Digital Ocean introduced proxy passing on their load balancers. Without proxy passing all requests going to your web server/container will have the source IP of your load balancer. With proxy pass enabled you’ll be able to access the client’s real IP. This is a must-have for rate limiting, logging, or restricting resources based on IP/CIDR ranges.

This post assumes you’ve already:

  1. Spun up a Digital Ocean Load Balancer.
  2. Connected your droplets and underlying containers.
  3. Things are working with Proxy Pass disabled (default).
  4. You enabled Proxy Pass and nothing works anymore!

How we’ll solve this:

  1. Introduce a second Docker container for NGINX
  2. a) docker-compose or b) Kubernetes Pod w/ multiple containers

1. Setting up our NGINX configuration

Setup the nginx.conf file shown below, making sure to change the following values:

  • [LB_IP] - The public IP address for your load balancer
  • [SERVICE_OR_POD_NAME] - The name of the web app service (docker-compose) or the container (Kubernetes). Name this whatever you want; just use the same name in the next step.
  • [PORT] - The port your web app container will be exposing. You can omit this if you’re using 80.
user  nginx;
worker_processes  1;
error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log warn;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;

http {
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;
    proxy_set_header X-Real-IP       $proxy_protocol_addr;
    proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_protocol_addr;
    log_format main '$proxy_protocol_addr - $remote_user [$time_local] '
                        '"$request" $status $body_bytes_sent '
                        '"$http_referer" "$http_user_agent"';
    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log  main;
    sendfile        on;
    keepalive_timeout  65;

    server {
        server_name localhost;
        listen 80   proxy_protocol;
        set_real_ip_from [LB_IP];
        real_ip_header proxy_protocol;
        location / {
            proxy_pass       http://[SERVICE_OR_POD_NAME]:[PORT];
            proxy_set_header Host            $host;
            proxy_set_header X-Real-IP       $proxy_protocol_addr;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_protocol_addr;


2a. Implementing for standalone Docker with docker-compose

If you’re using Kubernetes, briefly skim this section and then proceed to 2b for the actual Pod implementation you’ll use.

You could do this step without docker-compose, but the docker-compose.yml file makes managing two containers per droplet easier. The main takeway is the bridged networking setup (called backbone in this example). This will allow our nginx service to talk with myApp.

version: "2"
      image: nginx
      restart: always
        - "80:80"
        - backbone
        - nginx.conf:/etc/nginx/nginx.conf
    myApp: # use your value for [SERVICE_OR_POD_NAME] here
      image: myImage:1.0.0
      restart: always
        - backbone
        - 80 # use your value for [PORT] here
    driver: bridge

Once you’ve copied the nginx.conf and docker-compose.yml file to your droplet, run docker-compose up -d on the droplet. If all goes well your load balancer should be healthy and happy again with a few minutes!

2b. Implementing with Kubernetes

Very similar to the configuration above, except in Pod format for Kubernetes:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  name: test
    app: test
  - name: myApp # use your value for [SERVICE_OR_POD_NAME] here
    image: myImage:1.0.0
  - name: nginx
    image: nginx
    - containerPort: 80
    - name: nginx-proxy-config
      mountPath: /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
      subPath: nginx.conf
  - name: nginx-proxy-config
      name: nginx-conf