Cilium is a networking, observability, and security solution with an eBPF-based dataplane. It provides a simple flat Layer 3 network with the ability to span multiple clusters in either a native routing or overlay mode. It is L7-protocol aware and can enforce network policies on L3-L7 using an identity based security model that is decoupled from network addressing.
Cilium implements distributed load balancing for traffic between application containers and to external services and is able to fully replace components such as kube-proxy. The load balancing is implemented in eBPF using efficient hashtables allowing for almost unlimited scale.
For north-south type load balancing, Cilium’s eBPF implementation is optimized for maximum performance, can be attached to XDP (eXpress Data Path), and supports direct server return (DSR) as well as Maglev consistent hashing if the load balancing operation is not performed on the source host.
For east-west type load balancing, Cilium performs efficient service-to-backend translation right in the Linux kernel’s socket layer (e.g. at TCP connect time) such that per-packet NAT operations overhead can be avoided in lower layers.
A new Linux kernel technology called eBPF is at the foundation of Cilium. It supports dynamic insertion of eBPF bytecode into the Linux kernel at various integration points such as: network IO, application sockets, and tracepoints to implement security, networking and visibility logic. eBPF is highly efficient and flexible. To learn more about eBPF, visit eBPF.io.
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