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Simplifying service mesh with Istio 1.4

November 22, 2019
Dan Ciruli

Product Manager

Craig Box

Advocacy Lead, Google Cloud

Istio, the open-source service mesh that we created with IBM and Lyft, is now at version 1.4, and we’re very excited by how quickly the project is evolving and being adopted by end users. 

When we released Istio 1.1 in March, we announced that we would move to quarterly releases to get functionality out faster, and with this fourth release of the year, we’re happy to be fulfilling that promise.

Much of the work we are doing in open source Istio comes from what we’ve learned working with users of Google’s Anthos and Anthos Service Mesh, the hybrid application deployment platform and Istio-based service mesh that we released earlier this year to help enterprises monitor, secure and manage traffic in complex deployments. 

Working with Anthos users, we saw that we needed to focus on Istio usability and performance. In Istio 1.4 we are particularly excited about the advances in “mixerless telemetry”—a simplified architecture that allows full fidelity and pluggability of L7 telemetry, with a much smaller CPU footprint. Istio's Envoy proxies can now send telemetry to Prometheus or Stackdriver without first having to install, run and scale Mixer instances.

“Many of the customers I talk to love the observability that they get with Istio but didn’t love the amount of resources that Mixer consumed,” said Mandar Jog, lead for the Istio Policies and Telemetry working group. "Istio's goal is to be both feature-rich and performant, and we're well on the way with this release."

We also noticed that Anthos Service Mesh users often use it to enforce access policies among their services. To help with that, we redesigned Istio’s authorization APIs, simplifying them and making them easier to use.

It’s also getting easier for operators to install and upgrade Istio, thanks to simpler configuration options via the Kubernetes Operator mechanism. This will help not only Anthos customers but all open source Istio users—that includes Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) customers who use the Istio on GKE add-on to install open-source Istio in their GKE clusters.

Accelerating Istio for all

As we increased our contributions to Istio, the whole community grew as well. In fact, GitHub recently noted that Istio is in the top five projects in contributor growth over the last year—across all projects in GitHub! Of course, the success of an open source project is as much about building an ecosystem as it is about building a community, and that’s been happening too, with the arrival of Istio-based service mesh products from companies small and large—from Aspen Mesh and Banzai Cloud to Mulesoft to VMware.

Finally, we’re happy to see people talking about their own journey to service mesh with Istio. AutoTrader UK announced recently that Istio and GKE have let them migrate 300 services from VMs in a data center to the cloud. And at KubeCon this week, we heard from the likes of ING Bank, Freddie Mac and Yahoo! about how they’re using Istio. 

Onwards to Istio 1.5!

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