Guidance for running self-hosted gateway on Kubernetes in production

In order to run the self-hosted gateway in production, there are various aspects to take in to mind. For example, it should be deployed in a highly available manner, use configuration backups to handle temporary disconnects and many more.

This article provides guidance on how to run self-hosted gateway on Kubernetes for production workloads to ensure that it will run smoothly and reliably.

Important

Support for Azure API Management self-hosted gateway version 0 and version 1 container images is ending on 1 October 2023, along with its corresponding Configuration API v1. Use our migration guide to use self-hosted gateway v2.0.0 or higher with Configuration API v2. Learn more in our deprecation documentation

Access token

Without a valid access token, a self-hosted gateway can't access and download configuration data from the endpoint of the associated API Management service. The access token can be valid for a maximum of 30 days. It must be regenerated, and the cluster configured with a fresh token, either manually or via automation before it expires.

When you're automating token refresh, use this management API operation to generate a new token. For information on managing Kubernetes secrets, see the Kubernetes website.

Autoscaling

While we provide guidance on the minimum number of replicas for the self-hosted gateway, we recommend that you use autoscaling for the self-hosted gateway to meet the demand of your traffic more proactively.

There are two ways to autoscale the self-hosted gateway horizontally:

  • Autoscale based on resource usage (CPU and memory)
  • Autoscale based on the number of requests per second

This is possible through native Kubernetes functionality, or by using Kubernetes Event-driven Autoscaling (KEDA). KEDA is a CNCF Incubation project that strives to make application autoscaling simple.

Note

KEDA is an open-source technology that is not supported by Azure support and needs to be operated by customers.

Resource-based autoscaling

Kubernetes allows you to autoscale the self-hosted gateway based on resource usage by using a Horizontal Pod Autoscaler. It allows you to define CPU and memory thresholds, and the number of replicas to scale out or in.

An alternative is to use Kubernetes Event-driven Autoscaling (KEDA) allowing you to scale workloads based on a variety of scalers, including CPU and memory.

Tip

If you are already using KEDA to scale other workloads, we recommend using KEDA as a unified app autoscaler. If that is not the case, then we strongly suggest to rely on the native Kubernetes functionality through Horizontal Pod Autoscaler.

Traffic-based autoscaling

Kubernetes doesn't provide an out-of-the-box mechanism for traffic-based autoscaling.

Kubernetes Event-driven Autoscaling (KEDA) provides a few ways that can help with traffic-based autoscaling:

  • You can scale based on metrics from a Kubernetes ingress if they're available in Prometheus or Azure Monitor by using an out-of-the-box scaler
  • You can install HTTP add-on, which is available in beta, and scales based on the number of requests per second.

Configuration backup

Configure a local storage volume for the self-hosted gateway container, so it can persist a backup copy of the latest downloaded configuration. If connectivity is down, the storage volume can use the backup copy upon restart. The volume mount path must be /apim/config and must be owned by group ID 1001. See an example on GitHub. To learn about storage in Kubernetes, see the Kubernetes website. To change ownership for a mounted path, see the securityContext.fsGroup setting on the Kubernetes website.

Note

To learn about self-hosted gateway behavior in the presence of a temporary Azure connectivity outage, see Self-hosted gateway overview.

Container image tag

The YAML file provided in the Azure portal uses the latest tag. This tag always references the most recent version of the self-hosted gateway container image.

Consider using a specific version tag in production to avoid unintentional upgrade to a newer version.

You can download a full list of available tags.

Tip

When installing with Helm, image tagging is optimized for you. The Helm chart's application version pins the gateway to a given version and does not rely on latest.

Learn more on how to install an API Management self-hosted gateway on Kubernetes with Helm.

Container resources

By default, the YAML file provided in the Azure portal doesn't specify container resource requests.

It's impossible to reliably predict and recommend the amount of per-container CPU and memory resources and the number of replicas required for supporting a specific workload. Many factors are at play, such as:

  • Specific hardware that the cluster is running on.
  • Presence and type of virtualization.
  • Number and rate of concurrent client connections.
  • Request rate.
  • Kind and number of configured policies.
  • Payload size and whether payloads are buffered or streamed.
  • Backend service latency.

We recommend setting resource requests to two cores and 2 GiB as a starting point. Perform a load test and scale up/out or down/in based on the results.

Custom domain names and SSL certificates

If you use custom domain names for the API Management endpoints, especially if you use a custom domain name for the Management endpoint, you might need to update the value of config.service.endpoint in the <gateway-name>.yaml file to replace the default domain name with the custom domain name. Make sure that the Management endpoint can be accessed from the pod of the self-hosted gateway in the Kubernetes cluster.

