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Rate limiting reference

Rate limiting in Ambassador Edge Stack is composed of two parts:

  • Labels that get attached to requests; a label is basic metadata that is used by the RateLimitService to decide which limits to apply to the request.
  • RateLimits configure Ambassador Edge Stack's built-in RateLimitService, and set limits based on the labels on the request.

This page covers using RateLimit resources to configure Ambassador Edge Stack to rate limit requests. See the Basic Rate Limiting article for information on adding labels to requests.

Rate limiting requests based on their labels

A RateLimit resource defines a list of limits that apply to different requests.

It makes no difference whether limits are defined together in one RateLimit resource or are defined separately in many RateLimit resources.

  • name: The symbolic name for this ratelimit. Used to set dynamic metadata that can be referenced in the Envoy access log.

  • action: Each limit has an action that it will take when it is exceeded. Actions include:

    • Enforce - enforce this limit on the client by returning HTTP 429. This is the default action.
    • LogOnly - do not enforce this limit on the client, and allow the client request upstream if no other limit applies.
  • pattern: Each limit has a pattern that matches against a label group on a request to decide if that limit should apply to that request. For a pattern to match, the request's label group must start with exactly the labels specified in the pattern, in order. If a label in a pattern has an empty string or "*" as the value, then it only checks the key of that label on the request; not the value. If a list item in the pattern has multiple key/value pairs, if any of them match the label then it is considered a match.

    For example, the pattern

    matches the label group


    but not the label group

    If a label group is matched by multiple patterns, the pattern with the longest list of items wins.

    If a request has multiple label groups, then multiple limits may apply to that request; if any of the limits are being hit, then Ambassador will reject the request as an HTTP 429.

  • rate, unit: The limit itself is specified as an integer number of requests per a unit of time. Valid units of time are second, minute, hour, or day (all case-insensitive).

    So for example

    would allow 5 requests per minute, and any requests in excess of that would result in HTTP 429 errors. Note that the limit is tracked in terms of wall clock minutes and not a sliding window. For example if 5 requests happen 59 seconds into the current wall clock minute, then clients only need to wait a second in order to make another 5 requests.

  • burstFactor: The optional burstFactor field changes enforcement of ratelimits in two ways:

    • A burstFactor of N will allow unused requests from a window of N time units to be rolled over and included in the current request limit. This will effectively result in two separate ratelimits being applied depending on the dynamic behavior of clients. Clients that only make occasional bursts will end up with an effective ratelimit of burstFactor * rate, whereas clients that make requests continually will be limited to just rate. For example:

      would allow bursts of up to 25 request per minute, but only permit continual usage of 5 requests per minute.

    • A burstFactor of 1 is logically very similar to no burstFactor with one key difference. When burstFactor is specified, requests are tracked with a sliding window rather than in terms of wall clock minutes. For example:

      Without the burstFactor of 1, the above limit would permit up to 5 requests within any wall clock minute. With the burstFactor of 1 it means that no more than 5 requests are permitted within any 1 minute sliding window.

    Note that the burstFactor field only works when the AES_RATELIMIT_PREVIEW environment variable is set to true.

  • injectRequestHeaders, injectResponseHeaders: If this limit's pattern matches the request, then injectRequestHeaders injects HTTP header fields in to the request before sending it to the upstream service (assuming the limit even allows the request to go to the upstream service), and injectResponseHeaders injects headers in to the response sent back to the client (whether the response came from the upstream service or is an HTTP 429 response because it got rate limited). This is very similar to injectRequestHeaders in a JWT Filter. The header value is specified as a Go text/template string, with the following data made available to it:

    • .RateLimitResponse.OverallCodeint : 1 for OK, 2 for OVER_LIMIT.
    • .RateLimitResponse.Statuses → [[]*RateLimitResponse_DescriptorStatus]]v2.RateLimitResponse_DescriptorStatus The itemized status codes for each limit that was selected for this request.
    • .RetryAftertime.Duration the amount of time until all of the limits would allow access again (0 if they all currently allow access).

    Also available to the template are the standard functions available to Go text/templates, as well as:

    • a hasKey function that takes the a string-indexed map as arg1, and returns whether it contains the key arg2. (This is the same as the Sprig function of the same name.)

    • a doNotSet function that causes the result of the template to be discarded, and the header field to not be adjusted. This is useful for only conditionally setting a header field; rather than setting it to an empty string or "<no value>". Note that this does not unset an existing header field of the same name.

  • errorResponse allows templating the error response, overriding the default json error format. Make sure you validate and test your template, not to generate server-side errors on top of client errors.

