# Skipper


# Overview

Skipper is an HTTP router and reverse proxy software written in Golang. It has two goals:

  • To handle a large amount of concurrent HTTP routes.
  • To provide decent ways of HTTP routes configurations.

# Use

  • It can route requests to different destinations based on the request metadata, such as HTTP method, path, query parameters, headers, etc.
  • It can modify requests and responses.
  • It can stream requests and responses.
  • It can hot-reload routing rules.
  • It can serve as a static file server.
  • It can serve as Kubernetes Ingress controller.

# Concepts

# HTTP Proxy

An HTTP proxy is a middleman in-between HTTP client and HTTP server.

With the HTTP proxy software running,

  1. The client sends a request to the proxy first.
  2. Then, the proxy forwards the request to the server.
  3. Afterward, the server sends the response to the proxy.
  4. Finally, the proxy receives the response and forwards back to the client.
sequenceDiagram Client->>Proxy: 1. send request activate Proxy Proxy->>Server: 2. forward request activate Server Server->>Proxy: 3. send response deactivate Server Proxy->>Client: 4. forward response deactivate Proxy

# Route

In networking, a route is a path for traffic in a network, or between or across multiple networks. In Skipper, the route is an entry in a table, which defines where should the request be proxied to.

A route consists of below information.

  • One or more predicates, which are for finding a path for the request.
  • One or more filters, which are for modifying the request and the response.
  • The target, which can be a backend HTTP server, or solely handled by Skipper.

Below is the simplified Go code.

type Route struct {
    // The preprocessed custom predicate instances.
    Predicates []Predicate
    // The preprocessed filter instances.
    Filters []*RouteFilter
    // The backend scheme and host.
    Scheme, Host, Path string

# Routing Table

The routing table stores all routes. It's a list in the memory.

# Predicates

Predicates are tools in a route for matching a request.

For example, below route has three predicates matching designated host, method, and path.

    && Method("GET")
    && Path("/concrete-architecture/skipper.html")
    -> "";

Except host, method, and path, predicates can also match headers, cookies, time frames, query parameters, source IP addresses, etc.

# Filters

Filters are tools in a route for modifying the request and the response.

For example, sometimes we want to add a header to the HTTP request.

graph LR A["-X GET https://enqueuezero.com"] B("-X GET https://enqueuezero.com -H'X-Routed-By: skipper'") A-->B

Below route has a filter adding a header to the request before proxying to the backend HTTP.

foo: * -> setRequestHeader("X-Routed-By", "skipper") -> "https://enqueuezero.com";

Except adding header to the request, there are dozens of built-in functions for different features, such as dropping headers, modifying path, redirection, setting static directory, etc.

# Scripts

Skipper has a built-in LUA engine for running scripts as filters.

For example, below script set a header to the request.

function request(ctx, params)
    ctx.request.header["X-Routed-By"] = "skipper"

You can either load a file in the file system or use inline Lua code in the routes.

foo: * -> lua("/path/to/script.lua") -> "https://enqueuezero.com";
bar: * -> lua("function request(c, p); print(c.request.url); end");

# Plugins

Plugins are dynamically linked libraries in the plugin directories, for example, $cwd/plugins/plugin.so. Any file with the suffix .so found in the plugin directories will be loaded.

sequenceDiagram src ->> .so: $ go build -o plugin.so .so ->> ./plugins : $ mv plugin.so ./plugins ./plugins ->> runtime: `$ skipper` finds and loads .so

The implementations of plugins are not in the core codebase of skipper. To get a .so file, as a plugin developer, you need to use go build like below.

$ GO111MODULE=on go build -buildmode=plugin -o example.so example.go
$ mv example.so /path/to/skipper/plugins/example.so
$ skipper
[APP]INFO[0000] found plugin example at plugins/example.so
[APP]INFO[0000] loaded plugin example from plugins/example.so

# Data Clients

Data clients pull routes from various sources, such as static files, dynamic Kubernetes ingress objects, etc.

graph TB dataclient --> route-files; dataclient --> route-strings; dataclient --> kubernetes-ingress; dataclient --> etcd; dataclient --> inkeeper;

# Layered Architecture

Skipper's internal package are organized in layers. It has three layers: proxy, skipper, and dataclient. The upstream layer reads data from the downstream layers.

graph TB proxy --> skipper; skipper --> dataclient;
  • The proxy layer handles requests based on the routes populated by downstream layer skipper.
  • The skipper layer pulls routes from different sources in dataclient layer.
  • The dataclient layer read routes from either static files or network remote calls.

# Route Processing

For each incoming request, skipper routes them following below rules.

  • proxy create a request context.
  • proxy looks up from the routing table by matching predicates.
  • proxy found the route.
  • proxy checks rate limit and circuit breaker.
  • proxy applies all filters to the request.
  • proxy forwards the request to a backend, <shunt>, or <loopback>.
  • proxy retries if the forwarding encounters a network error.
  • proxy waits from backend processing.
  • proxy received backend response.
  • proxy applies all filters to the response.
  • proxy forwards the response back to the client.

# Conclusions

Skipper is an HTTP router and reverse proxy for service composition. The internal modules are well-decoupled and extendable. It makes adding new data sources and new routing strategies without losing performance.