16. Client Side Load Balancer: Ribbon

Ribbon is a client-side load balancer that gives you a lot of control over the behavior of HTTP and TCP clients. Feign already uses Ribbon, so, if you use @FeignClient, this section also applies.

A central concept in Ribbon is that of the named client. Each load balancer is part of an ensemble of components that work together to contact a remote server on demand, and the ensemble has a name that you give it as an application developer (for example, by using the @FeignClient annotation). On demand, Spring Cloud creates a new ensemble as an ApplicationContext for each named client by using RibbonClientConfiguration. This contains (amongst other things) an ILoadBalancer, a RestClient, and a ServerListFilter.

16.1 How to Include Ribbon

To include Ribbon in your project, use the starter with a group ID of org.springframework.cloud and an artifact ID of spring-cloud-starter-netflix-ribbon. See the Spring Cloud Project page for details on setting up your build system with the current Spring Cloud Release Train.

16.2 Customizing the Ribbon Client

You can configure some bits of a Ribbon client by using external properties in <client>.ribbon.*, which is similar to using the Netflix APIs natively, except that you can use Spring Boot configuration files. The native options can be inspected as static fields in CommonClientConfigKey (part of ribbon-core).

Spring Cloud also lets you take full control of the client by declaring additional configuration (on top of the RibbonClientConfiguration) using @RibbonClient, as shown in the following example:

@RibbonClient(name = "custom", configuration = CustomConfiguration.class)
public class TestConfiguration {

In this case, the client is composed from the components already in RibbonClientConfiguration, together with any in CustomConfiguration (where the latter generally overrides the former).


The CustomConfiguration clas must be a @Configuration class, but take care that it is not in a @ComponentScan for the main application context. Otherwise, it is shared by all the @RibbonClients. If you use @ComponentScan (or @SpringBootApplication), you need to take steps to avoid it being included (for instance, you can put it in a separate, non-overlapping package or specify the packages to scan explicitly in the @ComponentScan).

The following table shows the beans that Spring Cloud Netflix provides by default for Ribbon:

Bean TypeBean NameClass Name






















Creating a bean of one of those type and placing it in a @RibbonClient configuration (such as FooConfiguration above) lets you override each one of the beans described, as shown in the following example:

protected static class FooConfiguration {
	public ZonePreferenceServerListFilter serverListFilter() {
		ZonePreferenceServerListFilter filter = new ZonePreferenceServerListFilter();
		return filter;

	public IPing ribbonPing() {
		return new PingUrl();

The include statement in the preceding example replaces NoOpPing with PingUrl and provides a custom serverListFilter.

16.3 Customizing the Default for All Ribbon Clients

A default configuration can be provided for all Ribbon Clients by using the @RibbonClients annotation and registering a default configuration, as shown in the following example:

@RibbonClients(defaultConfiguration = DefaultRibbonConfig.class)
public class RibbonClientDefaultConfigurationTestsConfig {

	public static class BazServiceList extends ConfigurationBasedServerList {
		public BazServiceList(IClientConfig config) {

class DefaultRibbonConfig {

	public IRule ribbonRule() {
		return new BestAvailableRule();

	public IPing ribbonPing() {
		return new PingUrl();

	public ServerList<Server> ribbonServerList(IClientConfig config) {
		return new RibbonClientDefaultConfigurationTestsConfig.BazServiceList(config);

	public ServerListSubsetFilter serverListFilter() {
		ServerListSubsetFilter filter = new ServerListSubsetFilter();
		return filter;


16.4 Customizing the Ribbon Client by Setting Properties

Starting with version 1.2.0, Spring Cloud Netflix now supports customizing Ribbon clients by setting properties to be compatible with the Ribbon documentation.

This lets you change behavior at start up time in different environments.

The following list shows the supported properties>:

  • <clientName>.ribbon.NFLoadBalancerClassName: Should implement ILoadBalancer
  • <clientName>.ribbon.NFLoadBalancerRuleClassName: Should implement IRule
  • <clientName>.ribbon.NFLoadBalancerPingClassName: Should implement IPing
  • <clientName>.ribbon.NIWSServerListClassName: Should implement ServerList
  • <clientName>.ribbon.NIWSServerListFilterClassName: Should implement ServerListFilter

Classes defined in these properties have precedence over beans defined by using @RibbonClient(configuration=MyRibbonConfig.class) and the defaults provided by Spring Cloud Netflix.

To set the IRule for a service name called users, you could set the following properties:


    NIWSServerListClassName: com.netflix.loadbalancer.ConfigurationBasedServerList
    NFLoadBalancerRuleClassName: com.netflix.loadbalancer.WeightedResponseTimeRule

See the Ribbon documentation for implementations provided by Ribbon.

