Introduction to Cilium

  • By Amir Patel
  • June 1, 2024
  • Linux
Introduction to Cilium

Introduction to Cilium

In the ever-evolving landscape of cloud-native technologies, networking and security play pivotal roles.  Traditional approaches are often complex, rigid, and ill-equipped to handle the dynamic nature of modern applications. Enter Introduction to Cilium – a groundbreaking solution that’s revolutionizing how we think about networking and security in cloud-native environments. 


Understanding Cilium 

At its core, Cilium is an open-source software that provides networking, security, and observability for containerized applications. Built on top of eBPF (extended Berkeley Packet Filter), Cilium leverages the power of the Linux kernel to deliver unprecedented visibility, control, and performance. 


High-Performance Cloud Native Networking (CNI) 

Enhance the speed and efficiency of your Kubernetes and cloud-native networks How can I have scalable and consistent networking across clouds? 

There are dozens of CNIs available for Kubernetes but, their features, scale, and performance vary greatly. Many of them rely on legacy technology (iptables) that cannot handle the scale and churn of  Kubernetes environments leading to increased latency and reduced throughput. Most CNIs also only  offer support for L3/L4 Kubernetes network policy but little beyond. Many Cloud Provider have their own custom CNIs which results in operational complexity for customers operating in multi-cloud environments.


High-Performance Cloud Native Networking CNI 

Cilium’s control and data plane has been built from the ground up for large-scale and highly dynamic cloud native environments where 100s and even 1000s of containers are created and destroyed within seconds. Cilium’s control plane is highly optimized, running in Kubernetes clusters with 1,000 of nodes and 100K pods. Cilium’s data plane uses eBPF for efficient load-balancing and incremental updates,  avoiding the pitfalls of large iptables rulesets. 


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The eBPF Advantage 

eBPF, the underlying technology of Cilium, is a game-changer in itself. It allows for programmatically defining and executing custom packet processing logic within the kernel, all while maintaining safety and performance. By tapping into eBPF, Cilium enables fine-grained network filtering, load balancing, and even application-aware security policies, all with minimal overhead. 


Networking Reinvented 

Cilium’s networking capabilities go beyond traditional approaches like overlay networks. Instead of relying on complex networking overlays that introduce overhead and operational complexity, Cilium harnesses the power of eBPF to provide efficient and scalable networking at the kernel level. This results in faster packet processing reduced latency, and improved overall performance – ideal for modern,  high-throughput applications. 


Security at Scale 

In the cloud-native landscape, security is paramount. Cilium takes a unique approach by integrating security directly into the networking layer. Through eBPF-powered network policies, Cilium enables micro-segmentation, allowing administrators to define granular access controls based on application identity and context. This zero-trust model enhances security posture while minimizing the attack surface, crucial in today’s threat landscape. 


Observability and Beyond 

Visibility into application traffic is essential for troubleshooting, monitoring, and compliance purposes.  Cilium provides rich observability features, including flow logging, tracing, and service mesh integration.  By capturing detailed insights at the network level, Cilium empowers operators with the information they need to diagnose issues, optimize performance, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.


Embracing the Cloud-Native Future 

As organizations increasingly adopt cloud-native architectures, the need for robust networking and security solutions becomes evident. Cilium represents a paradigm shift in how we approach these challenges, offering a modern, efficient, and scalable alternative to legacy technologies. 



Cilium’s combination of eBPF, networking, and security capabilities makes it a formidable tool in the arsenal of cloud-native practitioners. By leveraging the power of the Linux kernel, Cilium enables organizations to build and secure modern applications with unprecedented efficiency and agility. As the cloud-native ecosystem continues to evolve, Cilium stands as a testament to the innovative spirit driving the industry forward.


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Amir Patel

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