Routes determine how (and if) requests are sent to their services after they reach Kong Gateway. Where a service represents the backend API, a route defines what is exposed to clients.
A single service can have many routes. Once a route is matched, Kong Gateway proxies the request to its associated service.
Route and service interaction
Routes, in conjunction with services, let you expose your services to applications with Kong Gateway. Kong Gateway abstracts the service from the applications by using routes. Since the application always uses the route to make a request, changes to the services, like versioning, don’t impact how applications make the request. Routes also allow the same service to be used by multiple applications and apply different policies based on the route used.
For example, if you have an external application and an internal application that need to access the
example_service service, but the external application should be limited in how often it can query the service to assure no denial of service. If a rate limit policy is configured for the service when the internal application calls the service, the internal application is limited as well. Routes can solve this problem.
In the example above, two routes can be created, say
/internal, and both routes can point to
example_service. A policy can be configured to limit how often the
/external route is used and the route can be communicated to the external client for use. When the external client tries to access the service via Kong Gateway using
/external, they are rate limited. But when the internal client accesses the service using Kong Gateway using
/internal, the internal client will not be limited.
How requests are routed
For each incoming request, Kong Gateway must determine which
service gets to handle it based on the routes that are defined. With
release 3.0, Kong Gateway introduced a new router that can be
running in two modes, the
traditional_compat mode, which is
configured like prior releases, and the
expressions mode which uses
a new configuration scheme.
The default mode of the router is
traditional_compat and the
following sections describe how it operates.
mode is designed to behave like the router in versions before
Kong Gateway 3.x. For a description of the
expressions mode, see
How to Configure Routes using Expressions.
In general, the router orders all defined routes by their priority and
uses the highest priority matching route to handle a request. If there
are multiple matching routes with the same priority, it is not defined
which of the matching routes will be used and Kong Gateway
will use either of them according to how its internal data structures
If a route contains prefix or regular expression paths, the priority
of the route will be calculated separately for each of the paths and
requests will be routed accordingly.
traditional_compat mode, the priority of a route is determined as
follows, by the order of descending significance:
- Priority points
- Wildcard hosts
- Header count
- Regular expressions and prefix paths
For the presence of each of a route’s
snis, a “priority point” will be added to the route. The number
of “priority points” determines the overall order in which the routes
will be considered. Routes with a higher “priority point” values will
be considered before those with lower values. This means that if one
methods defined, and second one has
headers defined, the second one will be considered before the first
Among the routes with the same “priority point” value, those that have
any wildcard host specification will be considered after routes that
don’t have any wildcard host (or no host) specified.
The resulting groups are sorted so the routes with a higher number of
specified headers have higher priority than those with a lower number
Regular expressions and prefix paths
Within the resulting groups of routes with equal priority, the router
sorts the routes as follows:
- Routes that have a regular expression path are considered first and
are ordered by their
regex_priority value. Routes with a higher
regex_priority are considered before routes with lower
- Routes that have no regular expression path are ordered by the
length of their paths. Routes with longer paths are considered
before routes with shorter paths.
For a route with multiple paths, each path will be considered
separately for priority determination. Effectively, this means that
separate routes exists for each of the paths.
Regular expressions used in routes use more resources to evaluate than
simple prefix routes. If many regular expressions must be evaluated
to route a request, the latency introduced by Kong Gateway
can suffer and its CPU usage can increase. In installations with
thousands of routes, replacing regular expression routes by simple
prefix routes can improve throughput and latency of
Starting with version 3.0, Kong Gateway uses the regular
expression engine shipped with the Rust programming language if the
router is operating in
Prior versions used the
to evaluate regular expression. While the two engines are largely
compatible, subtle differences exist between the two. Refer to
the documentation pertinent to the engine that you are using if you
have problems getting regular expression routes to work.
Dynamically rewrite request URLs with routes
Routes can be configured dynamically to rewrite the requested URL to a different URL for the upstream. For example, your legacy upstream endpoint may have a base URI like
/api/old/. However, you want your publicly accessible API endpoint to now be named
/new/api. To route the service’s upstream endpoint to the new URL, you could set up a service with the path
/api/old/ and a route with the path
Kong Gateway can also handle more complex URL rewriting cases by using regular expression capture groups in the route path and the Request Transformer Advanced plugin. For example, this can be used when you must replace
Kong Gateway 3.0.x or later ships with a new router. The new router can use regex expression capture groups to describe routes using a domain-specific language called Expressions. Expressions can describe routes or paths as patterns using regular expressions. For more information about how to configure the router using Expressions, see How to configure routes using expressions.
Plugins for routes
You can also use plugins to interface with routes. This allows you to further your routing capabilities in Kong Gateway.
See the following plugins for more information:
Before you can start making requests against a service, you must add a route to it.
You can add routes to a service in Kong Gateway using the following methods: