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API Overview

This document provides an overview of Gateway API.

Roles and personas

There are 3 primary roles in Gateway API, as described in roles and personas:

  • Ian (he/him): Infrastructure Provider
  • Chihiro (they/them): Cluster Operator
  • Ana (she/her): Application Developer

Resource model


Gateway API resources are in the API group as Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs). Unqualified resource names below will implicitly be in this API group.

There are three main types of objects in our resource model:

GatewayClass defines a set of gateways with a common configuration and behavior.

Gateway requests a point where traffic can be translated to Services within the cluster.

Routes describe how traffic coming via the Gateway maps to the Services.


GatewayClass defines a set of Gateways that share a common configuration and behaviour. Each GatewayClass will be handled by a single controller, although controllers may handle more than one GatewayClass.

GatewayClass is a cluster-scoped resource. There must be at least one GatewayClass defined in order to be able to have functional Gateways. A controller that implements the Gateway API does so by providing an associated GatewayClass resource that the user can reference from their Gateway(s).

This is similar to IngressClass for Ingress and StorageClass for PersistentVolumes. In Ingress v1beta1, the closest analog to GatewayClass is the ingress-class annotation, and in IngressV1, the closest analog is the IngressClass object.


A Gateway describes how traffic can be translated to Services within the cluster. That is, it defines a request for a way to translate traffic from somewhere that does not know about Kubernetes to somewhere that does. For example, traffic sent to a Kubernetes Service by a cloud load balancer, an in-cluster proxy, or an external hardware load balancer. While many use cases have client traffic originating “outside” the cluster, this is not a requirement.

It defines a request for a specific load balancer config that implements the GatewayClass’ configuration and behaviour contract. The resource may be created by an operator directly, or may be created by a controller handling a GatewayClass.

As the Gateway spec captures user intent, it may not contain a complete specification for all attributes in the spec. For example, the user may omit fields such as addresses, TLS settings. This allows the controller managing the GatewayClass to provide these settings for the user, resulting in a more portable spec. This behaviour will be made clear using the GatewayClass Status object.

A Gateway may be attached to one or more Route references which serve to direct traffic for a subset of traffic to a specific service.

Route Resources

Route resources define protocol-specific rules for mapping requests from a Gateway to Kubernetes Services.

As of v1alpha2, four Route resource types are included with the API. Custom Route types that are implementation-specific are encouraged for other protocols. New route types may be added to the API in future.


HTTPRoute is for multiplexing HTTP or terminated HTTPS connections. It's intended for use in cases where you want to inspect the HTTP stream and use HTTP request data for either routing or modification, for example using HTTP Headers for routing, or modifying them in-flight.


Experimental Channel

The TLSRoute resource described below is currently only included in the "Experimental" channel of Gateway API. For more information on release channels, refer to the related documentation.

TLSRoute is for multiplexing TLS connections, discriminated via SNI. It's intended for where you want to use the SNI as the main routing method, and are not interested in properties of the higher-level protocols like HTTP. The byte stream of the connection is proxied without any inspection to the backend.

TCPRoute and UDPRoute

Experimental Channel

The TCPRoute and UDPRoute resources described below are currently only included in the "Experimental" channel of Gateway API. For more information on release channels, refer to the related documentation.

TCPRoute (and UDPRoute) are intended for use for mapping one or more ports to a single backend. In this case, there is no discriminator you can use to choose different backends on the same port, so each TCPRoute really needs a different port on the listener (in general, anyway). You can terminate TLS in which case the unencrypted byte stream is passed through to the backend. You can choose to not terminate TLS, in which case the encrypted byte stream is passed through to the backend.


Experimental Channel

The GRPCRoute resource described below is currently only included in the "Experimental" channel of Gateway API. For more information on release channels, refer to the related documentation.

GRPCRoute is for idiomatically routing gRPC traffic. Gateways supporting GRPCRoute are required to support HTTP/2 without an initial upgrade from HTTP/1, so gRPC traffic is guaranteed to flow properly.

Route summary table

The "Routing Discriminator" column below refers to what information can be used to allow multiple Routes to share ports on the Listener.

