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Determining the request rate

Cloudflare keeps separate request counters for Rate Limiting Rules for each value combination of the rule characteristics.

For example, consider a rule configured with the following characteristics:

  • IP address
  • HTTP header x-api-key

In this case, two incoming requests with the same value for the HTTP header X-API-Key with different IP addresses are counted separately, since the value combination is different. Additionally, counters are not shared across data centers.

Example

Consider the following configuration for a Rate Limiting Rule:

Expression:
http.request.uri.path eq "/form" and any(http.request.headers["content-type"][*] eq "application/x-www-form-urlencoded")

Action: Block

Characteristics:

  • Data center ID (included by default when creating the rule in the dashboard)
  • IP Address
  • HTTP Header > x-api-key

Period: 10 seconds

Requests per period: 1

Mitigation timeout: 10 minutes

The following diagram shows how Cloudflare handles four incoming requests in the context of the above Rate Limiting Rule.

Rate Limiting Rule example diagram

Since request 1 matches the rule expression, the Rate Limiting Rule is evaluated. Cloudflare defines a request counter for the values of the characteristics in the context of the Rate Limiting Rule and sets the counter to 1. Since the counter value is within the established limits in Requests per period, the request is allowed.

Request 2 matches the rule expression and therefore Cloudflare evaluates the Rate Limiting Rule. The values of the characteristics do not match any existing counter (the value of the X-API-Key header is different). Therefore, Cloudflare defines a separate counter in the context of this rule and sets it to 1. The counter value is within the request limit established in Requests per period, and so this request is allowed.

Request 3 matches the rule expression and the same values for rule characteristics. Therefore, Cloudflare increases the value of the existing counter, setting it to 2. The counter value is now above the limit defined in Requests per period, and so request 2 gets blocked.

Request 4 does not match the rule expression, since the value for the Content-Type header does not match the value in the expression. Therefore, Cloudflare does not create a new rule counter for this request. Request 4 is not evaluated in the context of this Rate Limiting Rule and is passed on to subsequent rules in the request evaluation workflow.