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Ambassador is a specialized control plane for Envoy Proxy. In this architecture, Ambassador translates configuration (in the form of Kubernetes annotations) to Envoy configuration. All actual traffic is directly handled by the high-performance Envoy Proxy.
- Service owner defines configuration in Kubernetes manifests.
- When the manifest is applied to the cluster, the Kubernetes API notifies Ambassador of the change.
- Ambassador parses the change and transforms the configuration to a semantic intermediate representation. Envoy configuration is generated from this IR.
- The new configuration is passed to Envoy via the gRPC-based Aggregated Discovery Service (ADS) API.
- Traffic flows through the reconfigured Envoy, without dropping any connections.
Ambassador relies on Kubernetes for scaling, high availability, and persistence. All Ambassador configuration is stored directly in Kubernetes; there is no database. Ambassador is packaged as a single container that contains both the control plane and an Envoy Proxy instance. By default, Ambassador is deployed as a Kubernetes
deployment and can be scaled and managed like any other Kubernetes deployment.
By design, Ambassador is an entirely stateless architecture. Each individual Ambassador instance operates independently of other Ambassador instances. These Ambassador instances rely on Kubernetes to coordinate the configuration between different Ambassador instances. This enables Ambassador to sidestep the need to engineer a safe, highly available centralized control plane (and if you don't think that this is hard, check out Jepsen). By contrast, other control plane architectures rely on a single centralized control plane to manage multiple instances of the data plane. This means that these control plane architectures must engineer resilience and availability into their central control plane.
Ambassador closely tracks Envoy Proxy releases. A stable branch of Envoy Proxy is maintained that enables the team to cherry pick specific fixes into Ambassador.