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Istio: The New Open Source Cloud Hotness

Mitch Wagner

Expect to hear a lot more about Istio, an emerging open source technology for orchestrating microservices networking. The buzz is already building, says Kip Compton, senior vice president of Cisco's cloud platform and solutions group.

Istio manages coordination between components of software written in microservices, across multiple private and public clouds. Istio helps developers build big enterprise-class applications that run across private data centers, as well as public cloud providers such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).

As monolothic applications are decomposed into microservices, the number of components proliferate, which makes getting everything to work together a complex problem. "You need some way to orchestrate microservices and which services do they bind to," Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s Compton said in an interview with Light Reading in June.

Cisco's Compton at Cisco Live last month.
Cisco's Compton at Cisco Live last month.

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Istio provides "networking for microservices," Compton said. It's a layer of infrastructure between a service and the network, also known as a "service mesh."

Istio routes calls between microservices over the network, applying policies to ensure smooth operations, Compton says. "An enterprise could say 'these are the microservices that are allowed to call services in Google Cloud, these are the microservices that are allowed to access my ERP service.'" Istio provides a common, uniform replacement for random REST APIS and encrypted HTTP connections, Compton says.

Cisco has been seeing keen interest in Istio from its customers, comparable to the early days of Kubernetes, Compton says. "Kubernetes has evolved to pretty much the de facto standard. Istio may be on the same trajectory, but a bit earlier."

Google, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Lyft Inc. launched Istio in May 2017. At the time, Google explained it as "a uniform way to help connect, secure, manage and monitor microservices."

"Istio provides developers and devops fine-grained visibility and control over traffic without requiring any changes to application code and provides CIOs and CSOs the tools needed to help enforce security and compliance requirements across the enterprise," Google said (emphasis theirs).

The technology helps provide service discovery, load balancing, fault tolerance, end-to-end monitoring, dynamic routing, and compliance and security, Google said. Initially supporting Kubernetes, it will eventually run on any cloud.

Istio is key to a partnership between Google and Cisco to deliver applications spanning private clouds and Google Cloud Platform. (See Cisco & Google's Kubernetes Partnership Could Deliver in October.)

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