. It grants users precise control over traffic routing, load balancing, and security policies, empowering organizations to craft networking solutions tailored to their unique needs.

Lastly, the Gateway API isn’t confined to a single cluster. It extends its capabilities seamlessly to multicluster environments, enabling the frictionless exchange of information between clusters and facilitating the development of robust, distributed applications.

Challenges in Traditional Kubernetes Networking

Despite Kubernetes’ streamlined approach to container orchestration, traditional networking within Kubernetes carries its own set of difficulties.

The world of Ingress controllers is notably fragmented, with various controllers boasting distinct features and limitations. This fragmentation often leaves users grappling with choices and navigating a complex landscape.

Configuration complexities also abound. Setting up Ingress controllers and managing traffic routing can be intricate, demanding an intimate knowledge of each controller’s peculiar syntax and behavior. This complexity can result in configuration errors and suboptimal networking setups.

Additionally, traditional Ingress controllers may lack support for advanced networking features such as WebSockets, gRPC, or custom authentication mechanisms. This limitation poses challenges when attempting to meet the diverse requirements of modern applications.

Finally, as Kubernetes clusters expand in size and complexity, Ingress controllers may struggle to scale proportionally. This can lead to performance bottlenecks and potential service disruptions due to heightened traffic demands.

Against this backdrop of challenges, the Gateway API emerges as a transformative force, offering a standardized, scalable, and adaptable approach to Kubernetes networking. As we delve further into this article, we will explore its core components, real-world applications, implementation intricacies, and potential to redefine the future of Kubernetes networking.

Understanding Kubernetes Networking Basics

To navigate the intricacies of enhancing Kubernetes networking with the Gateway API, it’s vital to begin with a solid grasp of Kubernetes networking fundamentals. At its core, Kubernetes networking involves communication among various components: pods, services, and clusters. Pods, the fundamental units in Kubernetes, house one or more containers and communicate seamlessly within the same node. However, to communicate across nodes or access services, pods rely on cluster networking.

  • Pod-to-Pod Communication: Pods within a single node can communicate directly via localhost, eliminating network isolation. However, when pods span different nodes, inter-node communication is necessary, often routed through the cluster’s network stack.
  • Service Discovery: Services play a pivotal role in Kubernetes networking by providing stable and discoverable endpoints for pods. They abstract the underlying network complexities, enabling pods to connect by referencing the service’s DNS name or IP address.
  • Cluster Networking: Kubernetes clusters consist of multiple nodes, which must communicate with one another. This internode communication is facilitated by the Cluster Network, an overlay network connecting nodes to enable seamless interpod and interservice interaction.

While Kubernetes networking is foundational, it comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in traditional setups:

Limitations and Scalability Challenges in Traditional Kubernetes Networking

Traditional Kubernetes networking often relies on Ingress controllers for managing external traffic routing. However, these controllers can be complex to configure, resulting in configuration errors and complexities. Additionally, they may struggle to scale efficiently as workloads and traffic increase, potentially leading to performance bottlenecks.

Moreover, support for advanced protocols like WebSockets and gRPC may be lacking, limiting the adoption of modern application patterns. Lastly, enabling communication between pods and services across multiple clusters can be complex, often necessitating customized configurations.

As we proceed through this deep dive, we’ll see how the Gateway API addresses these limitations and ushers in a new era of Kubernetes networking, offering streamlined management, improved scalability, and enhanced flexibility for modern containerized applications.

Components of the Gateway API

Understanding the Gateway API’s fundamental components is essential to harnessing its potential within Kubernetes networking. These components — GatewayClasses, Gateways, and Routes — form the core of this transformative system. GatewayClasses serve as foundational templates, defining the characteristics and capabilities of a particular Gateway instance.

They essentially blueprint how Gateways will operate, enabling tailored networking policies. Gateways, on the other hand, are the concrete manifestations of these blueprints. They represent the entry points for incoming traffic, encapsulating information such as IP addresses, ports, and TLS configurations. Gateways take their cues from GatewayClasses and, together with Routes, define how traffic flows within your cluster.

