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Rate Limiting

Ambassador can validate incoming requests before routing them to a backing service. In this tutorial, we'll configure Ambassador to use an external third party rate limit service.

Before You Get Started

This tutorial assumes you have already followed the Ambassador Getting Started guide. If you haven't done that already, you should do that now.

After completing Getting Started, you'll have a Kubernetes cluster running Ambassador and the Quote of the Moment service. Let's walk through adding rate limiting to this setup.

1. Deploy the rate limit service

Ambassador delegates the actual rate limit logic to a third party service. We've written a simple rate limit service that:

  • listens for requests on port 5000;
  • handles gRPC shouldRateLimit requests;
  • allows requests with the x-ambassador-test-allow: "true" header; and
  • marks all other requests as OVER_LIMIT;

Here's the YAML we'll start with:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: example-rate-limit
    getambassador.io/config: |
      apiVersion: ambassador/v0
      kind: RateLimitService
      name: ratelimit
      service: "example-rate-limit:5000"
  type: ClusterIP
    app: example-rate-limit
  - port: 5000
    name: http-example-rate-limit
    targetPort: http-api
apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
kind: Deployment
  name: example-rate-limit
  replicas: 1
    type: RollingUpdate
        app: example-rate-limit
      - name: example-rate-limit
        image: agervais/ambassador-ratelimit-service:1.0.0
        imagePullPolicy: Always
        - name: http-api
          containerPort: 5000
            cpu: "0.1"
            memory: 100Mi

This configuration tells Ambassador about the rate limit service, notably that it is serving requests at example-rate-limit:5000.

Ambassador will see the annotations and reconfigure itself within a few seconds.

2. Configure Ambassador Mappings

Ambassador only validates requests on Mappings which define a rate_limits attribute. If Ambassador cannot contact the rate limit service, it will allow the request to be processed as if there were no rate limit service configuration.

We already have the qotm service running, so let's apply some rate limits to the service. The easiest way to do that is to annotate the qotm service. While we could use kubectl patch for this, it's simpler to just modify the service definition and re-apply. Here's the new YAML:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: qotm
    getambassador.io/config: |
      apiVersion: ambassador/v0
      kind: Mapping
      name: qotm_mapping
      prefix: /qotm/
      service: qotm
        - descriptor: A test case
            - "x-ambassador-test-allow"
  type: ClusterIP
    app: qotm
  - port: 80
    name: http-qotm
    targetPort: http-api

This configuration tells Ambassador about the rate limit rules to apply, notably that it needs the x-ambassador-test-allow header, and that it should set "A test case" as the generic_key descriptor when performing the gRPC request.

Note that both descriptor and headers are optional. However, if headers are defined, they must be part of the request in order to be rate limited.

Ambassador would also perform multiple requests to example-rate-limit:5000 if we had defined multiple rate_limits rules on the mapping.

3. Test rate limiting

If we curl to a rate-limited URL:

$ curl -v -H "x-ambassador-test-allow: probably" $AMBASSADORURL/qotm/quote/1

We get a 429, since we are limited.

HTTP/1.1 429 Too Many Requests
content-type: text/html; charset=utf-8
content-length: 0

If we set the correct header value to the service request, we will get a quote successfully:

$ curl -v -H "x-ambassador-test-allow: true" $AMBASSADORURL/qotm/quote/1

* Connected to ( port 80 (#0)
> GET /qotm/quote/1 HTTP/1.1
> Host:
> User-Agent: curl/7.54.0
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< content-type: application/json
< x-qotm-session: 069da5de-5433-46c0-a8de-d266e327d451
< content-length: 172
< server: envoy
< date: Wed, 27 Sep 2017 18:53:38 GMT
< x-envoy-upstream-service-time: 25
 \"hostname\": \"qotm-1827164760-gf534\",
 \"ok\": true,
 \"quote\": \"A late night does not make any sense.\",
 \"time\": \"2017-09-27T18:53:39.376073\",
 \"version\": \"1.1\"


For more details about configuring the external rate limit service, read the documentation on external rate limit and rate_limits mapping.

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