What is a Service Mesh?
Service Mesh is a technology that existed before Kubernetes. However, it is most often associated with the open-source platform. The entire idea behind using Kubernetes is to break down applications into various microservices.
Components and Goals of a Service Mesh
The Kubernetes Service Mesh is a software layer within the infrastructure, which has two primary components and three main goals:
- Control Plane: This acts as the operator or the brain of the mesh responsible for tasks such as service discovery. It essentially monitors the entire system and changes configuration parameters according to incoming requests and the state of relevant microservices.
- Data Plane: The operator/brain needs to have a medium that will execute all the instructions it provides. The data plane does that job well, but the service mesh has numerous network proxies that act as touchpoints for microservices and requests. This way all requests are routed through these network proxies and any messaging between the services takes place on the same communications network.
These are the two main components of the Service Mesh. Now, for the goals:
- Connectivity: This goal refers to everything from initiating interaction between services to managing the incoming traffic. The service mesh takes care of routing the traffic, balancing the load, optimizing the usage of resources through various strategies, and maintaining proper communication in different scenarios such as timeouts, retries, and more.
- Security: A service mesh enables various security features, including encryption, authentication, and authorization. It uses mTLS (mutual Transport Layer Security) where the inter-service communication is encrypted. Furthermore, one service verifies the other using a certificate, and every conversation between the services is further protected by public-key encryption. This satisfies the goal of providing a secure service infrastructure using both authentication and encryption techniques.
- Observability: As the name suggests, this ensures that the service mesh has visibility into everything happening between the various microservices and network proxies. This essentially helps achieve goals such as load balancing by giving dynamic routing instructions depending on whether there is too much or too little traffic.
Benefits of Service Mesh
In general, the microservice architecture is scalable, however, the larger the system grows, the more challenging it becomes to have the same level of insight that you had into your previously smaller and more manageable system.
The service mesh takes care of this issue and provides numerous additional benefits:
One of the most basic requirements of a microservice is reliability. The system needs to function at all times through a myriad of changing conditions. Any gap or flaw can lead the system to lose efficiency or stop working entirely. The service mesh makes sure microservices are functioning properly thereby increasing the reliability of the entire system.
The pre-existence of the service mesh prior to Kubernetes demonstrates how different aspects of cloud-native architecture can be integrated to improve Kubernete's performance. This encourages more IT departments to cut back on their physical infrastructure and shift operations to the cloud using the Kubernetes platform.
Successful applications are bound to grow over time along with the number of requests they need to support. Previously, it was difficult to scale cloud-native architecture because it involved tedious manual tweaking of multiple processes. Service mesh automates the process of traffic management and security, making today’s Kubernetes-based systems far more scalable than their predecessors.
This is yet another significant advantage offered by a service mesh. With the observability factor in place, the service mesh can quickly identify any gap or issue within the system. Furthermore, the troubleshooting process is much simpler, as it is highly automated and does not require manual investigations into multiple system logs.
Thus, in the event of a disaster or critical incident, the mitigation process and system recovery can be carried out much faster based on data from the service mesh layer..
This summarizes the key benefits of the Kubernetes Service Mesh.
Service Mesh Options for Kubernetes
In Kubernetes, there are three main service mesh options that you can leverage for managing your applications:
While Istio is a Kubernetes-native service mesh, Consul Connect and Linkerd are third-party solutions but are still considered to be part of the Kubernetes ecosystem. Amongst the three, Istio and Linkerd are the most popular due to the extensive features offered to the cluster admins and organizations.
Whatever option you choose, the main thing is to understand the advantages of service mesh architecture and use them to keep your cloud operations running smoothly and efficiently.