Routes play a crucial role in traffic management. They dictate how external requests are directed within the cluster, mapping incoming traffic to specific services or pods based on criteria like hostnames, paths, or headers. These Routes are linked to Gateways, allowing you to create distinct routing rules for various entry points. For instance, you could route HTTP traffic to one service while handling HTTPS traffic differently—all based on the requested URL or other attributes.

To illustrate the synergy of these components, let’s consider a practical example. Imagine you’re running an e-commerce microservices application within your Kubernetes cluster, and you want to expose it securely to the internet. First, you define a GatewayClass, perhaps named “EcommerceGatewayClass,” which specifies desired attributes like SSL termination and load balancing.

From this class, you instantiate two Gateways — one for HTTP traffic on port 80 and another for HTTPS traffic on port 443 with SSL termination. Then, you create Routes associated with these Gateways to route requests based on criteria such as the host. For instance, you could route “” to your frontend service, handling both HTTP and HTTPS traffic efficiently.

In this way, GatewayClasses, Gateways, and Routes collaborate harmoniously to simplify and standardize networking policies within your Kubernetes cluster. This declarative, structured approach enhances manageability and flexibility while providing a powerful means to configure complex networking scenarios. In the upcoming sections, we’ll dive deeper into each component, providing practical examples to guide you in utilizing the Gateway API effectively for your Kubernetes networking needs.

Gateway API Ecosystem

The Gateway API is a pivotal component in Kubernetes networking, and its ecosystem continues to evolve. In this section, we’ll explore the broader landscape surrounding the Gateway API, including compatible Kubernetes distributions, essential tools, and noteworthy third-party solutions and extensions that enhance its functionality.

Compatible Kubernetes Distributions

Kubernetes Native

The Gateway API is designed to work seamlessly with standard Kubernetes distributions, ensuring compatibility with vanilla Kubernetes clusters.

Managed Kubernetes Services: Popular managed Kubernetes services, such as Amazon EKS, Google GKE, and Azure AKS, are embracing the Gateway API, allowing users to leverage its capabilities effortlessly within their managed clusters.

Essential Tools

  • Gateway Controllers: These are critical components that manage Gateway API resources within your cluster. Popular Gateway Controllers include Contour, Ambassador, and Gloo. Each offers unique features and integrations, catering to different use cases and requirements.
  • kubectl Gateway API Plugin: To streamline interaction with the Gateway API, various kubectl plugins are available. These plugins provide a user-friendly interface for managing Gateway API resources, making configuration and deployment more accessible.

Third-Party Solutions and Extensions

  • WAF Integration

Integrating Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) with the Gateway API enhances security by adding an additional layer of protection against web application attacks. Solutions like AWS WAF, Azure Application Gateway WAF, and open source WAFs can be seamlessly integrated with the Gateway API.

  • Observability Tools

Integrating observability tools like Prometheus and Grafana allows for in-depth monitoring and troubleshooting of your Gateway API configurations. You can create custom dashboards to visualize network traffic and performance metrics.

  • API Gateways

While the Gateway API handles routing and traffic management within the cluster, API gateways like Kong, Apigee, and AWS API Gateway provide advanced features for API management, security, and developer portal capabilities. These can be used in conjunction with the Gateway API for comprehensive API solutions.

  • Ingress Controller Extensions

Some Ingress controllers, like NGINX Ingress, have extensions that integrate with the Gateway API. These extensions enable enhanced capabilities and can help bridge the transition from traditional Ingress to the Gateway API.

  • Kubernetes Network Policies Integration

Combining Kubernetes Network Policies with the Gateway API enhances security by defining pod-to-pod communication rules. Network Policies complement the Gateway API’s capabilities by adding granular network-level control.


The Gateway API ecosystem is thriving, with a diverse range of compatible Kubernetes distributions, essential tools, and third-party solutions that extend its functionality. As Kubernetes networking continues to evolve, the Gateway API remains at the forefront, providing a standardized and powerful solution for managing traffic, security, and routing within your clusters. By exploring the options available within this ecosystem, you can tailor your Kubernetes networking stack to meet the unique needs of your applications and infrastructure.

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