Object OSI Layer Routing Discriminator TLS Support Purpose
HTTPRoute Layer 7 Anything in the HTTP Protocol Terminated only HTTP and HTTPS Routing
TLSRoute Somewhere between layer 4 and 7 SNI or other TLS properties Passthrough or Terminated Routing of TLS protocols including HTTPS where inspection of the HTTP stream is not required.
TCPRoute Layer 4 destination port Passthrough or Terminated Allows for forwarding of a TCP stream from the Listener to the Backends
UDPRoute Layer 4 destination port None Allows for forwarding of a UDP stream from the Listener to the Backends.
GRPCRoute Layer 7 Anything in the gRPC Protocol Terminated only gRPC Routing over HTTP/2 and HTTP/2 cleartext

Note that traffic routed via HTTPRoute and TCPRoute can be encrypted between the Gateway and backend (commonly referred to as reencryption). It is not possible to configure that with existing Gateway API resources, but implementations may provide custom configuration for this until there is a standardized approach defined by Gateway API.

Attaching Routes to Gateways


This section has changed significantly between v1alpha1 and v1alpha2. This section describes the v1alpha2 approach.

When a Route attaches to a Gateway, it represents configuration that is applied on the Gateway that configures the underlying load balancer or proxy. How and which Routes attach to Gateways is controlled by the resources themselves. Route and Gateway resources have built-in controls to permit or constrain how they are attached. Together with Kubernetes RBAC, these allow organizations to enforce policies for how Routes are exposed and on which Gateways.

There is a lot of flexibility in how Routes can attach to Gateways to achieve different organizational policies and scopes of responsibility. These are different relationships that Gateways and Routes can have:

  • One-to-one - A Gateway and Route may be deployed and used by a single owner and have a one-to-one relationship.
  • One-to-many - A Gateway can have many Routes bound to it that are owned by different teams from across different Namespaces.
  • Many-to-one - Routes can also be bound to more than one Gateway, allowing a single Route to control application exposure simultaneously across different IPs, load balancers, or networks.


Chihiro has deployed a Gateway shared-gw in the infra Namespace to be used by different application teams for exposing their applications outside the cluster. Teams A and B (in Namespaces A and B respectively) attach their Routes to this Gateway. They are unaware of each other and as long as their Route rules do not conflict with each other they can continue operating in isolation. Team C has special networking needs (perhaps performance, security, or criticality) and they need a dedicated Gateway to proxy their application to the outside world. Team C deploys their own Gateway dedicated-gw in the C Namespace that can only be used by apps in the C Namespace.

route binding

How it Works

The following is required for a Route to be attached to a Gateway:

  1. The Route needs an entry in its parentRefs field referencing the Gateway.
  2. At least one listener on the Gateway needs to allow this attachment.

Referencing Gateways

Experimental Channel

The Port field described below is currently only included in the "Experimental" channel of Gateway API. For more information on release channels, refer to the related documentation.

A Route can reference a Gateway by specifying the namespace (optional if the Route and the Gateway are in the same namespace) and name of the Gateway in a parentRef. A Route can further select a subset of listeners under the Gateway using the following fields in parentRef:

  1. SectionName When sectionName is set, the Route selects the listener with the specified name.
  2. Port When port is set, the Route selects all listeners listening on the specified port and with protocol compatible with this kind of Route.

When multiple fields in parentRef are set, the Route selects listeners that satisfy all conditions specified in those fields. For example, when both sectionName and port are set, the Route selects listeners with the specified name AND listening on the specified port.

Restricting Route Attachment

Each Gateway listener can restrict which Routes can be attached with the following mechanisms:

  1. Hostname: When the hostname field on a listener is set, attached Routes that specify a hostnames field must have at least one overlapping value.
  2. Namespaces: The allowedRoutes.namespaces field on a listener can be used to restrict where Routes may be attached from. The namespaces.from field supports the following values:
    • Same is the default option. Only Routes in the same namespace as this Gateway may be attached.
    • All will allow Routes from all Namespaces to be attached.
    • Selector means that Routes from a subset of Namespaces selected by a Namespace label selector may be attached to this Gateway. When Selector is used, the namespaces.selector field must be used to specify label selectors. This field is not supported with All or Same.
  3. Kinds: The allowedRoutes.kinds field on a listener can be used to restrict the kinds of Routes that may be attached.