In this scenario, if the SSL certificate that's used by the Management endpoint isn't signed by a well-known CA certificate, you must make sure that the CA certificate is trusted by the pod of the self-hosted gateway.

Note

With the self-hosted gateway v2, API Management provides a new configuration endpoint: <apim-service-name>.configuration.azure-api.net. Currently, API Management doesn't enable configuring a custom domain name for the v2 configuration endpoint. If you need custom hostname mapping for this endpoint, you may be able to configure an override in the container's local hosts file, for example, using a hostAliases element in a Kubernetes container spec.

DNS policy

DNS name resolution plays a critical role in a self-hosted gateway's ability to connect to dependencies in Azure and dispatch API calls to backend services.

The YAML file provided in the Azure portal applies the default ClusterFirst policy. This policy causes name resolution requests not resolved by the cluster DNS to be forwarded to the upstream DNS server that's inherited from the node.

To learn about name resolution in Kubernetes, see the Kubernetes website. Consider customizing DNS policy or DNS configuration as appropriate for your setup.

External traffic policy

The YAML file provided in the Azure portal sets externalTrafficPolicy field on the Service object to Local. This preserves caller IP address (accessible in the request context) and disables cross node load balancing, eliminating network hops caused by it. Be aware, that this setting might cause asymmetric distribution of traffic in deployments with unequal number of gateway pods per node.

High availability

The self-hosted gateway is a crucial component in the infrastructure and has to be highly available. However, failure will and can happen.

Consider protecting the self-hosted gateway against disruption.

Tip

When installing with Helm, easily enable high available scheduling by enabling the highAvailability.enabled configuration option.

Learn more on how to install an API Management self-hosted gateway on Kubernetes with Helm.

Protecting against node failure

To prevent being affected due to data center or node failures, consider using a Kubernetes cluster that uses availability zones to achieve high availability on the node-level.

Availability zones allow you to schedule the self-hosted gateway's pod on nodes spread across the zones by using:

Note

If you are using Azure Kubernetes Service, learn how to use availability zones in this article.

Protecting against pod disruption

Pods can experience disruption due to various reasons such as manual pod deletion, node maintenance, etc.

Consider using Pod Disruption Budgets to enforce a minimum number of pods to be available at any given time.

HTTP(S) proxy

The self-hosted gateway provides support for HTTP(S) proxy by using the traditional HTTP_PROXY, HTTPS_PROXY and NO_PROXY environment variables.

Once configured, the self-hosted gateway will automatically use the proxy for all outbound HTTP(S) requests to the backend services.

Starting with version 2.1.5 or above, the self-hosted gateway provides observability related to request proxying:

  • API Inspector will show additional steps when HTTP(S) proxy is being used and its related interactions.
  • Verbose logs are provided to provide indication of the request proxy behavior.

Warning

Ensure that the infrastructure requirements have been met and that the self-hosted gateway can still connect to them or certain functionality will not work properly.

Local logs and metrics

The self-hosted gateway sends telemetry to Azure Monitor and Azure Application Insights according to configuration settings in the associated API Management service. When connectivity to Azure is temporarily lost, the flow of telemetry to Azure is interrupted and the data is lost for the duration of the outage.

Consider setting up local monitoring to ensure the ability to observe API traffic and prevent telemetry loss during Azure connectivity outages.

Namespace

Kubernetes namespaces help with dividing a single cluster among multiple teams, projects, or applications. Namespaces provide a scope for resources and names. They can be associated with a resource quota and access control policies.

The Azure portal provides commands to create self-hosted gateway resources in the default namespace. This namespace is automatically created, exists in every cluster, and can't be deleted. Consider creating and deploying a self-hosted gateway into a separate namespace in production.

Number of replicas

The minimum number of replicas suitable for production is three, preferably combined with high-available scheduling of the instances.

By default, a self-hosted gateway is deployed with a RollingUpdate deployment strategy. Review the default values and consider explicitly setting the maxUnavailable and maxSurge fields, especially when you're using a high replica count.

Performance

We recommend reducing container logs to warnings (warn) to improve for performance. Learn more in our self-hosted gateway configuration reference.

Security

The self-hosted gateway is able to run as non-root in Kubernetes allowing customers to run the gateway securely.

Here's an example of the security context for the self-hosted gateway:

securityContext:
  allowPrivilegeEscalation: false
  runAsNonRoot: true
  runAsUser: 1001       # This is a built-in user, but you can use any user ie 1000 as well
  runAsGroup: 2000      # This is just an example
  privileged: false
  capabilities:
    drop:
    - all

Warning

Running the self-hosted gateway with read-only filesystem (readOnlyRootFilesystem: true) is not supported.

Warning

When using local CA certificates, the self-hosted gateway must run with user ID (UID) 1001 in order to manage the CA certificates otherwise the gateway will not start up.

Next steps