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Roles and Personas


In the original design of Kubernetes, Ingress and Service resources were based on a usage model in which the developers who create Services and Ingresses controlled all aspects of defining and exposing their applications to their users.

In practice, though, clusters and their infrastructure tend to be shared, which the original Ingress model doesn't capture very well. A critical factor is that when infrastructure is shared, not everyone using the infrastructure has the same concerns, and to be successful, an infrastructure project needs to address the needs of all the users.

This raises a fundamental challenge: how do you provide the flexibility needed by the users of the infrastructure, while also maintaining control by the owners of the infrastructure?

Gateway API defines several distinct roles, each with an associated persona, as a tool for surfacing and discussing the differing needs of different users in order to balance usability, flexibility, and control. Design work within Gateway API is deliberately cast in terms of these personas.

Note that, depending on the environment, a single human may end up taking on multiple roles, as discussed below.

Key Roles and Personas

Gateway API defines three roles and personas:

  • Ian (he/him) is an infrastructure provider, responsible for the care and feeding of a set of infrastructure that permits multiple isolated clusters to serve multiple tenants. He is not beholden to any single tenant; rather, he worries about all of them collectively. Ian will often work for a cloud provider (AWS, Azure, GCP, ...) or for a PaaS provider.

  • Chihiro (they/them) is a cluster operator, responsible for managing clusters to ensure that they meet the needs of their several users. Chihiro will typically be concerned with policies, network access, application permissions, etc. Again, they are beholden to no single user of any cluster; rather, they need to make sure that the clusters serve all users as needed.

  • Ana (she/her) is an application developer, responsible for creating and managing an application running in a cluster. From Gateway API's point of view, Ana will need to manage configuration (e.g. timeouts, request matching/filter) and Service composition (e.g. path routing to backends). She is in a unique position among Gateway API personas, since her focus is on the business needs her application is meant to serve, not Kubernetes or Gateway API. In fact, Ana is likely to view Gateway API and Kubernetes as pure friction getting in her way to get things done.

Depending on the environment, multiple roles can map to the same user:

  • Giving a single user all the above roles replicates the self-service model, and may actually happen in a small startup running Kubernetes on bare metal.

  • A more typical small startup would use clusters from a cloud provider. In this situation, Ana and Chihiro may be embodied in the same person, with Ian being an employee (or automated process!) within the cloud provider.

  • In a much larger organization, we would expect each persona above to be embodied by a distinct person (most likely working in different groups, perhaps with little direct contact).


RBAC (role-based access control) is the standard used for Kubernetes authorization. This allows users to configure who can perform actions on resources in specific scopes. We anticipate that each persona will map approximately to a Role in the Kubernetes Role-Based Authentication (RBAC) system and will define resource model responsibility and separation.

RBAC is discussed further in the Security Model description.