If none of the above are specified, a Gateway listener will trust Routes attached from the same namespace that support the listener protocol.

Further Gateway - Route attachment examples

The following my-route Route wants to attach to the foo-gateway in the gateway-api-example-ns1 and will not attach to any other Gateways. Note that foo-gateway is in a different Namespace. The foo-gateway must allow attachment from HTTPRoutes in the namespace gateway-api-example-ns2.

kind: HTTPRoute
  name: my-route
  namespace: gateway-api-example-ns2
  - kind: Gateway
    name: foo-gateway
    namespace: gateway-api-example-ns1
  - backendRefs:
    - name: foo-svc
      port: 8080

This foo-gateway allows the my-route HTTPRoute to attach.

kind: Gateway
  name: foo-gateway
  namespace: gateway-api-example-ns1
  gatewayClassName: foo-lb
  - name: prod-web
    port: 80
    protocol: HTTP
      - kind: HTTPRoute
        from: Selector
            # This label is added automatically as of K8s 1.22
            # to all namespaces

For a more permissive example, the below Gateway will allow all HTTPRoute resources to attach from Namespaces with the "expose-apps: true" label.

kind: Gateway
  name: prod-gateway
  namespace: gateway-api-example-ns1
  gatewayClassName: foo-lb
  - name: prod-web
    port: 80
    protocol: HTTP
      - kind: HTTPRoute
        from: Selector
            expose-apps: "true"

Combined types

The combination of GatewayClass, Gateway, xRoute and Service(s) defines an implementable load-balancer. The diagram below illustrates the relationships between the different resources:


Request flow

A typical north/south API request flow for a gateway implemented using a reverse proxy is:

  1. A client makes a request to
  2. DNS resolves the name to a Gateway address.
  3. The reverse proxy receives the request on a Listener and uses the Host header to match an HTTPRoute.
  4. Optionally, the reverse proxy can perform request header and/or path matching based on match rules of the HTTPRoute.
  5. Optionally, the reverse proxy can modify the request, i.e. add/remove headers, based on filter rules of the HTTPRoute.
  6. Lastly, the reverse proxy forwards the request to one or more objects, i.e. Service, in the cluster based on backendRefs rules of the HTTPRoute.

TLS Configuration

TLS is configured on Gateway listeners, and may be referred to across namespaces.

Please refer to the TLS details guide for a deep dive on TLS.

Attaching Routes to Services

Experimental in v0.8.0

The GAMMA initiative work for supporting service mesh use cases is experimental in v0.8.0. It is possible that it will change; we do not recommend it in production at this point.

In particular, binding Routes directly to Services seems to be the current best choice for configuring mesh routing, but it is still experimental and thus subject to change.

When using the Gateway API to configure a service mesh, the Route will attach directly to a Service, representing configuration meant to be applied to any traffic directed to the Service. How and which Routes attach to a given Service is controlled by the Routes themselves (working with Kubernetes RBAC), as covered in the GAMMA routing documentation.

Extension points

A number of extension points are provided in the API to provide flexibility in addressing the large number of use-cases that cannot be addressed by a general purpose API.

Here is a summary of extension points in the API:

  • BackendRefs: This extension point should be used for forwarding traffic to network endpoints other than core Kubernetes Service resource. Examples include an S3 bucket, Lambda function, a file-server, etc.
  • HTTPRouteFilter: This API type in HTTPRoute provides a way to hook into the request/response lifecycle of an HTTP request.
  • Custom Routes: If none of the above extensions points suffice for a use case, Implementers can choose to create custom Route resources for protocols that are not currently supported in the API. Custom Route types need to share the same fields that core Route types do. These are contained within CommonRouteSpec and RouteStatus.

Whenever you are using an extension point without any prior art, please let the community know. As we learn more about usage of extension points, we would like to find the common denominators and promote the features to core/extended API conformance.