16.5 Using Ribbon with Eureka

When Eureka is used in conjunction with Ribbon (that is, both are on the classpath), the ribbonServerList is overridden with an extension of DiscoveryEnabledNIWSServerList, which populates the list of servers from Eureka. It also replaces the IPing interface with NIWSDiscoveryPing, which delegates to Eureka to determine if a server is up. The ServerList that is installed by default is a DomainExtractingServerList. Its purpose is to make metadata available to the load balancer without using AWS AMI metadata (which is what Netflix relies on). By default, the server list is constructed with “zone” information, as provided in the instance metadata (so, on the remote clients, set eureka.instance.metadataMap.zone). If that is missing and if the approximateZoneFromHostname flag is set, it can use the domain name from the server hostname as a proxy for the zone. Once the zone information is available, it can be used in a ServerListFilter. By default, it is used to locate a server in the same zone as the client, because the default is a ZonePreferenceServerListFilter. By default, the zone of the client is determined in the same way as the remote instances (that is, through eureka.instance.metadataMap.zone).


The orthodox “archaius” way to set the client zone is through a configuration property called "@zone". If it is available, Spring Cloud uses that in preference to all other settings (note that the key must be quoted in YAML configuration).


If there is no other source of zone data, then a guess is made, based on the client configuration (as opposed to the instance configuration). We take eureka.client.availabilityZones, which is a map from region name to a list of zones, and pull out the first zone for the instance’s own region (that is, the eureka.client.region, which defaults to "us-east-1", for compatibility with native Netflix).

16.6 Example: How to Use Ribbon Without Eureka

Eureka is a convenient way to abstract the discovery of remote servers so that you do not have to hard code their URLs in clients. However, if you prefer not to use Eureka, Ribbon and Feign also work. Suppose you have declared a @RibbonClient for "stores", and Eureka is not in use (and not even on the classpath). The Ribbon client defaults to a configured server list. You can supply the configuration as follows:


    listOfServers: example.com,google.com

16.7 Example: Disable Eureka Use in Ribbon

Setting the ribbon.eureka.enabled property to false explicitly disables the use of Eureka in Ribbon, as shown in the following example:


   enabled: false

16.8 Using the Ribbon API Directly

You can also use the LoadBalancerClient directly, as shown in the following example:

public class MyClass {
    private LoadBalancerClient loadBalancer;

    public void doStuff() {
        ServiceInstance instance = loadBalancer.choose("stores");
        URI storesUri = URI.create(String.format("http://%s:%s", instance.getHost(), instance.getPort()));
        // ... do something with the URI

16.9 Caching of Ribbon Configuration

Each Ribbon named client has a corresponding child application Context that Spring Cloud maintains. This application context is lazily loaded on the first request to the named client. This lazy loading behavior can be changed to instead eagerly load these child application contexts at startup, by specifying the names of the Ribbon clients, as shown in the following example:


    enabled: true
    clients: client1, client2, client3

16.10 How to Configure Hystrix Thread Pools

If you change zuul.ribbonIsolationStrategy to THREAD, the thread isolation strategy for Hystrix is used for all routes. In that case, the HystrixThreadPoolKey is set to RibbonCommand as the default. It means that HystrixCommands for all routes are executed in the same Hystrix thread pool. This behavior can be changed with the following configuration:


    useSeparateThreadPools: true

The preceding example results in HystrixCommands being executed in the Hystrix thread pool for each route.

In this case, the default HystrixThreadPoolKey is the same as the service ID for each route. To add a prefix to HystrixThreadPoolKey, set zuul.threadPool.threadPoolKeyPrefix to the value that you want to add, as shown in the following example:


    useSeparateThreadPools: true
    threadPoolKeyPrefix: zuulgw

16.11 How to Provide a Key to Ribbon’s IRule

If you need to provide your own IRule implementation to handle a special routing requirement like a “canary” test, pass some information to the choose method of IRule.


public interface IRule{
    public Server choose(Object key);

You can provide some information that is used by your IRule implementation to choose a target server, as shown in the following example:

              .set(FilterConstants.LOAD_BALANCER_KEY, "canary-test");

If you put any object into the RequestContext with a key of FilterConstants.LOAD_BALANCER_KEY, it is passed to the choose method of the IRule implementation. The code shown in the preceding example must be executed before RibbonRoutingFilter is executed. Zuul’s pre filter is the best place to do that. You can access HTTP headers and query parameters through the RequestContext in pre filter, so it can be used to determine the LOAD_BALANCER_KEY that is passed to Ribbon. If you do not put any value with LOAD_BALANCER_KEY in RequestContext, null is passed as a parameter of the choose method.