Google, IBM, Lyft Collaborate On Istio Open Microservices Technology

Istio, an open source microservices environment, will help developers manage, monitor and secure traffic between services, companies say.


Microservices architectures offer enterprises a way to break down large monolithic applications into a collection of smaller, more manageable applications or processes that communicate with each other via various application programming interfaces.

A growing number of organizations have begun using the microservices approach as a way to make application development and delivery faster, flexible and more tolerant to change.

Hoping to contribute to the process are Google, IBM and Lyft, which this week announced an alpha version of Istio, a new open-source platform that enables organizations to connect, secure and manage their microservices environments.

All it takes to install Istio in a Kubernetes environment is a single command. The technology helps enable automatic load balancing, traffic control between services, traffic encryption and policy enforcement.

Istio incorporates features that Google has used internally for years to run application services at massive scales. It is designed to give developers a way to address some of the common challenges they face when attempting to tie multiple independent applications into a bigger integrated service, Google product manager Varun Talwar said in the blog announcing the initiative.

"As monolithic applications are decomposed into microservices, teams have to worry about the challenges inherent in integrating services in distributed systems," he said. Some of these challenges include service discovery, load balancing, failure recovery, security and compliance.

Istio is positioned between a microservice and the network to manage service communications with applications. It handles much of the logic that is typically built into applications but is hard to manage in a distributed microservices environment, according to the description of the technology. Application developers can hand over management of traffic flows across their microservices to Istio and focus instead on business logic and new features.

The alpha version of Istio announced this week works only with Kubernetes deployment environments, such as IBM's Bluemix container service. Kubernetes is an automated container deployment, scaling and management platform that Google released to the open source community in 2015.  Eventually Istio—which means "sail" in Greek—will work in multiple deployment environments including Mesos, Cloud Foundry and virtual machines.

Istio, according to Talwar, is just one piece of a broader effort by Google to help make deployment and management of microservices easier for enterprise. The company is also engaged with the open source community in another effort called Open Service Broker to develop a unified API for service delivery, he said.

In a separate blog, Jason McGee, the vice president and CTO of IBM Cloud Platform, said Istio brings together work that Google, IBM and Lyft have been doing in the microservices space for some time.

IBMs Amalgam8 project for instance provided a traffic routing fabric for microservices, Google Service Control technology provided a policy enforcement mechanism while Lyft developed Envoy, the proxy technology on which Istio is based.

IBM also contributed other pieces to the Istio effort, including a traffic-splitting service, McGee said. "It became clear to all of us that it would be extremely beneficial to combine our efforts," he noted.

Several companies have already expressed support and are making early commitments to work with Istio, including Red Hat, Pivotal, Weaveworks and Tigera, McGee added.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.