Watching Components Design

Envoy Gateway is made up of several components that communicate in-process. Some of them (namely Providers) watch external resources, and “publish” what they see for other components to consume; others watch what another publishes and act on it (such as the resource translator watches what the providers publish, and then publishes its own results that are watched by another component). Some of these internally published results are consumed by multiple components.

To facilitate this communication use the watchable library. The watchable.Map type is very similar to the standard library’s sync.Map type, but supports a .Subscribe (and .SubscribeSubset) method that promotes a pub/sub pattern.


Many of the things we communicate around are naturally named, either by a bare “name” string or by a “name”/“namespace” tuple. And because watchable.Map is typed, it makes sense to have one map for each type of thing (very similar to if we were using native Go maps). For example, a struct that might be written to by the Kubernetes provider, and read by the IR translator:

type ResourceTable struct {
    // gateway classes are cluster-scoped; no namespace
    GatewayClasses watchable.Map[string, *gwapiv1b1.GatewayClass]

    // gateways are namespace-scoped, so use a as the map key.
    Gateways watchable.Map[types.NamespacedName, *gwapiv1b1.Gateway]

    HTTPRoutes watchable.Map[types.NamespacedName, *gwapiv1b1.HTTPRoute]

The Kubernetes provider updates the table by calling table.Thing.Store(name, val) and table.Thing.Delete(name); updating a map key with a value that is deep-equal (usually reflect.DeepEqual, but you can implement your own .Equal method) the current value is a no-op; it won’t trigger an event for subscribers. This is handy so that the publisher doesn’t have as much state to keep track of; it doesn’t need to know “did I already publish this thing”, it can just .Store its data and watchable will do the right thing.


Meanwhile, the translator and other interested components subscribe to it with table.Thing.Subscribe (or table.Thing.SubscribeSubset if they only care about a few “Thing"s). So the translator goroutine might look like:

func(ctx context.Context) error {
    for snapshot := range k8sTable.HTTPRoutes.Subscribe(ctx) {
        fullState := irInput{
           GatewayClasses: k8sTable.GatewayClasses.LoadAll(),
           Gateways:       k8sTable.Gateways.LoadAll(),
           HTTPRoutes:     snapshot.State,

Or, to watch multiple maps in the same loop:

func worker(ctx context.Context) error {
    classCh := k8sTable.GatewayClasses.Subscribe(ctx)
    gwCh := k8sTable.Gateways.Subscribe(ctx)
    routeCh := k8sTable.HTTPRoutes.Subscribe(ctx)
    for ctx.Err() == nil {
        var arg irInput
        select {
        case snapshot := <-classCh:
            arg.GatewayClasses = snapshot.State
        case snapshot := <-gwCh:
            arg.Gateways = snapshot.State
        case snapshot := <-routeCh:
            arg.Routes = snapshot.State
        if arg.GateWayClasses == nil {
            arg.GatewayClasses = k8sTable.GateWayClasses.LoadAll()
        if arg.GateWays == nil {
            arg.Gateways = k8sTable.GateWays.LoadAll()
        if arg.HTTPRoutes == nil {
            arg.HTTPRoutes = k8sTable.HTTPRoutes.LoadAll()

From the updates it gets from .Subscribe, it can get a full view of the map being subscribed to via snapshot.State; but it must read the other maps explicitly. Like sync.Map, watchable.Maps are thread-safe; while .Subscribe is a handy way to know when to run, .Load and friends can be used without subscribing.

There can be any number of subscribers. For that matter, there can be any number of publishers .Storeing things, but it’s probably wise to just have one publisher for each map.

The channel returned from .Subscribe is immediately readable with a snapshot of the map as it existed when .Subscribe was called; and becomes readable again whenever .Store or .Delete mutates the map. If multiple mutations happen between reads (or if mutations happen between .Subscribe and the first read), they are coalesced in to one snapshot to be read; the snapshot.State is the most-recent full state, and snapshot.Updates is a listing of each of the mutations that cause this snapshot to be different than the last-read one. This way subscribers don’t need to worry about a backlog accumulating if they can’t keep up with the rate of changes from the publisher.

If the map contains anything before .Subscribe is called, that very first read won’t include snapshot.Updates entries for those pre-existing items; if you are working with snapshot.Update instead of snapshot.State, then you must add special handling for your first read. We have a utility function ./internal/message.HandleSubscription to help with this.

Other Notes

The common pattern will likely be that the entrypoint that launches the goroutines for each component instantiates the map, and passes them to the appropriate publishers and subscribers; same as if they were communicating via a dumb chan.

A limitation of watchable.Map is that in order to ensure safety between goroutines, it does require that value types be deep-copiable; either by having a DeepCopy method, being a proto.Message, or by containing no reference types and so can be deep-copied by naive assignment. Fortunately, we’re using controller-gen anyway, and controller-gen can generate DeepCopy methods for us: just stick a // +k8s:deepcopy-gen=true on the types that you want it to generate methods for.