External authentication

This section refers to using the Gloo Mesh Enterprise external auth server to authenticate requests for north-south traffic to the service mesh through the ingress gateway. For authentication of service-to-service traffic, see the east-west traffic authentication guide.

Gloo Mesh Enterprise provides a variety of authentication options to meet the needs of your environment, from basic user credentials to complex, fine-grained, and secure access control.

Envoy supports basic authentication options such as JSON web token (JWT) verification, but for many authentication requests at scale, prefers an external service supported through the external auth filter. Architecturally, Gloo Mesh provides a dedicated external authentication server (Ext Auth) to verify the user credentials and validate user permissions. Ext Auth can support several authentication and authorization (authN/Z) implementations, or you can provide your own auth server to implement custom logic.


We have seen how AuthConfigs can be used to define granular authentication configurations for routes. For a detailed overview of the authN/authZ models implemented by Gloo Mesh Gateway, check out the other guides:

Extauth within or external to the mesh

By default, extauth installs as a part of your mesh. This means you get all the benefits of being part of the mesh (observability, telemetry, mtls, etc.), but also means you get the drawbacks (extra network hop). The location for the extauth service can be configured to use an external service destination, i.e., external to the mesh.

Auth configuration overview

You can configure authentication in a top-level AuthConfig custom resource, as shown in the following example.

The resource spec consists of an array of configs that are executed in sequence when a request matches the AuthConfig (more on how requests are matched to AuthConfigs shortly). If any of these authentication configs fails, the request is denied (this behavior is configurable). In most cases, an AuthConfig has a single config.

apiVersion: enterprise.gloo.solo.io/v1
kind: AuthConfig
  name: basic-auth
  namespace: gloo-system
  - basicAuth:
            hashedPassword: 14o4fMw/Pm2L34SvyyA2r.
            salt: 0adzfifo
      realm: gloo

Using the auth configuration

Once an AuthConfig is created, it can be used to authenticate your routes. You can define authentication configuration your gateway at three different levels:

The configuration format is the same in all three cases. It must be specified under the relevant options attribute and can take one of two forms. The first is used to enable authentication and requires you to reference an existing AuthConfig. An example configuration of this kind follows:

      # references the example AuthConfig we defined earlier
      name: basic-auth
      namespace: gloo-system

In the case of a route or weighted destination, the top attribute would be named options as well.

The second form is used to disable authentication explicitly:

    disable: true