SAN FRANCISCO — Among chief information officers at enterprises and cloud executives at this week’s ONUG Spring 2018 conference, two words kept cropping up: Istio and Envoy.
These technologies can both be lumped into the category called “service mesh.” Envoy is a service mesh project that was originally created by Lyft. It has since become part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
According to Lyft software engineer Matt Klein, a service mesh is composed of two disparate pieces: the data plane and the control plane. Both are required. The current service mesh landscape includes:
“The industry is moving to a more service-mesh model,” said Lane Patterson, VP of global network infrastructure services with Verizon’s Yahoo/Oath business, in an interview with SDxCentral at the ONUG event this week. “The Istio framework is kind of a big deal.”
Services Code Becomes Building Blocks
Patterson explained that Istio and Envoy allow the code for different services to easily talk to each other. He said that applications can be built by linking pre-existing web services.
Examples of services include things like Hadoop, which Yahoo invented, or Sherpa, which is Yahoo’s cloud storage platform. “We have all these different services, and when we create an application, the whole goal of computer programming is so you don’t have to re-write code all the time,” said Patterson. Istio and Envoy enable web services to easily talk to each other and become building blocks to create applications.
“Using Envoy is basically like function calls,” said Patterson. “You don’t have to care whether the services are written in C or Java or Python. All you’re doing is connecting to them with an API.”
The software solves a problem that comes from the fact that services have been associated with the servers on which they reside. The services map to specific machines in the network. If an application wants to use a service, it has to know specific server information. But with Istio and Envoy, the services software is abstracted from the underlying hardware.
Patterson likened Envoy to a dispatcher. “Envoy supports services discovery. You don’t have to have anything specific about DNS names or host names,” he said. “The services discovery allows all this code to be developed without having to care about the underlying infrastructure because that’s constantly changing. With Envoy you don’t have to care. That abstraction is beautiful.”
“Envoy is a universal data plane where it does not matter which system you are in; the mesh just works no matter where the code is running,” according to Klein.
Some cloud executives at the ONUG event said they’re optimistic about service mesh.
“We built out a service-mesh architecture when I was at Netflix,” said Adrian Cockcroft, who is now VP of cloud architecture strategy at Amazon Web Services (AWS). “It gives you a nice way of taking things that are written in all kinds of languages and gives you a common pattern.”
Lakshmi Sharma, head of product management for networking at Google Cloud, said, “We believe Istio being the control plane platform and adding the Envoy proxy gives a lot of advantages. Istio will kind of bring back alignment at the top … to help you drive all clouds. We are seeing a lot of conversations around it.”