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Configuring Dynamic Request Routing


To use this guide, you’ll need to have Linkerd installed on your cluster. Follow the Installing Linkerd Guide if you haven’t already done this (make sure you have at least linkerd stable-2.13.0 or edge-23.3.2).

You also need to have the Helm CLI installed.

HTTPRoute for Dynamic Request Routing

With dynamic request routing, you can route HTTP traffic based on the contents of request headers. This can be useful for performing things like A/B testing and many other strategies for traffic management.

In this tutorial, we’ll make use of the podinfo project to showcase dynamic request routing, by deploying in the cluster two backend and one frontend podinfo pods. Traffic will flow to just one backend, and then we’ll switch traffic to the other one just by adding a header to the frontend requests.


First we create the test namespace, annotated by linkerd so all pods that get created there get injected with the linkerd proxy:

kubectl create ns test --dry-run -o yaml \
  | linkerd inject - \
  | kubectl apply -f -

Then we add podinfo’s Helm repo, and install two instances of it. The first one will respond with the message “A backend”, the second one with “B backend”.

helm repo add podinfo https://stefanprodan.github.io/podinfo
helm install backend-a -n test \
  --set ui.message='A backend' podinfo/podinfo
helm install backend-b -n test \
  --set ui.message='B backend' podinfo/podinfo

We add another podinfo instance which will forward requests only to the first backend instance backend-a:

helm install frontend -n test \
  --set backend=http://backend-a-podinfo:9898/env podinfo/podinfo

Once those three pods are up and running, we can port-forward requests from our local machine to the frontend:

kubectl -n test port-forward svc/frontend-podinfo 9898 &

Sending Requests

Requests to /echo on port 9898 to the frontend pod will get forwarded the pod pointed by the Service backend-a-podinfo:

$ curl -sX POST localhost:9898/echo \
  | grep -o 'PODINFO_UI_MESSAGE=. backend'


Introducing HTTPRoute

Let’s apply the following HTTPRoute resource to enable header-based routing:

cat <<EOF | kubectl -n test apply -f -
apiVersion: policy.linkerd.io/v1beta2
kind: HTTPRoute
  name: backend-router
  namespace: test
    - name: backend-a-podinfo
      kind: Service
      group: core
      port: 9898
    - matches:
      - headers:
        - name: "x-request-id"
          value: "alternative"
        - name: "backend-b-podinfo"
          port: 9898
    - backendRefs:
      - name: "backend-a-podinfo"
        port: 9898

In parentRefs we specify the resources we want this HTTPRoute instance to act on. So here we point to the backend-a-podinfo Service on the HTTPRoute’s namespace (test), and also specify the Service port number (not the Service’s target port).

Next, we give a list of rules that will act on the traffic hitting that Service.

The first rule contains two entries: matches and backendRefs.

In matches we list the conditions that this particular rule has to match. One matches suffices to trigger the rule (conditions are OR’ed). Inside, we use headers to specify a match for a particular header key and value. If multiple headers are specified, they all need to match (matchers are AND’ed). Note we can also specify a regex match on the value by adding a type: RegularExpression field. By not specifying the type like we did here, we’re performing a match of type Exact.

In backendRefs we specify the final destination for requests matching the current rule, via the Service’s name and port.

Here we’re specifying we’d like to route to backend-b-podinfo all the requests having the x-request-id: alterrnative header. If the header is not present, the engine fall backs to the last rule which has no matches entries and points to the backend-a-podinfo Service.

The previous requests should still reach backend-a-podinfo only:

$ curl -sX POST localhost:9898/echo \
  | grep -o 'PODINFO_UI_MESSAGE=. backend'


But if we add the “x-request-id: alternative” header they get routed to backend-b-podinfo:

$ curl -sX POST \
  -H 'x-request-id: alternative' \
  localhost:9898/echo \
  | grep -o 'PODINFO_UI_MESSAGE=. backend'


To Keep in Mind

Note that you can use any header you like, but for this to work the frontend has to forward it. “x-request-id” is a common header used in microservices, that is explicitly forwarded by podinfo, and that’s why we chose it.

Also, keep in mind the linkerd proxy handles this on the client side of the request (the frontend pod in this case) and so that pod needs to be injected, whereas the destination pods don’t require to be injected. But of course the more workloads you have injected the better, to benefit from things like easy mTLS setup and all the other advantages that linkerd brings to the table!