Istio Service Mesh Update Arrives

The committee that oversees the development of the Istio has released the latest update of the open source service mesh, which simplifies the upgrade process and adds a slew of experimental features that will be vetted over the coming months.

Daniel Berg, distinguished engineer at IBM Cloud, says there is now also a formal process for adding, upgrading and promoting features throughout the life cycle of an Istio deployment.

Version 1.18 of Istio also adds support for separately managed gateways for both in-place and revision-based upgrades. That approach will enable IT teams to update the Istio control plane independent of the entire service mesh environment.

Berg says the Istio committee also has committed to supporting WebAssembly as the preferred framework for extending Istio to enable options such as firewall capabilities to a service mesh. A Mixer component that previously relied on to customize Istio is no longer supported.

There is also now a single deployment model, available in beta, that unifies the provisioning of Istio across multiple clusters.

Also added include alpha support for a DNS proxy deployed in a container sidecar, a simplified method for onboarding new virtual machines, support for the latest version of Helm Charts and a way to simplify deployment of Istio on Red Hat OpenShift clusters.

IBM has also committed to support the latest version of Istio in IBM Cloud Code Engine and Managed Istio on IBM Cloud. IBM Cloud Satellite is also expected to include support for a federated instance of Istio.

Despite its decision to continue to allow the Istio community to operate outside of any existing industry consortium, Berg says IBM remains firmly committed to the project, which is more streamlined with each release. Providers of rival service mesh platforms have contended Istio—which is based on open source Envoy proxy software being advanced under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and was originally developed by Google, IBM and Lyft—is too large and cumbersome to manage for the average IT organization to deploy on their own.

Berg counters that previous updates have significantly streamlined the Istio platform and each update makes it easier to manage. Vendors that have pledged to support Istio include, VMware, Cisco, SolarWinds, Huawei and Datadog.

It’s too early to say how the service mesh wars will play out. Most organizations are just starting to appreciate the level of complexity involved with managing hundreds of microservices that service meshes are meant to address.

At the same time, however, IT teams are discovering the advantages of an abstraction layer service meshes provide on top of network underlays. Developers are no longer required to master low-level application programming interfaces (APIs) to programmatically invoke networking services.

Regardless of organizations’ reason for adopting a service mesh, however, the convergence of network operations (NetOps) and DevOps is now only a question of time. In fact, in time it’s probable many organizations will employ multiple service mesh frameworks until the need to rally around an internal standard becomes apparent.

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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