    • headers sets extra HTTP header fields in the error response. The value is specified as a Go text/template string, with the same data made available to it as bodyTemplate (below). It does not have access to the json function.

    • bodyTemplate specifies body of the error; specified as a Go text/template string, with the following data made available to it:

      • .status_codeinteger the HTTP status code to be returned
      • .messagestring the error message string
      • .request_idstring the Envoy request ID, for correlation (hidden from {{ . | json "" }} unless .status_code is in the 5XX range)
      • .RateLimitResponse.OverallCodeint : 1 for OK, 2 for OVER_LIMIT.
      • .RateLimitResponse.Statuses → [[]*RateLimitResponse_DescriptorStatus]]v3.RateLimitResponse_DescriptorStatus The itemized status codes for each limit that was selected for this request.
      • .RetryAftertime.Duration the amount of time until all of the limits would allow access again (0 if they all currently allow access).

      Also availabe to the template are the standard functions available to Go text/templates, as well as:

      • a json function that formats arg2 as JSON, using the arg1 string as the starting indentation. For example, the template {{ json "indent>" "value" }} would yield the string indent>"value".

Logging RateLimits

It is often desirable to know which RateLimit, if any, is applied to a client's request. This can be achieved by leveraging dynamic metadata available to Envoy's access log.

The following dynamic metadata keys are available under the envoy.filters.http.ratelimit namespace. See https://www.envoyproxy.io/docs/envoy/latest/configuration/observability/access_log/usage for more on Envoy's access log format.

  • aes.ratelimit.name - The symbolic name of the Limit on a RateLimit object that triggered the ratelimit action.
  • aes.ratelimit.action - The action that the Limit took. Possible values include Enforce and LogOnly. When the action is Enforce, the client was ratelimited with HTTP 429. When the action is LogOnly, the ratelimit was not enforced and the client's request was allowed upstream.
  • aes.ratelimit.retry_after - The time in seconds until the Limit resets. Equivalent to the value of the Retry-After returned to the client if the limit was enforced.

If a Limit with a LogOnly action is exceeded and there are no other non-LogOnly Limits that were exceeded, the request will be allowed upstream and that Limit will available as dynamic metadata above.

Note that if multiple Limits were exceeded by a request, only the Limit with the longest time until reset (i.e. its Retry-After value) will be available as dynamic metadata above. The only exception is if the Limit with the longest time until reset is LogOnly and there exists another non-LogOnly limit that was exceeded. In that case, the non-LogOnly Limit will be available as dynamic metadata. This ensures that LogOnly Limits will never prevent non-LogOnly Limits from enforcing or from being observable in the Envoy access log.

An example access log specification for RateLimit dynamic metadata


RateLimit examples

An example service-level rate limit

The following Mapping resource will add a my_default_generic_key_label generic_key label to every request to the foo-app service:

You can then create a default RateLimit for every request that matches this label:

Tip: For testing purposes, it is helpful to configure per-minute rate limits before switching the rate limits to per second or per hour.

An example with multiple labels

Mappings can have multiple labels which annotate a given request.

Let's digest the above example:

  • Request labels must be part of the "ambassador" label domain. Or rather, it must match the domain in your RateLimitService.spec.domain which defaults to Module.spec.default_label_domain which defaults to ambassador; but normally you should accept the default and just accept that the domain on the Mappings must be set to "ambassador".
  • Each label must have a name, e.g., one_request_label
  • The string_request_label simply adds the string catalog to every incoming request to the given mapping. The string is referenced with the key generic_key.
  • The header_request_label adds a specific HTTP header value to the request, in this case, the method. Note that HTTP/2 request headers must be used here (e.g., the host header needs to be specified as the :authority header).
  • Multiple labels can be part of a single named label, e.g., multi_request_label specifies two different headers to be added
  • When an HTTP header is not present, the entire named label is omitted. The omit_if_not_present: true is an explicit notation to remind end-users of this limitation. false is not a supported value.

An example with multiple limits

Labels can be grouped. This allows for a single request to count against multiple different RateLimit resources. For example, imagine the following scenario:

  1. Users should be limited on the total number of requests that can be sent to a set of endpoints
  2. On a specific service, stricter limits are desirable

The following Mapping resources could be configured:

Now requests to the foo-app and the bar-app would be labeled with


respectively. RateLimits on these two services could be created as such:

An example with global labels and groups

Global labels are prepended to every single label group. In the above example, if the following global label was added in the ambassador Module:

The labels metadata would change

  • fromto


  • fromto


And thus our RateLimits would need to change to appropriately handle the new labels.