Use topology labels to reduce cross-AZ ingress traffic with F5 CIS and EKS

This solution outlines how to use topology labels and multiple Container Ingress Services (CIS) instances to reduce cross-AZ traffic on AWS EKS cluster ingress.

Requirements and background

Recently I had a customer with the following environment:

  • The need to load-balance traffic from Internet-based clients into EKS
  • The need for mTLS termination and other functionality that required BIG-IP
  • AWS EKS cluster deployed in 3x Availability Zones (AZ’s)

Simple enough, right? But there’s some other problems that add an interesting twist to the requirements:

  • Reduce or eliminate cross-AZ traffic between any external load balancer and EKS (due to cost of cross-AZ traffic at the planned high throughput)
  • Do not use NLB if possible (NLB throughput cost alone is significant)
  • While mTLS/other functionality could be performed inside the cluster (eg NGINX Ingress Controller), we want these functions performed external to the cluster, for other reasons.

Let’s solve this!

F5 CIS with a typical default installation

Typically, a customer will use F5 CIS to dynamically update the configuration of an HA pair of BIG-IP’s, sending traffic directly to pods running inside Kubernetes (K8s).

This typical HA-pair deployment would be easy, but it would not meet all requirements.

Cross-AZ traffic with a typical CIS deployment

The above diagram is a valid deployment, but cross-AZ traffic is very likely. The BIG-IP’s are unaware of K8s topology, and will load-balance equally across AZ’s.

  • Since only 1x BIG-IP is active in the pair, ingressing to pods in 2 out of 3 AZ’s requires cross-AZ traffic
  • Ingress to pods in AZ 3 will always generate cross-AZ traffic, regardless of which BIG-IP is active

Multiple active BIG-IP’s and node-label selector with CIS

CIS can use the node-label-selector argument to limit load-balancing to select nodes. We will use this to keep ingress traffic local to an AZ.

To deploy an architecture like the following diagram:

  • Find or create your topology labels. In my example using EKS, I see my nodes have labels such as
    • You can also create your own labels on nodes for this purpose
  • Deploy 3x standalone BIG-IP’s
  • Deploy 3x CIS instances
    • Use the node-label-selector argument so that each CIS instance only watches for pods on select nodes

Notice that this design uses 3x standalone BIG-IPs and limits ingress traffic within an AZ.

Here is an example of a CIS deployment with a node-label-selector (line 32):

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: f5cis1
  namespace: kube-system
  replicas: 1
      app: k8s-bigip-ctlr-deployment
        app: k8s-bigip-ctlr-deployment
        - name: k8s-bigip-ctlr
          image: "f5networks/k8s-bigip-ctlr:2.16.1"
            - name: BIGIP_USERNAME
                  name: bigip-login
                  key: username
            - name: BIGIP_PASSWORD
                  name: bigip-login
                  key: password
          command: ["/app/bin/k8s-bigip-ctlr"]
          args: [
      serviceAccount: bigip-ctlr
      serviceAccountName: bigip-ctlr
        - name: bigip-login


Other pointers in this solution
  • NLB’s are not required. To avoid NLB throughput costs, use DNS Load Balancing (GSLB) to spread traffic evenly across your Internet-facing BIG-IP’s. Other methods to disaggregate traffic exist also but are not the focus of this solution.
  • K8s labels can be arbitrary. I have used existing topology labels in this case, but you could use your own node labels for the same outcome. 

NodePort vs Cluster mode

It is worth noting that the diagrams above have assumed the CIS deployment is in ClusterIP mode, and not NodePort mode. If you were sending traffic to K8s nodes and relying on kube-proxy to distribute traffic evenly across pods, you would almost certainly generate cross-AZ traffic between nodes.

When using NodePort mode, you may still generate cross-AZ traffic!

Further reading about topology and routing in K8s

Topology Aware Routing is a K8s concept that uses labels and annotations to allow an administrator to define preferences for keeping traffic within regions or zones where possible. This solution does not take full advantage of this concept, but merely uses these labels to limit which pods CIS will configure on BIG-IP. Today, CIS and BIG-IP are not fully aware of the Kubernetes topology in which they operate.

It is worth noting the AWS EKS Best Practices Guide, specifically as it discusses AWS Load balancers. When you use AWS ALB or NLB, you can choose between instance mode (somewhat similar to the NodePort example above) and ip mode (similar to the ClusterIP example above). If you’re planning to do something similar to what I’ve done above using AWS native load balancers, make sure you understand the difference and configure accordingly.

Finally, the above solution does not apply only to AWS EKS. The concept of regions and zones exists in most clouds, and the concept of topologies in Kubernetes were created to account for these. However, it’s the cross-AZ traffic charges in AWS that make this solution pressing for users of AWS EKS.


Consider if your external load balancer is causing cross-AZ traffic charges for ingress traffic. At very high throughput levels, the cost of cross-AZ traffic can become significant. If using F5 CIS to populate pods as pool members in BIG-IP, consider using the node-label-selector argument and multiple active BIG-IP’s to keep ingress traffic to pods within a single Availability Zone.

Thanks for reading!

Published May 20, 2024
Version 1.0

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