This design document introduces the Backend API allowing system administrators to represent backends without the use of a K8s Service resource.

Common use cases for non-Service backends in the K8s and Envoy ecosystem include:

Several projects currently support backends that are not registered in the infrastructure-specific service registry.


  • Add an API definition to hold settings for configuring Unix Domain Socket, FQDN and IP.
  • Determine which resources may reference the new backend resource.
  • Determine which existing Gateway-API and Envoy Gateway policies may attach to the new backend resource.

Non Goals

  • Support specific backend types, such as S3 Bucket, Redis, AMQP, InfluxDB, etc.


The Backend resource is an implementation-specific Gateway-API BackendObjectReference Extension.


Here is an example highlighting how a user can configure a route that forwards traffic to both a K8s Service and a Backend that has both unix domain socket and ipv4 endpoints. A BackendTLSPolicy is attached to the backend resource, enabling TLS.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: backend
    - name: http
      port: 3000
      targetPort: 3000
    app: backend
kind: Backend
  name: backend-mixed-ip-uds
    - unix:
        path: /var/run/backend.sock   
    - ipv4:
        port: 3000
kind: HTTPRoute
  name: backend
    - name: eg
    - ""
    - backendRefs:
        - group:
          kind: Backend
          name: backend-mixed-ip-uds
          weight: 1
        - group: ""
          kind: Service
          name: backend
          port: 3000
          weight: 1          
        - path:
            type: PathPrefix
            value: /
kind: BackendTLSPolicy
  name: policy-btls
    kind: Backend
    name: backend-mixed-ip-uds
      - name: backend-tls-checks-certificate
        group: ''
        kind: ConfigMap

Design Decisions

  • All instances of BackendObjectReference in Envoy Gateway MAY support referencing the Backend kind.
  • For security reasons, Envoy Gateway MUST reject references to a Backend in xRoute resources. For example, UDS and localhost references will not be supported for xRoutes.
  • All attributes of the Envoy Gateway extended BackendRef resource MUST be implemented for the Backend resource.
  • A Backend resource referenced by BackendObjectReference will be translated to Envoy Gateway’s IR DestinationSetting. As such, all BackendAdresses are treated as equivalent endpoints with identical weights, TLS settings, etc.
  • Gateway-API and Envoy Gateway policies that attach to Services (BackendTLSPolicy, BackendLBPolicy) MUST support attachment to the Backend resource in Envoy Gateway.
  • Policy attachment to a named section of the Backend resource is not supported at this time. Currently, BackendObjectReference can only select ports, and not generic section names. Hence, a named section of Backend cannot be referenced by routes, and so attachment of policies to named sections will create translation ambiguity. Users that wish to attach policies to some of the BackendAddresses in a Backend resource can use multiple Backend resources and pluralized BackendRefs instead.
  • The Backend API SHOULD support other Gateway-API backend features, such as Backend Protocol Selection. Translation of explicit upstream application protocol setting SHOULD be consistent with the existing implementation for Service resources.
  • The Backend upstream transport protocol (TCP, UDP) is inferred from the xRoute kind: TCP is inferred for all routes except for UDPRoute which is resolved to UDP.
  • This API resource MUST be part of same namespace as the targetRef resource. The Backend API MUST be subject to the same cross-namespace reference restriction as referenced Service resources.
  • The Backend resource translation MUST NOT modify Infrastructure. Any change to infrastructure that is required to achieve connectivity to a backend (mounting a socket, adding a sidecar container, modifying a network policy, …) MUST be implemented with an appropriate infrastructure patch in the EnvoyProxy API.
  • To limit the overall maintenance effort related to supporting of non-Service backends, the Backend API SHOULD support multiple generic address types (UDS, FQDN, IPv4, IPv6), and MUST NOT support vendor-specific backend types.
  • Both Backend and Service resources may appear in the same BackendRefs list.
  • The Optional Port field SHOULD NOT be evaluated when referencing a Backend.
  • Referenced Backend resources MUST be translated to envoy endpoints, similar to the current Service translation.
  • Certain combinations of Backend and Service are incompatible. For example, a Unix Domain Socket and a FQDN service require different cluster service discovery types (Static/EDS and Strict-DNS accordingly).
  • If a Backend that is referenced by a route cannot be translated, the Route resource will have an Accepted=False condition with a UnsupportedValue reason.
  • This API needs to be explicitly enabled using the EnvoyGateway API


  • The project can indefinitely wait for these configuration parameters to be part of the Gateway API.
  • Users can leverage the existing Envoy Patch Policy or Envoy Extension Manager to inject custom envoy clusters and route configuration. However, these features require a high level of envoy expertise, investment and maintenance.

Last modified May 25, 2024: fix api wording (#3467) (5bc5e0f)