Tunnel group backends are used in conjunction with ngrok Cloud Edges for defining which ngrok tunnels application requests will be forwarded to. Tunnel groups use labels (key=value pairs) to specify which tunnels are members of the tunnel group backend and will be active for the Cloud Edge.
When using the ngrok agent, or any one of our agent SDKs, the way to get included into a tunnel group is to start a Labeled Tunnel using the
ngrok tunnel command. These labeled tunnels can include any number of labels and can be included in zero, one, or many different tunnel groups. A labeled tunnel that is not part of any tunnel group will not be accessible.
This guide will discuss the usage of labels and provide considerations for deterministically defining the tunnel group membership as your Cloud Edge deployment grows and some best practices to consider.
Reference the following article for an example on configuring edges and backends.
Tunnel group backends require at least one configured label to specify the tunnels which will be candidates for membership. Any ngrok tunnel that matches all of the assigned tunnel group's labels will become a member and begin receiving application traffic for the configured edge. Using labels allows for new tunnels to easily be added to a tunnel group simply by starting the ngrok agent; very quickly providing additional scale and availability for your edge application.
This allows you to load balance traffic to your application quickly without any downtime.
Tunnel Group Label Match Criteria
For a tunnel to be eligible for tunnel group membership, the following criteria must be met.
Tunnel labels must match ALL labels for the tunnel group, although labeled tunnels can have additional labels. Keep reading for an example.
Label key:values are case sensitive and must be in for format
Label order does not matter
Tunnels can be members of multiple tunnel group backends or none at all
In the example below, the configured tunnel group has a single label defined:
"description": "tunnel group label demo",
To add a tunnel to this backend, a secure tunnel must be started with labels matching all of the tunnel group labels.
ngrok tunnel --label location=dc1 --label application=web 80
In this example the tunnel was started with two labels:
application=web. It is important to note that even though the tunnel was started with two labels, one that the tunnel group does not have defined, it does ultimately match on all of the configured tunnel group labels
application=web. Therefore, this tunnel would come up as a member of this specific tunnel group.
Label Usage Considerations
When assigning labels to tunnel group backends it is important to take time and consider making the label combinations unique. Using the previous example, the tunnel was started using two labels:
location=dc1 application=web. Since the criteria for a tunnel is to match all labels for a tunnel group, without proper planning the tunnel may unexpectedly connect to some unintended tunnel groups.
For example, the previous tunnel would match on and become a member for all tunnel groups with any of these label combinations:
It is recommended to configure multiple labels on a tunnel group in order to keep the label combinations unique for a specific application. Having more complex label combinations can prevent tunnels for other applications from unexpectedly connecting to any incorrect tunnel groups.
Pre-deploying Labeled Tunnels on Devices
Labeled tunnels are also great for situations when you are embedding the ngrok agent onto a remote device, and would like to dynamically open up connectivity for specific instances such as troubleshooting.
To do this, configure your ngrok agent to start a labeled tunnel when the device is turned on. The labeled tunnel should have a set of labels that can uniquely identify the device (one might be
device_id=1234). When you need connectivity to that device, just create an edge and a tunnel group backend with those same labels to open up a route that traffic. When you're finished, destroy the edge and backend, and you've removed remote connectivity from your device.
Labels provide a very flexible method for dynamically assigning tunnels to tunnel group backends. Understanding the match criteria is important and allows for long term planning to provide for a deterministic deployment experience.