The responsible Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has decided to officially include the service mesh Istio as an open source project in the organization’s incubator. It was only in April 2022 that Google announced that it would hand over responsibility for the service mesh, which had originally been developed in 2017 together with IBM and Lyft, to CNCF.
In networked microservices architectures, service meshes such as Istio take on the task of linking independent services with one another – especially in conjunction with Kubernetes. Istio is considered one of the top dogs in this discipline, but at the CNCF it now encounters a whole range of other service meshes that are already managed under the Organization umbrella, including Linkerd, Kuma, Cilium, Meshery and Open Service Mesh (OSM ). As is usual for new CNCF projects, Istio must first prove itself in the incubator before it can be awarded Graduated status, which guarantees stability and maturity for unrestricted use in productive environments.
In a microservice architecture, many small applications or services work independently of each other. A service mesh is responsible for linking the different services together. It consists of a control plane and a data plane. The latter consists of proxies that run alongside the microservices – usually in a sidecar in a Kubernetes cluster.
The control plane is responsible for managing the services and accesses the services via the proxies. On the one hand, it can read out the data from the services and, on the other hand, control the interaction and configure the individual services.
Thanks to the connection via proxies in the sidecar, developers do not have to adapt their applications to interact with the service mesh. Also, no unified framework or API gateway is required to connect the services.
Probationary phase at the CNCF
As the numerous case studies on the project homepage make clear, many companies such as Airbnb, Splunk or Salesforce have been using Istio in productive operation for years – and can also rely on well-known supporters such as Red Hat, Cisco, VMware and Intel. Service meshes also play a central role in cloud-native microservices architectures. This is also reflected, among other things, in the close integration with other significant CNCF projects, which include in particular Kubernetes, Envoy, gRPC and Prometheus. Istio can also point to integrations with the middleware Knative, also from Google, the policy engine Open Policy Agent (OPA) or the observability tool OpenTelemetry, all of which are managed by CNCF. Against this background, it can be expected that Istio should complete the incubation phase relatively quickly.
For more details on Istio’s inclusion in the CNCF’s incubator, see the organization’s blog post. For more in-depth technical information about the service mesh, see the documentation on the Istio website.
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