Load Balancing and Proxy Configuration

The recommended best practice for operating Riak in production is to place Riak behind a load-balancing or proxy solution, either hardware- or software- based, while never directly exposing Riak to public network interfaces.

Riak users have reported success in using Riak with a variety of load- balancing and proxy solutions. Common solutions include proprietary hardware-based load balancers, cloud-based load balancing options, such as Amazon’s Elastic Load Balancer, and open-source software based projects like HAProxy and Nginx.

This guide briefly explores the commonly used open-source software-based solutions HAProxy and Nginx, and provides some configuration and operational tips gathered from community users and operations oriented engineers at Basho.

While it is by no means an exhaustive overview of the topic, this guide should provide a starting point for choosing and implementing your own solution.


HAProxy is a fast and reliable open-source solution for load balancing and proxying of HTTP- and TCP-based application traffic.

Users have reported success in using HAProxy in combination with Riak in a number of configurations and scenarios. Much of the information and example configuration for this section is drawn from experiences of users in the Riak community in addition to suggestions from Basho engineering.

Example Configuration

The following is an example starting-point configuration for HAProxy to act as a load balancer. The example cluster has 4 nodes and will be accessed by Riak clients using both the Protocol Buffers and HTTP interfaces.

Note on open files limits

The operating system’s open files limits need to be greater than 256000 for the example configuration that follows. Consult the Open Files Limit documentation for details on configuring the value for different operating systems.

        log     local0
        log     local1 notice
        maxconn           256000
        chroot            /var/lib/haproxy
        user              haproxy
        group             haproxy
        spread-checks     5

        log               global
        option            dontlognull
        option            redispatch
        option            allbackups
        maxconn           256000
        timeout connect   5000

backend riak_rest_backend
       mode               http
       balance            roundrobin
       option             httpchk GET /ping
       option             httplog
       server riak1 riak1.<FQDN>:8098 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check
       server riak2 riak2.<FQDN>:8098 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check
       server riak3 riak3.<FQDN>:8098 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check
       server riak4 riak4.<FQDN>:8098 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check

frontend riak_rest
       # Example bind for SSL termination
       # bind    ssl crt /opt/local/haproxy/etc/data.pem
       mode               http
       option             contstats
       default_backend    riak_rest_backend

backend riak_protocol_buffer_backend
       balance            leastconn
       mode               tcp
       option             tcpka
       option             srvtcpka
       server riak1 riak1.<FQDN>:8087 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check
       server riak2 riak2.<FQDN>:8087 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check
       server riak3 riak3.<FQDN>:8087 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check
       server riak4 riak4.<FQDN>:8087 weight 1 maxconn 1024  check

frontend riak_protocol_buffer
       mode               tcp
       option             tcplog
       option             contstats
       mode               tcp
       option             tcpka
       option             srvtcpka
       default_backend    riak_protocol_buffer_backend

A specific configuration detail worth noting from the example is the commented option for SSL termination. HAProxy supports SSL directly as of version 1.5. Provided that your HAProxy instance was built with OpenSSL support, you can enable it by uncommenting the example line and modifying it to suit your environment. More information is available in the HAProxy documentation.

Also note that the above example is considered a starting point and is a work in progress based upon this example. You should carefully examine the configuration and change it according to your specific environment.

Maintaining Nodes Behind HAProxy

When using HAProxy with Riak, you can instruct HAProxy to ping each node in the cluster and automatically remove nodes that do not respond.

You can also specify a round-robin configuration in HAProxy and have your application handle connection failures by retrying after a timeout, thereby reaching a functioning node upon retrying the connection attempt.

HAPproxy also has a standby system you can use to remove a node from rotation while allowing existing requests to finish. You can remove nodes from HAProxy directly from the command line by interacting with the HAProxy stats socket with a utility such as socat:

echo "disable server <backend>/<riak_node>" | socat stdio /etc/haproxy/haproxysock

At this point, you can perform maintenance on the node, down the node, and so on. When you’ve finished working with the node and it is again available for requests, you can re-enable it:

echo "enable server <backend>/<riak_node>" | socat stdio /etc/haproxy/haproxysock

Consult the following HAProxy documentation resources for more information on configuring HAProxy in your environment:


Some users have reported success in using the Nginx HTTP server to proxy requests for Riak clusters. An example that provides access to a Riak cluster through GET requests only is provided here for reference.

Example Configuration

The following is an example starting point configuration for Nginx to act as a front-end proxy to a 5-node Riak cluster.

This example forwards all GET requests to Riak nodes while rejecting all other HTTP operations.

Nginx version notes
Nginx version 1.2.3. Please be aware that earlier versions of Nginx did not support any HTTP 1.1 semantics for upstream communication to backends. You should carefully examine this configuration and make changes appropriate to your specific environment before attempting to use it

Here is an example nginx.conf file:

upstream riak_hosts {
  # server;
  # server;
  # server;
  # server;
  # server;

server {
  listen   80;
  server_name  _;
  access_log  /var/log/nginx/riak.access.log;

  # your standard Nginx config for your site here...
  location / {
    root /var/www/nginx-default;

  # Expose the /riak endpoint and allow queries for keys only
  location /riak/ {
      proxy_set_header Host $host;
      proxy_redirect off;

      client_max_body_size       10m;
      client_body_buffer_size    128k;

      proxy_connect_timeout      90;
      proxy_send_timeout         90;
      proxy_read_timeout         90;

      proxy_buffer_size          64k;  # If set to a smaller value,
                                       # nginx can complain with an
                                       # "too large headers" error
      proxy_buffers              4 64k;
      proxy_busy_buffers_size    64k;
      proxy_temp_file_write_size 64k;

    if ($request_method != GET) {
      return 405;

    # Disallow any link with the MapReduce query format "bucket,tag,_"
    if ($uri ~ "/riak/[^/]*/[^/]*/[^,]+,[^,]+," ) {
      return 405;

    if ($request_method = GET) {
      proxy_pass http://riak_hosts;
Note on access controls
Even when filtering and limiting requests to GETs only as done in the example, you should strongly consider additional access controls beyond what Nginx can provide directly, such as specific firewall rules to limit inbound connections to trusted sources.

Querying Secondary Indexes Over HTTP

When accessing Riak over HTTP and issuing Secondary Index queries, you can encounter an issue due to the default Nginx handling of HTTP header names containing underscore (_) characters.

By default, Nginx will issue errors for such queries, but you can instruct Nginx to handle such header names when doing Secondary Index queries over HTTP by adding the following directive to the appropriate server section of nginx.conf:

underscores_in_headers on;