Headless WordPress & Next.js on Kubernetes: Page Revalidation and CDN Invalidation

The Problem

The problem faced is not unique: following a post update on back-end, we want to have the front-end automatically revalidate the page in order to cache the latest content in the Next.js page cache. Then, if we're using a CDN on top of that, we want to automatically purge that same path in the CDN as well.

The Solution

This solution is based on the premise that the front-end and back-end are both hosted in the same Kubernetes cluster. With this setup, the front-end and back-end pods can communicate directly without needing to leave their local network.

If your setup does not have the front-end and back-end pods sharing the same cluster, there is a workaround, although it's not quite as efficient.

In a nutshell, here's how we can handle this issue if both front-end and back-end are in the same cluster:

When a post is updated in the back-end, we need to trigger the following:

  1. Make a request to Kubernetes to get a list of all front-end pod IP addresses.
  2. Send simultaneous async Next.js API requests to each front-end pod to revalidate a path.
  3. If all requests return successfully, send one final request to the CDN to clear the path from CDN cache.

If the front-end and back-end are not in the same cluster, here are similar steps which can accomplish the same:

When post is updated in back-end, we'd need to:

  1. Make a single Next.js API request to the front-end to revalidate a path.
  2. The receiving Next.js pod requests a list of its neighboring front-end pod IPs from Kubernetes.
  3. The Next.js pod sends simultaneous async requests to all neighboring front-end pods to revalidate the same path(s).
  4. If all requests return successfully, the pod sends one final request to the CDN to clear the path from CDN cache.

As you can see, they're similar approaches, but the 2nd version requires an additional network request, which can cause the entire process to take slightly longer.

For this article, we'll focus on the first approach.

Here we go!

Step 1: Set up a kubectl "Sidecar" for Kubernetes

First, set up a "sidecar" pod whose sole responsibility is to run kubectl proxy.

I set up kubectl proxy to run on port 8001, which is closed to the rest of the internet from Kubernetes. This port would only be used by local neighboring pods to make Kubernetes API requests.

This sidecar pod doesn't need many resources; it can be set quite low. Perhaps 0.5 vCPU and 0.5GB memory.. experiment and find what works best for your system.

The "Sidecar" Code

The kubectl proxy "sidecar" pod is based on a Docker image. Here's a simplified, generic version of what I used:

# Using AWS CLI as base image because as part of the build process,
# we need to use AWS credentials to gain access and set the default
# kubectl cluster.
FROM amazon/aws-cli:latest

# Replace with your specific info:
ARG AWS_ARN=arn:aws:eks:us-east-1:1234567890:cluster
ARG CLUSTER_NAME=the-cluster-name
ARG AWS_REGION=us-east-1
ARG ARCH=arm64

# 1.24.x was throwing an error during build. Using 1.23.6 for now.

# Provide these args securely during the build command via --build-arg

# Install kubectl dependency. There is code in the back-end which needs to list and ping
# specific running pods. In order to do this, we need to use the kubectl API. The reason for this,
# is that the latest PHP SDK for AWS does not appear to be able to list pods itself.
RUN curl -LO "https://dl.k8s.io/release/v${KUBECTL_VERSION}/bin/linux/${ARCH}/kubectl"
RUN install -o root -g root -m 0755 kubectl /usr/local/bin/kubectl

# Configure AWS EKS and kubectl for the specific cluster.
RUN aws eks --region ${AWS_REGION} update-kubeconfig --name ${CLUSTER_NAME}
RUN kubectl config use-context ${AWS_ARN}/${CLUSTER_NAME}

# Copy kubectl proxy startup script so it can be used in container.
COPY kubectl.sh /usr/src/
RUN chmod +x /usr/src/kubectl.sh

ENTRYPOINT [ "sh", "/usr/src/kubectl.sh" ]

The contents of kubectl.sh startup script is as follows:


# This opens up kubectl access via API endpoint for the kubectl pod.
# Attempted access to port 8001 (where kubectl proxy serves from) will be
# allowed from any local host with access to port 8001 in the cluster.
# Specific paths can be allowed, and accepted hosts can be further restricted.
kubectl proxy --address \
    --accept-hosts '.*' \
    --accept-paths '^/api/v1/namespaces/default/pods*'

