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A dashboard for Istio, a new project for monitoring microservices.
A dashboard for Istio, a new project for monitoring microservices.

After years of evangelizing microservices as the path to a more nimble development organization, companies are realizing they need to make it easier to keep track of all those moving parts. IBM, Google, and Lyft released a new open-source project Wednesday to give developers better control over their microservices projects.

Istio is the name of the joint project, and it’s designed to give “developers and devops fine-grained visibility and control over traffic without requiring any changes to application code,” Google’s Valrun Talwar wrote in a blog post. It runs on Kubernetes, but will eventually reach other platforms such as Cloud Foundry, IBM said in its own post on the matter.

Cloud-native application-development philosophy holds that microservices — breaking an application up into smaller pieces that can run across different platforms — are the best way to ensure application reliability and scale in the cloud world. But as an application scales, it becomes much harder to keep track of all the different microservices that make up that application, especially if you’re a business with strict compliance requirements or particularly concerned about security.

Istio’s answer is a service mesh, a control layer that sits above app services and tracks traffic in and out of those services. It allows a developer to check on load balancing, encrypt traffic as it moves between services, and enforce new policies without having to release a new version of the app.

Lyft’s Envoy, a homegrown open-source edge proxy server that it developed while converting the app to a microservices architecture, appears to have been the basis for Istio. IBM contributed the Amalgam8 project, and Google added the Service Control plane.

The Istio project’s roadmap is here.

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