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EDGE STACK API GATEWAY

Edge Stack vs Traefik vs NGINX

Ejiro Onose
January 26, 2023 | 8 min read

Edge Stack API Gateway, Traefik, and NGINX are popular tools for implementing an API gateway and load balancer in a Kubernetes environment.

In this article, we will compare the features and capabilities of these three popular API gateways. Besides their features, I’ll also include use cases to help you decide the best for your specific requirements and preferences.

Before we delve into this comparison, let’s remind ourselves about the meaning and usefulness of an API gateway and load balancer in the world of Kubernetes.

What is an API Gateway?

An API gateway is a layer 7 (application layer) API management tool that routes incoming requests to the appropriate microservice to facilitate requests and delivery of data and services. They allow seamless communication and data exchange between separate applications, which enables applications to be decomposed into smaller, independent microservices that can be managed and scaled separately.

API gateways are an essential component of a microservice architecture, as they provide a single entry point for incoming requests. This makes managing and scaling the application easier and improves its overall performance and availability.

In Kubernetes, an API gateway is typically implemented as a Kubernetes ingress controller. This means it is deployed as a Kubernetes deployment and listens for ingress resources to be created. When an ingress resource is created, the API gateway automatically configures itself to route requests to the appropriate microservice.

Image credit: Banzai

API gateways provide advanced routings and traffic management capabilities, such as support for path-based routing, canary deployments, and observability features.

What is a Load Balancer?

A load balancer is a layer 4 (transport layer) component that distributes and manages incoming requests across multiple instances of a microservice. This allows the application to handle more traffic and improve availability.

Load balancers help your cloud provider (AWS, Azure, GCP`) spin up a load balancer and assign its external IP to the service, and then listen for ingress resources to be created. When an ingress resource is created, the Kubernetes load balancer automatically configures itself to route requests to the appropriate microservice. In Kubernetes, a load balancer can be implemented through a Kubernetes ingress controller.

Now, let’s take a closer look at Ambassador Edge Stack, Traefik, and NGINX.

Edge Stack

Edge Stack is an API Gateway and Ingress Controller that makes it easy to deploy, manage, and troubleshoot microservices. It is built on top of the Envoy proxy and provides a high-level API for configuring Envoy with your desired routing and observability rules.

Edge Stack also has advanced routing and traffic management capabilities, including support for path-based and weight-based routing, canary deployments, and more.

Advantages of Edge Stack API Gateway

  • It routes and configures traffic to the correct microservice based on the incoming request, and provides traffic management with load balancing, and circuit-breaking features to your microservices.
  • With Edge Stack, you can collect metrics and logs for your microservices for observability reasons.
  • It has a comprehensive set of security and authentication tools for microservices, including automatic TLS, authentication, rate limiting, WAF integration, and fine-grained access control.
  • It supports service mesh architectures and integrates with other service mesh components such as Envoy.
  • It supports TLS/SSL termination and works well with an ACME provider (like Let’s Encrypt) for easy and automatic custom certificate generation.

Traefik

Traefik is a reverse proxy and load balancer that works hand in hand with your preexisting system, automatically carrying out its configuration.

It has a lightweight configuration model and uses convention over configuration, which means it can automatically detect and configure routes based on the labels applied to Kubernetes services. This makes it easy to set up and maintain, even in complex environments. With Traefik comes dynamic middlewares that can perform operations like load balancing, orchestrator ingress, API gateway, east-west communication, and lots more.

NGINX

NGINX is an open-source web server that is also a reverse proxy and load balancer for HTTP, TCP, and UDP servers. In addition, it also functions as a proxy server for email (POP3, IMAP, and SMTP). Designed for its performance and stability, it was created to be the fastest web server while maintaining excellent performance.

NGINX can also act as a link between clients and a second web server, serving as an SSL/TLS terminator or web accelerator. By doing this, tasks that potentially slow down your server will be efficiently handled. NGINX handles tasks like negotiation of SSL/TLS or compression and caching content for performance improvement.

NGINX has evolved since its release in 2004 when it first functioned for HTTP serving. Back then, each request was treated as an individual thread, which became increasingly complicated to handle. Thereby causing delayed response and web server slowing all the way down. But now, NGINX performs much faster with a better and wider range of available resources.

Things to consider when choosing an API gateway…

Now that we have looked at each API gateway, here are some things to consider when deciding which tool is best for you:

  • Functionality: One of the first things you should consider when choosing a tool is your requirements and problem space i.e. what functionality do you need? Do you need a full-featured API gateway with a wide range of capabilities or a more lightweight solution? Can you extend the functionality of the API gateway by adding custom plugins or extensions?
  • Performance: Performance is important, especially for high-traffic websites or applications. Do you want to handle high throughput or low latency traffic?
  • Cost: An important factor to consider is the cost of each tool, including any licensing fees or costs associated with running and maintaining it. It’s very easy to underestimate the total cost of ownership (TCO) of building and operating your own tooling. What is the cost of using this tool, and does it fit within your budget?
  • Ease of use: Setting up the API gateway is another thing to consider. Is the API gateway easy to set up and configure, or does it require a lot of complex setups and manual configuration?
  • Dev environment: What type of container orchestration platform are you using? Do you need an API gateway that can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises or both?
  • Scalability: Can the API gateway scale horizontally and vertically to handle a large number of requests and a high volume of traffic? Latency?
  • Security: Consider the security features of each tool, such as TLS termination, and how well they integrate with your existing security infrastructure. Does the API gateway offer features that help secure your APIs, such as support for TLS/mTLS and authentication (auth/n) and authorization (auth/z)?
  • Monitoring: Consider the monitoring and observability features of each tool, such as web UI and API, which can make it easier to manage and troubleshoot. Does the API gateway offer tools to help you monitor and debug your APIs, such as metrics and logging?

Conclusion

Edge Stack is the best fit for all sizes of teams already using Kubernetes. If you need advanced routing and traffic management capabilities, Edge Stack is an excellent choice.