GitOps: Declarative Infrastructure and Application Delivery with NGINX App Protect

First thing first. What is GitOps?

In a nutshell, GitOps is a practice (Git Operation) that allows you to use GIT and code repository as your configuration source of truth (Declarative Infrastructure as Code and Application Delivery as Code) couple with various supporting tools. The state of your git repository syncs with your infrastructure and application states. As operation team runs daily operations (CRUD - "Create, Read, Update and Delete") leveraging the goodness and philosophy of DevOps, they no longer required to store configuration manifest onto various configuration systems. THe Git repo will be the source of truth. Typically, the target systems or infrastructures runs on Kubernetes base platform. For further details and better explanation of GitOps, please refer to below or Google search.


Why practice GitOps?

I have been managing my lab environment for many years. I use my lab for research of technologies, customer demos/Proof-of-Concepts, applications testing, and code development. Due to the nature of constant changes to my environment (agile and dynamic nature), especially with my multiple versions of Kubernetes platform, I have been spending too much time updating, changing, building, deploying and testing various cloud native apps. Commands like docker build, kubectl, istioctl and git have been constantly and repetitively used to operate environments. Hence, I practice GitOps for my Kubernetes infrastructure. Of course, task/operation can be automated and orchestrated with tools such as Ansible, Terraform, Chef and Puppet. You may not necessarily need GitOps to achieve similar outcome. I managed with GitOps practice partly to learn the new "language" and to experience first-hand the full benefit of GitOps. Here are some of my learnings and operations experience that I have been using to manage F5's NGINX App Protect and many demo apps protected by it, which may benefit you and give you some insight on how you can run your own GitOps. You may leverage your own GitOps workflow from here. For details and description on F5's NGINX App Protect, please refer to


Key architecture decision of my GitOps Workflow.

  1. Modular architecture - allows me to swap in/out technologies without rework. "Lego block"
  2. Must reduce my operational works - saves time, no repetitive task, write once and deploy many.
  3. Centralize all my configuration manifest - single source of truth. Currently, my configuration exists everywhere - jump hosts, local laptop, cloud storage and etc. I had lost track of which configuration was the latest.
  4. Must be simple, modern, easy to understand and as native as possible.


Use Case and desirable outcome

  • Build and keep up to date NGINX Plus Ingress Controller with NGINX App Protect in my Kubernetes environment.
  • Build and keep up to date NGINX App Protect's attack signature and Threat Champaign signature.
  • Zero downtime/impact to apps protected by NGINX App Protect with frequent releases, update and patch cycle for NGINX App Protect.


My Problem Statement

I need to ensure that my infrastructure (Kubernetes Ingress controller) and web application firewall (NGINX App Protect) is kept up to date with ease. For example, when there are new NGINX-ingress and NGINX App Protect updates (e.g., new version, attack signature and threat campaign signature), I would like to seamlessly push changes out to NGINX-ingress and NGINX App Protect (as it protects my backend apps) without impacting applications protected by NGINX App Protect.


GitOps Workflow

Start small, start with clear workflow. Below is a depiction of the overall GitOps workflow.

NGINX App Protect is the target application. Hence, before description of the full GitOps Workflow, let us understand deployment options for NGINX App Protect.

NGINX App Protect Deployment model

There are four deployment models for NGINX App Protect. A common deployment models are:

  1. Edge - external load balancer and proxies (Global enforcement)
  2. Dynamic module inside Ingress Controller (per service/URI/ingress resource enforcement)
  3. Per-Service Proxy model - Kubernetes service tier (per service enforcement)
  4. Per-pod Proxy model - proxy embedded in pod (per endpoint enforcement)

Pipeline demonstrated in this article will work with either NGINX App Protect deployed as Ingress Controller (2) or per-service proxy model (3). For the purposes of this article, NGINX App Protect is deployed at the Ingress controller at the entry point to Kubernetes (Kubernetes Edge Proxy).


For those who prefer video,

Video Demonstration

Part 1 /3 – GitOps with NGINX Plus Ingress and NGINX App Protect - Overview

Part 2 /3 – GitOps with NGINX Plus Ingress and NGINX App Protect – Demo in Action

Part 3/3 - GitOps with NGINX Plus Ingress and NGINX App Protect - WAF Security Policy Management.


