Running IT: Docker and Cilium for Enterprise Network Security for Micro-Services

Well I think 40 min is about as long as I can last watching a IT related video while running after that I need music! This time I watched another video from DockerCon, Cilium – Kernel Native Security & DDOS Mitigation for Microservices with BPF

Skip to 7:23: The quick overview of the presentation is that managing IP Tables to lock down micro-services isn’t going to scale and will be almost impossible to manage. Cilium is open source software for providing and transparently securing network connectivity and load balancing between application workloads such as application containers or processes. Cilium operates at Layer 3/4 to provide traditional networking and security services as well as Layer 7 to protect and secure use of modern application protocols such as HTTP, gRPC and Kafka. BPF is used a lot of the big web-scale properties like Facebook and Netflix to secure their environment and to provide troubleshooting. Like anything with a lot of options there is a lot of ways to shoot yourself in the foot so Cilium provides the wrapper to get it easily deployed and configured.

The presentation uses that example of locking down a Kafka cluster via layer 7 instead of having the whole API left wind open which would happen if your were only using IP tables. Kafka is used for building real-time pipelines and streaming apps. Kafka is horizontally scalable and fault-tolerant so it’s a good choice to run it in docker. Kakfa is used by 1/3 of Fortune 500 companies.

Cilium Architecture

Cilium Integrates with:


Cilium runs as a agent on every host.
Cilium can provide policy for Host to Docker micro-service and even between two containers on the same host.

The demo didn’t pan out but the 2nd half of the presentation talks about Cilium using BPF with XDP. XDP is a further step in evolution and enables to run a specific flavor of BPF programs from the network driver with direct access to the packet’s DMA buffer. This is, by definition, the earliest possible point in the software stack, where programs can be attached to in order to allow for a programmable, high performance packet processor in the Linux kernel networking data path.

Since XDP can happen earlier on at the nic versus iptables with ipset, CPU can be saved, rules load faster and latency under load is a lot better with XDP.

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