On Your Laptop

In this article, we'll walk through how to run Envoy on your laptop, test proxy configurations, and observe results. Based on Docker and the official Envoy examples of a front proxy.

The Learn Envoy series was originally created by Turbine Labs and generously donated to the Envoy project upon Slack’s acquisition of the TurbineLabs team. Special thanks go out to Brook Shelley, Emily Pinkerton, Glen Sanford, TR Jordan, and Mark McBride from TurbineLabs.

Before running Envoy in a production setting, you might want to tour its capabilities. In this article, we’ll walk through how to run Envoy on your laptop, test proxy configurations, and observe results.


While you can build Envoy from source, the easiest way to get started is by using the official Docker images. So before starting out, you’ll need the following software installed and configured:

We use Docker and Docker Compose to set up and run example service topologies using Envoy, git to access the Envoy examples, and curl to send traffic to running services.

Running Envoy

Running the latest Docker image will technically get you Envoy on your laptop, but without a config file it won’t do anything very interesting. Let’s get a simple front proxy topology running, which will send traffic to two service backends. The Envoy source repository has a couple of examples, so to start, clone that repository and go to the examples/front-proxy directory. This contains Dockerfiles, config files and a Docker Compose manifest for setting up a the topology.

$ git clone https://github.com/envoyproxy/envoy
$ cd envoy/examples/front-proxy

The services run a very simple Flask application, defined in service.py. An Envoy runs in the same container as a sidecar, configured with the service-envoy.yaml file. Finally, the Dockerfile-service creates a container that runs Envoy and the service on startup.

The front proxy is simpler. It runs Envoy, configured with the front-envoy.yaml file, and uses Dockerfile-frontenvoy as its container definition.

The docker-compose.yaml file provides a description of how to build, package, and run the front proxy and services together.

To build our containers, run:

$ docker-compose up --build -d

This starts a single instance of the front proxy and two service instances, one configured as “service1” and the other as “service2”, --build means build containers before starting up, and -d means run them in detached mode.

Running docker-compose ps should show the following output:

$ docker-compose ps
          Name                        Command               State                      Ports
frontproxy_front-envoy_1   /bin/sh -c /usr/local/bin/ ...   Up>80/tcp,>8001/tcp
frontproxy_service1_1      /bin/sh -c /usr/local/bin/ ...   Up      80/tcp
frontproxy_service2_1      /bin/sh -c /usr/local/bin/ ...   Up      80/tcp

Sending Traffic

Docker Compose has mapped port 8000 on the front-proxy to your local network. Open your browser to http://localhost:8000/service/1, or run curl localhost:8000/service/1. You should see

$ curl localhost:8000/service/1
Hello from behind Envoy (service 1)! hostname: 6632a613837e resolvedhostname:

Going to http://localhost:8000/service/2 should result in

$ curl localhost:8000/service/2
Hello from behind Envoy (service 2)! hostname: bf97b0b3294d resolvedhostname:

You’re connecting to Envoy, operating as a front proxy, which is in turn sending your request to service 1 or service 2.

Configuring Envoy

This is a simple way to configure Envoy statically for the purpose of demonstration. As we move on, you’ll see how you can really harness its power by dynamically configuring it.

Let’s take a look at how Envoy is configured. To get the right services set up, Docker Compose looks at the docker-compose.yaml file. You’ll see the following definition for the front-envoy service:

      context: ../
      dockerfile: front-proxy/Dockerfile-frontenvoy
      - ./front-envoy.yaml:/etc/front-envoy.yaml
      - envoymesh
      - "80"
      - "8001"
      - "8000:80"
      - "8001:8001"

Going from top to bottom, this says:

  1. Build a container using the Dockerfile-frontenvoy file located in the current directory
  2. Mount the front-envoy.yaml file in this directory as /etc/front-envoy.yaml
  3. Create and use a Docker network named “envoymesh” for this container
  4. Expose ports 80 (for general traffic) and 8001 (for the admin server)
  5. Map the host port 8000 to container port 80, and the host port 8001 to container port 8001

Knowing that our front proxy uses the front-envoy.yaml to configure Envoy, let’s take a deeper look. Our file has two top level elements, static_resources and admin.


The admin block is relatively simple.

  access_log_path: "/dev/null"
      port_value: 8001

The access_log_path field is set to /dev/null, meaning access logs to the admin server are discarded. In a testing or production environment, users would change this value to an appropriate destination. The address object tells Envoy to create an admin server listening on port 8001.

The static_resources block contains definitions for clusters and listeners that aren’t dynamically managed. A cluster is a named group of hosts/ports, over which Envoy will load balance traffic, and listeners are named network locations that clients can connect to. The admin block configures our admin server.

Our front proxy has a single listener, configured to listen on port 80, with a filter chain that configures Envoy to manage HTTP traffic.

  - address:
        port_value: 80
    - filters:
      - name: envoy.http_connection_manager
          codec_type: auto
          stat_prefix: ingress_http
            name: local_route

Within the configuration for our HTTP connection manager filter, there is a definition for a single virtual host, configured to accept traffic for all domains.

            - name: backend
              - "*"
              - match:
                  prefix: "/service/1"
                  cluster: service1
              - match:
                  prefix: "/service/2"
                  cluster: service2

Routes are configured here, mapping traffic for /service/1 and /service/2 to the appropriate clusters.

Next come static cluster definitions:

  - name: service1
    connect_timeout: 0.25s
    type: strict_dns
    lb_policy: round_robin
    http2_protocol_options: {}
    - socket_address:
        address: service1
        port_value: 80
  - name: service2
    connect_timeout: 0.25s
    type: strict_dns
    lb_policy: round_robin
    http2_protocol_options: {}
    - socket_address:
        address: service2
        port_value: 80

You can configure timeouts, circuit breakers, discovery settings, and more on clusters. Clusters are composed of endpoints – a set of network locations that can serve requests for the cluster. In this example, endpoints are canonically defined in DNS, which Envoy can read from. Endpoints can also be defined directly as socket addresses, or read dynamically via the Endpoint Discovery Service.

Modifying Configuration

In Envoy, you can modify the config files, rebuild Docker images, and test the changes. Listener filters are Envoy’s way of attaching additional functionality to listeners. For instance, to add access logging to your HTTP filter, add the access_log object to your filter config, as shown here.

    - filters:
      - name: envoy.http_connection_manager
          codec_type: auto
          stat_prefix: ingress_http
            - name: envoy.file_access_log
                path: "/var/log/access.log"

Destroy your Docker Compose stack with docker-compose down, then rebuild it with docker-compose up --build -d. Make a few requests to your services using curl, then log into a shell with docker-compose exec front-envoy /bin/bash. An access.log file should be in /var/log, showing the results of your requests.

Admin Server

A great feature of Envoy is the built-in admin server. If you visit http://localhost:8001 in your browser you should see a page with links to more information. The /clusters endpoint shows statistics on upstream clusters, and the stats endpoint shows more general statistics. You can get information about the server build at /server_info, query and alter logging levels at /logging. General help is available at the /help endpoint.

Further Exploration

If you’re interested in exploring more of Envoy’s capabilities, the Envoy examples have more complex topologies that will get you slightly more real-world, but still use statically discovered examples. If you’d like to learn more about how to operate Envoy in a production setting, the service discovery integration walks through what it means to integrate Envoy with your existing environment. If you run into issues as you begin to test out Envoy, be sure to visit getting help to learn where to report issues, and who to message.