Description of GitOps workflow

  1. Operation (myself) updates nginx-ingress + NAP image repo (e.g. .gitlab-ci.yml in nginx-plus-ingress) via VSCODE and perform code merge and commit changes to repo stored in Gitlab.
  2. Gitlab CI/CD pipeline triggered. Build, test and deploy job started.
  3. Git clone kubernetes-ingress repo from Checkout latest kubernetes-ingress version and build new image with DockerfilewithAppProtectForPlus dockerfile. [ Ensure you have appropriate nginx app protect license in place ]
  4. As part of the build process, it triggers trivy container security scanning for vulnerabilities (Open Source version of AquaSec). Upon completion of static binary scanning, pipeline upload scanned report back to repo for continuous security improvement.
  5. Pipeline pushes image to private repository. Private image repo has been configured to perform nightly container security scan (Clair Scanner). Leverage multiple scanning tools - check and balance.
  6. Pipeline clone nginx-ingress deployment repo (my-kubernetes-apps) and update nginx-ingress deployment manifest with the latest build image tag (refer excerpt of the manifest below).
  7. Gitlab triggers a webhook to ArgoCD to refresh/sync the desire application state on ArgoCD with deployment state in Kubernetes. By default, ArgoCD will sync with Kubernetes every 3 mins. Webhook will trigger instance sync.
  8. ArgoCD (deployed on independent K3S cluster) fetches new code from the repo and detects code changes.
  9. ArgoCD automates the deployment of the desired application states in the specified target environment. It tracks updates to git branches, tags or pinned to a specific version of manifest at a git commit.
  10. Kubernetes triggers an image pull from private repo, performs a rolling updates, and ensures zero interruption to existing traffic. New pods (nginx-ingress) will spin up and traffic will move to new pods before terminating the old pod.
  11. Depending on environment and organisation maturity, a successful build, test and deployment onto DEV environment can be pushed to production environment.


  • DAST Scanning (ZAP Scanner) is not shown in this demo. Currently, running offline non-automated scanning.
  • ArgoCD and Gitlab are integrated with Slack notifications. Events are reported into Slack channel via webhook.
  • NGINX App Protect events are send to ELK stack for visibility and analytics.


Snippet on where Gitlab CI update nginx-plus-ingress deployment manifest (Flow#6).

Each new image build will be tagged with <branch>-hash-<version>

    - name: regcred
  serviceAccountName: nginx-ingress
    - image:
      imagePullPolicy: IfNotPresent
      name: nginx-plus-ingress


Gitlab CI/CD Pipeline

Successful run of CI/CD pipeline to build, test, scan and push container image to private repository and execute code commit onto nginx-plus-ingress repo.



Trivy scanning report will be uploaded or committed back to the same repo. To prevent Gitlab CI triggering another build process ("pipeline loop"), the code commit is tagged with [skip ci].


ArgoCD continuous deployment

ArgoCD constantly (default every 3 mins) syncs desired application state with my Kubernetes cluster. Its ensures configuration manifest stored in Git repository is always synchronised with the target environment.


Mytrain-dev apps are protected by nginx-ingress + NGINX App Protect. Specific (per service/URI enforcement). NGINX App Protect policy is applied onto this service.


nginx-ingress + NGINX App Protect is deployed as an Ingress Controller in Kubernetes. pod-template-hash=xxxx is labeled and tracked by ArgoCD.

$ kubectl -n nginx-ingress get pod --show-labels
NAME                             READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE   LABELS
nginx-ingress-776b64dc89-pdtv7   1/1     Running   0          8h    app=nginx-ingress,pod-template-hash=776b64dc89
nginx-ingress-776b64dc89-rwk8w   1/1     Running   0          8h    app=nginx-ingress,pod-template-hash=776b64dc89


Please refer to the attached video links above for full demo in actions.



Tools involved

  1. NGINX Plus Ingress Controller -
  2. NGINX App Protect -
  3. Gitlab -
  4. Trivy Scanner -
  5. ArgoCD -
  6. Harbor Private Repository -
  7. Clair Scanner -
  8. Slack -
  9. DAST Scanner -
  10. Elasticsearch, Logstash and Kibana (ELK) -,
  11. K3S -


Source repo used for this demonstration

Repo for building nginx-ingress + NGINX App Protect image repo


Repo use for deployment manifest of nginx-ingress controller with the NGINX App Protect policy.



GitOps perhaps is a new buzzword. It may or may not make sense in your environment. It definitely makes sense for me. It integrated well with NGINX App Protect and allows me to constantly update and push new code changes into my environment with ease. A few months down the road, when I need to update nginx-ingress and NGINX App Protect, I just need to trigger a CI job, and then everything works like magic. Your mileage may vary. Experience leads me to think along the line of - start small, start simple by "GitOps-ing" on one of your apps that may require frequency changes. Learn, revise and continuously improve from there. The outcome that GitOps provides will ease your operational burden with "do more with less". Ease of integration of nginx-ingress and NGINX App Protect into your declarative infrastructure and application delivery with GitOps and F5's industry leading Web Application firewall protection will definitely alleviate your organisation's risk exposure to external and internal applications threat.

Published Jan 27, 2021
Version 1.0

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  • I think this GitOps workflow demo is very nice.

    I'm trying to practice GitOps. But it's hard to create an environment.

    I would like to know how you created this demo environment.

  • Hi Shingo,

    Key comments in this demo are ArgoCD, gitlab repository and Kubernetes. I use kubespray to spin up k8s/k3s. Install gitlab in a separate VM and ArgoCD on k3s. K3S can run on same VM as the gitlab. I been running my env quite a while. Probably you can start of with a k8s/k3s with manual deploy simple apps. Then have a gitlab or free public github as your repository. Then only add argocd later on.