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April 26, 2022

Service Mesh Project Istio Announces Intent to Join CNCF

Open source service mesh project Istio has announced its intention to join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation as an incubating project.

Google, IBM, and Lyft launched Istio v0.1 in May 2017, and according to the Istio Steering Committee’s announcement, “That first version set the standard for what a service mesh should be: traffic management, policy enforcement, and observability, powered by sidecars next to workloads.”

Within the cloud-native computing paradigm, Istio has become popular based on its ability to wrangle the many microservices in cloud-native applications. Users are often operating in different regions on disparate platforms, using assorted virtual machines or containers, all with various programming languages and networking protocols. Service mesh tool Istio provides a single network and observability layer to enable organizations to run, secure, connect and monitor distributed, microservices-based apps.

Megan O’Keefe, staff developer relations engineer at Google Cloud, explains that “Istio works by placing a layer seven proxy, the Envoy Proxy, next to all of your workloads and all of your services, and those proxies mediate the traffic going in and out of your services, both capturing metrics around that traffic and enforcing traffic and security rules.” APIs can then be deployed through YAML files to add and manage traffic and security policies to allow Envoy Proxy to enforce those rules at scale. Istio can be used on a single cluster or on multiple clusters simultaneously.

According to Google, benefits of Istio include consistency in service networking, service-to-service security including authentication, authorization, and encryption, and improved application performance via app visibility and optimization capabilities.

Istio has always been an open source project, and Google says its governance structure “promotes continuous contribution and project engagement.” One of Istio’s largest contributors is, a service connectivity company whose Gloo Mesh service mesh and control plane is based on Istio and Envoy Proxy.

“The explosion in adoption of enterprise service mesh technologies proves the shift to microservices is accelerating. In the same way Kubernetes has become the industry standard for container orchestration, Istio has become the Kubernetes of service mesh,” said Founder/CEO, Idit Levine. “In joining the CNCF, Istio [becomes] the de facto standard in this space. Our Gloo Mesh customers are already some of the largest Istio environments, and they trust Istio to network their business-critical workloads. This news will encourage others to follow suit.”

Istio’s collaborative aspects can also be seen in action at IstioCon, a free, community-led conference devoted to sharing Istio experience and knowledge via keynotes, workshops, technical and lightning talks, and roadmap sessions. 4,000 developers gathered for last year’s event, and the conference’s second edition began Monday and will continue through April 29.

Google says it is committed to continued sponsorship of Istio’s build/test infrastructure as it transitions to CNCF management and will continue investing in the project if it is accepted. The Istio Steering Committee says nothing will change with Istio’s current open governance model, and it “will continue to reward corporate contribution, community influence and long-term maintainership through our Steering Committee and Technical Oversight Committee model.”

“As a founding Istio Steering committee and Technical Oversight committee member, I am really excited this is becoming a reality and I have never been so optimistic about the future of Istio as the de facto service mesh for everyone,” said Lin Sun, director, open source, and Istio Steering Committee member.

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