Skip to content

HTTP Request Flows

While the overview describes the logical components and the architecture describes the over all architecture of Knative Serving, this page explains the behavior and flow of HTTP requests to an application which is running on Knative Serving.

The following diagram shows the different request flows and control plane loops for Knative Serving. Note that some components, such as the autoscaler and the apiserver are not updated on every request, but instead measure the system periodically (this is referred to as the control plane).

Diagram of Knative request flow through HTTP router to optional Activator, then queue-proxy and user container

The HTTP router, activator, and autoscaler are all shared cluster-level resources; this reduces the overhead for a new Knative service to only metadata when the Service is not in use and allows more efficient management and upgrade of these shared components.

Routing decisions are made once on a per-request level at the HTTP Router (the pluggable ingress layer), and are recorded on the request in an internal header. Once a request has been assigned to a Revision, the subsequent routing depends on the measured traffic flow; at low or zero traffic, incoming requests are routed to the activator, while at high traffic levels (spare capacity greater than target-burst-capacity) traffic is routed directly to the application pods.

Scale From Zero

When there is low or zero traffic to a particular Revision, the HTTP router sends traffic to the activator, including a header indicating the selected Revision. The activator serves as a buffer or queue for incoming requests -- if a request is routed to a Revision which does not currently have available capacity, the activator delays the request and signals to the autoscaler that additional capacity is needed.

When the autoscaler detects that the available capacity for a Revision is below the requested capacity, it increases the number of pods requested from Kubernetes.

When these new pods become ready or an existing pod has capacity, the activator will forward the delayed request to a ready pod. If a new pod needs to be started to handle a request, this is called a cold-start.

High scale

When a Revision has a high amount of traffic (the spare capacity is greater than target-burst-capacity), the ingress router is programmed directly with the pod adresses of the Revision, and the activator is removed from the traffic flow. This reduces latency and increases efficiency when the additional buffering of the activator is not needed. In all cases, the queue-proxy remains in the request path.

If traffic drops below the burst capacity threshold (calculated as: current_demand + target-burst-capacity > (pods * concurrency-target)), then the ingress router will be re-programmed to send traffic to the activator pods.

Routing traffic between ingress and activators is done by writing a subset of the activator endpoints into the Endpoints for the Revision's Service. The Kubernetes Service corresponding to the Revision is selectorless, and may either contain the Revision's pod endpoints or the activator endpoints. The use of a selectorless service is for the following reasons:

  • Some ingress implementations do not allow cross-namespace service references. The activator runs in the knative-serving namespace.

  • Some ingress implementations do not handle changing the backing Kubernetes Service of a routing endpoint seamlessly.

  • By using subsetting on a per-Revision basis, incoming requests are funneled to a small number of activators which can more efficiently make ready/not-ready capacity decisions. The small number of effective activators per Revision is not a scaling problem because the activators will be removed from the request path when the Revision scales up to receive more traffic.


The queue-proxy component implements a number of features to improve the reliability and scaling of Knative:

  • Measures concurrent requests for the autoscaler, particularly when the activator is removed from the request path.

  • Implements the containerConcurrency hard limit on request concurrency if requested.

  • Handles graceful shutdown on Pod termination (refuse new requests, fail readiness checks, continue serving existing requests).

  • Reports HTTP metrics and traces from just outside the user container, so that the infrastructure latency contribution can be measured.

  • During startup (before ready), probes the user container more aggressively to enable earlier serving that Kubelet probes (which can probe at most once per second).

  • To support this functionality, Knative Serving rewrites the user-container's readinessProbe to an argument to queue-proxy; the queue-proxy's readiness check incorporates both queue-proxy's own readiness and the user-container's.

Back to top

We use analytics and cookies to understand site traffic. Information about your use of our site is shared with Google for that purpose. Learn more.

× OK