BLOG | NGINX

The Ingress Controller: Touchstone for Securing AI/ML Apps in Kubernetes

Ilya Krutov Thumbnail
Ilya Krutov
Published February 28, 2024

One of the key advantages of running artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) workloads in Kubernetes is a having a central point of control for all incoming requests through the Ingress Controller. It is a versatile module that serves as a load balancer and API gateway, providing a solid foundation for securing AI/ML applications in a Kubernetes environment.

As a unified tool, the Ingress Controller is a convenient touchpoint for applying security and performance measures, monitoring activity, and mandating compliance. More specifically, securing AI/ML applications at the Ingress Controller in a Kubernetes environment offers several strategic advantages that we explore in this blog.

Diagram of Ingress Controller ecosystem

Centralized Security and Compliance Control

Because Ingress Controller acts as a gateway to your Kubernetes cluster, it allows MLOps and platform engineering teams to implement a centralized point for enforcing security policies. This reduces the complexity of configuring security settings on a per-pod or per-service basis. By centralizing security controls at the Ingress level, you simplify the compliance process and make it easier to manage and monitor compliance status.

Consolidated Authentication and Authorization

The Ingress Controller is also the logical location to implement and enforce authentication and authorization for access to all your AI/ML applications. By adding strong certificate authority management, the Ingress Controller is also the linchpin of building zero trust (ZT) architectures for Kubernetes. ZT is crucial for ensuring continuous security and compliance of sensitive AI applications running on highly valuable proprietary data.

Rate Limiting and Access Control

The Ingress Controller is an ideal place to enforce rate limiting, protecting your applications from abuse, like DDoS attacks or excessive API calls, which is crucial for public-facing AI/ML APIs. With the rise of novel AI threats like model theft and data leaking, enforcing rate limiting and access control becomes more important in protecting against brute force attacks. It also helps prevent adversaries from abusing business logic or jailbreaking guardrails to extract data and model training or weight information.

Web Application Firewall (WAF) Integration

Many Ingress Controllers support integration with WAFs, which are table stakes for protecting exposed applications and services. WAFs provide an additional layer of security against common web vulnerabilities and attacks like the OWASP 10. Even more crucial, when properly tuned, WAFs protect against more targeted attacks aimed at AI/ML applications. A key consideration for AI/ML apps, where latency and performance are crucial, is potential overhead introduced by a WAF. Also, to be effective for AI/ML apps, the WAF must be tightly integrated into the Ingress Controller for monitoring and observability dashboards and alerting structures. If the WAF and Ingress Controller can share a common data plane, this is ideal.

Conclusion: Including the Ingress Controller Early in Planning for AI/ML Architectures

Because the Ingress Controller occupies such an important place in Kubernetes application deployment for AI/ML apps, it is best to include its capabilities as part of architecting AI/ML applications. This can alleviate duplication of functionality and can lead to a better decision on an Ingress Controller that will scale and grow with your AI/ML application needs. For MLOps teams, the Ingress Controller becomes a central control point for many of their critical platform and ops capabilities, with security among the top priorities.

Get Started with NGINX

NGINX offers a comprehensive set of tools and building blocks to meet your needs and enhance security, scalability, and observability of your Kubernetes platform.

You can get started today by requesting a free 30-day trial of Connectivity Stack for Kubernetes.


"This blog post may reference products that are no longer available and/or no longer supported. For the most current information about available F5 NGINX products and solutions, explore our NGINX product family. NGINX is now part of F5. All previous NGINX.com links will redirect to similar NGINX content on F5.com."