Google Teams Up with to Extend Istio

Google and are now collaborating to make open source Istio service mesh more extensible by adding support for WebAssembly (WASM), which was created under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and provides a portable target for compiling more than 30 high-level languages. has been working to marry WASM with Envoy, an open source proxy server being developed under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). The Istio service mesh is built on top of Envoy, so now Google and are working toward providing WASM support for Istio.

That capability should make it easier for DevOps teams to extend Istio to add additional services, such as a web application firewall (WAF), as a filter to the Istio service mesh. CEO Idit Levine says that as part of that effort the company will focus on improving the overall developer experience for Istio, while Google and the rest of the contributors to the service mesh continue to enhance the core platform. The goal is to create an ecosystem of filters that extend the capabilities of Istio and Envoy in a way that allows developers to programmatically add new capabilities without having to deploy a dedicated appliance, says Levine.

Those filters can be added to either Istio or Envoy without requiring IT teams to recompile either platform. In the case of Istio, extensions to proxies can be made without having to restart the service mesh.

The ability to extend Istio using WASM requires organizations to have version 1.5 of the service mesh installed. While Istio has gained some traction among organizations that have adopted Kubernetes, the service mesh is not especially accessible to the average IT team. WASM will also provide a means of making it much more feasible for IT teams to manage Istio deployments as the ecosystem continues to evolve and expand, says Levine. to help foster that emerging ecosystem has already made available WebAssembly Hub, a service for building, sharing, discovering and deploying WASM extensions. Those WASM extensions can then be deployed as containers.

Istio, of course, is not only service mesh that has been created for cloud-native computing environments. Levine says she expects that the filters created for Istio using WASM will be portable to other service mesh platforms. That capability will not only preserve the flexibility of IT organizations in terms of which service mesh to employ when, but also ultimately serve to lower the total cost of computing as more appliances are transformed into filters.

It may be a while before Istio and Envoy achieve enough critical mass to turn that vision into reality. However, as containers and Kubernetes continue to gain traction it’s only a matter of time before more organizations rely on service meshes to bring some order to the microservices chaos that is likely to ensue. Once that occurs, it then becomes only a matter of time before organizations also realize that service meshes are also programmable platforms that can be used to deliver in a much lighter fashion all kinds of network and security services.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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