How To Enable Sticky Session on Your Kubernetes Workloads using Istio?

Alex Vazquez
6 min readFeb 8
Photo by Jordan Harrison on Unsplash

Istio allows you to configure Sticky Session, among other network features, for your Kubernetes workloads. As we have commented in several posts regarding Istio, istio deploys a service mesh that provides a central control plane to have all the configuration regarding the network aspects of your Kubernetes workloads. This covers many different aspects of the communication inside the container platform, such as security covering security transport, authentication or authorization, and, at the same time, network features, such as routing and traffic distribution, which is the main topic for today’s article.

These routing capabilities are similar to what a traditional Load Balancer of Level 7 can provide. When we talk about Level 7, we’re referring to the conventional levels that compound the OSI stack, where level 7 is related to the Application Level.

A Sticky Session or Session Affinity configuration is one of the most common features you can need to implement in this scenario. The use-case is the following one:

How To Enable Sticky Session on Your Kubernetes Workloads using Istio?

You have several instances of your workloads, so different pod replicas in a Kubernetes situation. All of these pods behind the same service. By default, it will redirect the requests in a round-robin fashion among the pod replicas in a Ready state, so Kubernetes understand that they’re ready to get the request unless you define it differently.

But in some cases, mainly when you are dealing with a web application or any stateful application that handles the concept of a session, you could want the replica that processes the first request and also handles the rest of the request during the lifetime of the session.

Of course, you could do that easily just by routing all traffic to one request, but in that case, we lose other features such as traffic load balancing and HA. So, this is usually implemented using Session Affinity or Sticky Session policies that provides best of both worlds: same replica handling all the request from an user, but traffic distribution between different users.

How Sticky Session…

Alex Vazquez

PSG Senior Architect at TIBCO Software with a focus on Cloud Development, Event Processing and Enterprise Integration