When this kubectl (name can vary or be customized, of course) pod gets built and deployed to the Kubernetes cluster, we should have a kubectl pod available locally which can be accessed via HTTP. For example, to get our list of pods within the cluster, we could make a GET request to: http://kubectl:8001/api/v1/namespaces/default/pods

Back-end (WordPress)

With the sidecar now set up, we can prepare the back-end code for WordPress in PHP. For brevity, I'm going to skip all the fundamental error handling and scaffolding required to write some proper classes and tests to support this. Let's skip straight to the main points.

Here's a helper function that we'll use to fetch a list of local pod IP addresses:

function get_front_end_pod_ip_addresses() {
  // Don't forget to check for errors, handle exceptions and validate data!
  $front_end_service_name = "your-front-end-service-name";

  // Fetch a list of pods from the kubectl sidecar container.
  $kubectl_api_result      = wp_remote_get( "http://kubectl:8001/api/v1/namespaces/default/pods" );
  $kubectl_api_result_body = wp_remote_retrieve_body( $kubectl_api_result );
  $pods_list = json_decode( $kubectl_api_result_body );

  // Prepare a list of Kubernetes Pod IP addresses.
  $pod_ip_addresses = array();

  // Overrides the pod IP for local development purposes.
  // Value can be something like: host.docker.internal:3000
  // We can use this value to make an actual call to the front-end
  // Next.js development environment, for example.
  $pod_ip_address_override = getenv( 'POD_IP_ADDRESS_OVERRIDE' );

  foreach ( $pods_list->items as $pod ) {
    if ( str_contains( $pod->metadata->name, $front_end_service_name ) ) {
      // If $pod_ip_address_override is populated, we'll use that specific IP for each entry.
      // We allow the function to process this far rather than returning these values early,
      // so that we can be sure that the whole process works as intended.
      $pod_ip_addresses[] = $pod_ip_address_override ? $pod_ip_address_override : $pod->status->podIP . ':3000';

  return $pod_ip_addresses;

This helper function is used to retrieve our list of local Kubernetes front-end pod IP addresses, to which we'll then send Next.js on-demand revalidation requests.

Since this on-demand revalidation process is well-documented in the previous link, I will not go into details on setting that up here.

See below for a function to leverage the front-end pods' on-demand ISR revalidation API:

function revalidate_nextjs_cache( $relative_url = '' ) {
  // Don't forget to check for errors, handle exceptions and validate data!

  // Here's our helper in play:
  $pod_ip_addresses = get_front_end_pod_ip_addresses();

  $next_api_token = getenv( 'NEXT_API_TOKEN' );

  // Prepare an array of POST requests to send asynchronously.
  $requests = array();
  foreach ( $pod_ip_addresses as $pod_ip_address ) {
    $requests[] = array(
      'url'  => "http://$pod_ip_address/api/revalidate?" . http_build_query(
          "secret" => $next_api_token,
          "path"   => $relative_url,
      'type' => 'POST',

  // https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/classes/requests/request_multiple/
  // Note: it seems this Requests class is deprecated. Should be updated to use
  // the new version...
  $responses     = \Requests::request_multiple( $requests );
  $response_data = array();

  // Loop through each response and ensure all of them can be properly decoded.
  /** @var Requests_Response|Requests_Exception_Transport_cURL $response */
  foreach ( $responses as $response ) {
    if ( is_a( $response, 'Requests_Exception_Transport_cURL' ) ) {
      // Handle your exceptions...
      return new \WP_Error( 'exception', __( $error_message, 'your-text-domain' ) );

    if ( is_a( $response, 'Requests_Response' ) ) {
      $response_data[] = json_decode( $response->body );

  // Loop through each decoded response to ensure they've all succeeded to revalidate.
  foreach ( $response_data as $data ) {
    // If at least one of the revalidation attempts fails, the entire process fails.
    if ( ! isset( $data->revalidated ) || true !== $data->revalidated ) {
      $error_message = 'Unable to revalidate URL. Response: ' . wp_json_encode( $data ) . ' - URL: ' . $relative_url;
      return new \WP_Error( 'failed-to-revalidate', __( $error_message, 'your-text-domain' ) );

  // Success!
  return true;

Note: It should be fairly easy to modify this code to support an array of paths instead of a single path! This could be helpful to revalidate pages in bulk, say during a bulk post update.

