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Network Load Balancer

AWS Load Balancer Controller supports Network Load Balancer (NLB) with instance or IP targets through Kubernetes service of type LoadBalancer with proper annotations.

Instance mode

Instance target mode supports pods running on AWS EC2 instances. In this mode, AWS NLB sends traffic to the instances and the kube-proxy on the individual worker nodes forward it to the pods through one or more worker nodes in the Kubernetes cluster.

IP mode

IP target mode supports pods running on AWS EC2 instances and AWS Fargate. In this mode, the AWS NLB targets traffic directly to the Kubernetes pods behind the service, eliminating the need for an extra network hop through the worker nodes in the Kubernetes cluster.


  • AWS LoadBalancer Controller >= v2.2.0
  • Kubernetes >= v1.16 for Service type NodePort
  • Kubernetes >= v1.20 or EKS >= 1.16 or the following patch releases for Service type LoadBalancer
    • 1.18.18+ for 1.18
    • 1.19.10+ for 1.19
  • Pods have native AWS VPC networking configured, see Amazon VPC CNI plugin

secure by default

Starting v2.2.0 release, the AWS Load balancer controller provisions an internal NLB by default. To create an internet-facing load balancer, apply the following annotation to your service: internet-facing

For backwards compatibility, if this annotation is not specified, existing NLB will continue to use the scheme configured on the AWS resource.


The service resources of type LoadBalancer also get reconciled by the kubernetes controller built into the cloudprovider component of the kube-controller-manager or the cloud-controller-manager aka the in-tree controller. The AWS in-tree controller ignores those services resources that have the annotation as external. The AWS Load balancer controller support for NLB is based on the in-tree cloud controller ignoring the service resources, so it is very important to apply the following annotation on the service resource during creation: "external"
This external value to the above annotation causes the in-tree controller to not process the service resource and thus pass it on to the external controller.

annotation modification

Do not modify or add the annotation on an existing service object. If you need to make changes, for example from classic to NLB or NLB managed by the in-tree controller to the one managed by the AWS Load balancer controller, delete the kubernetes service first and then create again with the correct annotation. If you modify the annotation after service creation you will end up with leaked AWS load balancer resources.

IP mode

NLB IP mode is determined based on the annotation. If the annotation value is ip, then NLB will be provisioned in IP mode. Here is the manifest snippet:

      name: my-service
      annotations: "external" "ip"

backwards compatibility

For backwards compatibility, controller still supports the nlb-ip as the type annotation. For example, if you specify nlb-ip

the controller will provision NLB in IP mode. With this, the annotation gets ignored.

Instance mode

Similar to the IP mode, the instance mode is based on the annotation value instance. Here is a sample manifest snippet:

      name: my-service
      annotations: "external" "instance"


Controller supports both TCP and UDP protocols. Controller also configures TLS termination on NLB if you configure service with certificate annotation.

In case of TCP, NLB with IP targets does not pass the client source IP address unless specifically configured via target group attributes. Your application pods might not see the actual client IP address even if NLB passes it along, for example instance mode with externalTrafficPolicy set to Cluster. In such cases, you can configure NLB proxy protocl v2 via annotation if you need visibility into the client source IP address on your application pods.

To enable proxy protocol v2, apply the following annotation to your service: "*"

If you enable proxy protocol v2, NLB health check with HTTP/HTTPS works only if the health check port supports proxy protocol v2. Due to this behavior, you should not configure proxy protocol v2 with NLB instance mode and externalTrafficPolicy set to Local.

Subnet tagging requirements

See Subnet Discovery for details on configuring ELB for public or private placement.

Security group

NLB does not currently support managed security groups. For ingress access, the controller adds inbound rules to the node security group for the instance mode, or the ENI security group for the IP mode. In case of multiple security groups, the controller expects only one security group tagged with the cluster name as follows:

Key Value${cluster-name} owned or shared

${cluster-name} is the name of the kubernetes cluster