Configuring Gateway Network Topology [experimental]

Configuring network topologies

Istio provides the ability to manage settings like X-Forwarded-For (XFF) and X-Forwarded-Client-Cert (XFCC), which are dependent on how the gateway workloads are deployed. This is currently an in-development feature. For more information on X-Forwarded-For, see the IETF’s RFC.

You might choose to deploy Istio ingress gateways in various network topologies (e.g. behind Cloud Load Balancers, a self-managed Load Balancer or directly expose the Istio ingress gateway to the Internet). As such, these topologies require different ingress gateway configurations for transporting correct client attributes like IP addresses and certificates to the workloads running in the cluster.

Configuration of XFF and XFCC headers can be set globally for all gateway workloads via MeshConfig or per gateway using a pod annotation. For example, to configure globally during install or upgrade when using an IstioOperator custom resource:

        numTrustedProxies: <VALUE>
        forwardClientCertDetails: <ENUM_VALUE>

You can also configure both of these settings by adding the annotation to the Pod spec of your Istio ingress gateway.

      "": '{"gatewayTopology" : { "numTrustedProxies": <VALUE>, "forwardClientCertDetails": <ENUM_VALUE> } }'

Configuring X-Forwarded-For Headers

Applications rely on reverse proxies to forward client attributes in a request, such as X-Forward-For header. However, due to the variety of network topologies that Istio can be deployed in, you must set the numTrustedProxies to the number of trusted proxies deployed in front of the Istio gateway proxy, so that the client address can be extracted correctly. This controls the value populated by the ingress gateway in the X-Envoy-External-Address header which can be reliably used by the upstream services to access client’s original IP address.

For example, if you have a cloud based Load Balancer and a reverse proxy in front of your Istio gateway, set numTrustedProxies to 2.

Example using X-Forwarded-For capability with httpbin

  1. Run the following command to create a file named topology.yaml with numTrustedProxies set to 2 and install Istio:

    $ cat <<EOF > topology.yaml
    kind: IstioOperator
            numTrustedProxies: 2
    $ istioctl install -f topology.yaml
  2. Create an httpbin namespace:

    $ kubectl create namespace httpbin
    namespace/httpbin created
  3. Set the istio-injection label to enabled for sidecar injection:

    $ kubectl label --overwrite namespace httpbin istio-injection=enabled
    namespace/httpbin labeled
  4. Deploy httpbin in the httpbin namespace:

    $ kubectl apply -n httpbin -f samples/httpbin/httpbin.yaml
  5. Deploy a gateway associated with httpbin:

    $ kubectl apply -n httpbin -f samples/httpbin/httpbin-gateway.yaml
  6. Set a local GATEWAY_URL environmental variable based on your Istio ingress gateway’s IP address:

    $ export GATEWAY_URL=$(kubectl -n istio-system get service istio-ingressgateway -o jsonpath='{.status.loadBalancer.ingress[0].ip}')
  7. Run the following curl command to simulate a request with proxy addresses in the X-Forwarded-For header:

    $ curl -H 'X-Forwarded-For:,,' $GATEWAY_URL/get?show_env=true
      "args": {
        "show_env": "true"
      "headers": {
        "X-Envoy-External-Address": "",
        "X-Forwarded-For": ",,, <YOUR GATEWAY IP>",

The above output shows the request headers that the httpbin workload received. When the Istio gateway received this request, it set the X-Envoy-External-Address header to the second to last (numTrustedProxies: 2) address in the X-Forwarded-For header from your curl command. Additionally, the gateway appends its own IP to the X-Forwarded-For header before forwarding it to the httpbin workload.

Configuring X-Forwarded-Client-Cert Headers

From Envoy’s documentation regarding XFCC:

To configure how XFCC headers are handled, set forwardClientCertDetails in your IstioOperator

kind: IstioOperator
        forwardClientCertDetails: <ENUM_VALUE>

where ENUM_VALUE can be of the following type.

UNDEFINEDField is not set.
SANITIZEDo not send the XFCC header to the next hop. This is the default value for a gateway.
FORWARD_ONLYWhen the client connection is mTLS (Mutual TLS), forward the XFCC header in the request.
APPEND_FORWARDWhen the client connection is mTLS, append the client certificate information to the request’s XFCC header and forward it.
SANITIZE_SETWhen the client connection is mTLS, reset the XFCC header with the client certificate information and send it to the next hop.
ALWAYS_FORWARD_ONLYAlways forward the XFCC header in the request, regardless of whether the client connection is mTLS.

See the Envoy documentation for examples of using this capability.

PROXY Protocol

The PROXY protocol allows for exchanging and preservation of client attributes across multiple proxies without relying on Layer 7 protocols.

If your external load balancer is configured to use the PROXY protocol, the Istio gateway must also be configured accept PROXY protocol. Enabling this requires adding Envoy Proxy Protocol filter using an EnvoyFilter applied on the gateway workload. For example:

kind: EnvoyFilter
  name: proxy-protocol
  namespace: istio-system
  - applyTo: LISTENER
      operation: MERGE
        - name: envoy.listener.proxy_protocol
        - name: envoy.listener.tls_inspector
      istio: ingressgateway

The client IP is retrieved from the PROXY protocol and set (or appended) in the X-Forwarded-For and X-Envoy-External-Address header. When PROXY protocol is used in conjunction with the gatewayTopology configuration, the numTrustedProxies and the received X-Forwarded-For header takes precedence in determining the trusted client addresses.

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