Finally, let's stitch these together to call this when a post is updated:

function post_updated_handler( $post_id, $post_after, $post_before ) {
  // Don't forget to check for errors, handle exceptions and validate data!

  if ( defined( 'REST_REQUEST' ) && REST_REQUEST ) {
    // We only want to revalidate the cache on the final save action, so skip this one.

  if ( defined( 'DOING_AUTOSAVE' ) && DOING_AUTOSAVE ) {
    // There is no need to revalidate the cache for an autosave, either. Skip it.

  if ( 'publish' !== $post_after->post_status ) {
    // Do not clear caches for drafts, private, future, etc.
    // If we want to clear caches when a post is moved from one state to another, we'll
    // need to leverage the transition_post_status action:
    // https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/hooks/transition_post_status/

  // Retrive only the /relative/url/to/page/ (strip the domain).
  $relative_url = str_replace( 'https://yourdomain.com/', '', get_the_permalink( $post_id ) );

  // Let's revalidate this relative URL in front-end:
  $next_result = revalidate_nextjs_cache( $relative_url );

  // If the NextJS revalidation attempt fails, there's no need to attempt
  // to invalidate the CDN. Exit early.
  if ( is_wp_error( $next_result ) ) {
    return $next_result;

  $invalidation_id = invalidate_url_in_cdn( $relative_url );

  // We could use this ID to link directly to the invalidation in AWS.
  return $invalidation_id;

add_filter( 'post_updated', array( $this, 'post_updated_handler' ), 10, 3 );

But wait! What is this invalidate_url_in_cdn() function??

See below. This one is based on AWS CloudFront, but you can modify the function to invalidate any CDN with API access.

// https://docs.aws.amazon.com/sdk-for-php/v3/developer-guide/getting-started_installation.html
use Aws\CloudFront\CloudFrontClient;
use Aws\Exception\AwsException;

function invalidate_url_in_cdn( $relative_url = '' ) {
  // Don't forget to check for errors, handle exceptions and validate data!

  // Set this any way you'd like. This is just an example.
  $distribution_id = getenv( 'CLOUDFRONT_DISTRIBUTION_ID' );

  // Set up the CloudFront client via AWS PHP SDK.
  $cloudfront_client = new CloudFrontClient( array(
    'version' => 'latest',
    'region'  => 'us-east-1',
  ) );

  try {
    // Generate a unique md5 string. Or set whatever you would like.
    $caller_reference = md5( time() );

    $result = $cloudfront_client->createInvalidation(
        'DistributionId'    => $distribution_id,
        'InvalidationBatch' => array(

          'CallerReference' => $caller_reference,
          'Paths'           => array(
            'Items'    => array( $relative_url ),
            // Can be modified to use count( $urls ) if this function accepts an array of URLs.
            'Quantity' => 1,

    if ( isset( $result['Invalidation'] ) && isset( $result['Invalidation']['Id'] ) ) {
      // Success! Return the ID string.
      return $result['Invalidation']['Id'];

    // Uh oh, couldn't find the invalidation ID...
    $error_message = 'CloudFront Invalidation ID not found for attempted invalidation of ' . $relative_url;
    return new \WP_Error( 'failed-to-invalidate-cdn', __( $error_message, 'your-text-domain' ) );

  } catch ( AwsException $exception ) {
    // Welp, we failed.
    return new \WP_Error( 'aws-exception', __( $exception->getMessage(), 'your-text-domain' ) );


That's the gist of it! Now when you update a post, page, etc. in WordPress, the front-end pods should revalidate the page, followed by a CDN cache clear on successful revalidation.

If you have any questions, or run into any issues, please feel free to ping me on Twitter: @missionmikedev or find me on LinkedIn. I can't promise an answer, but I can promise a response :)