Microservices-based architectures are the future, but getting there can be hard. Modern application architectures are vastly more complicated than in decades past, leading to a host of specific challenges. This is where a service mesh plays a significant role.
These days, administrators are no longer focused on tuning a single application server. Instead, modern systems are treated like herds of cattle, where the behavior of an individual server is less interesting than the actions of the whole. This exemplifies a distributed system.
Microservices are a distributed architecture that is designed to address this shift by adjusting constantly to current traffic conditions, for example by changing the set of containers to which client requests are routed. That, in turn, means that routing tables are in constant flux so they reflect the changed locations of application endpoints. At the same time, there are still relics of the past in any architecture, from applications that must use a single large database server to legacy systems with APIs bolted on to make them look service-focused.
Enter the service mesh. A service mesh is the current state-of-the-art microservices pattern. It builds on top of containers and orchestration with a dedicated control plane that handles intra-services communication. It’s responsible for the security, routing, authentication, authorization, and similar functions that are needed to coordinate a distributed mesh of microservices. A service mesh offloads these functions from the application (or service component of an application) and instead provides them as programmable infrastructure components. Not all companies need the sophistication of a service mesh — most that do run hundreds or thousands of services — but it’s quickly becoming the default architecture for companies that want to run production-grade microservices.
Here are eight ways that implementing a service mesh can help smooth your transition to microservices:
- Improve microservices-ready message handling. A service mesh ensures you’ve got an entire architectural layer dedicated not only to tracking server locations on the network but also tracking the messages that convey information about server locations. For example, you may want to track “failed” messages that would otherwise get lost in traditional cloud architectures. A benefit of service mesh is guaranteed message passing and proper return of errors when messages don’t reach their destinations.
- Leverage consistent operational experience with legacy applications. When it comes to enterprise networks, customization and flexibility are of the utmost importance. The service mesh is designed to accommodate modern, distributed applications. But the underlying technologies — ingress controllers, load balancers, and proxies — are the same technologies that constitute the data plane for traditional, monolithic applications. Organizations implementing a service mesh leverage the same technology and skill set needed to operate modern, software-based application delivery infrastructure.
- Get multicloud flexibility. Service meshes tackle cloud networking issues in modern applications. The data and control plane technologies that underpin the service mesh are independent of any particular infrastructure. They operate across any private or public infrastructure, be it bare metal, container or virtual machine. This flexible nature even allows a service mesh to handle future application architectures that take advantage of massive scaling, worldwide replication, and deep performance tuning. Your service mesh is the enabler for all of the promise of cloud-based architecture at scale.
- Improve visibility into microservices. A service mesh provides deep visibility into what would otherwise be a black box of distributed application metrics. Because a service mesh is gathering performance information over time, it can provide your team with long-term metrics on service availability. This provides operators with a view into service reliability and performance, enabling them to optimize the system over time.
- Better operations and SLA enforcement. The level of visibility provided by a service mesh is essential for debugging and troubleshooting, not to mention conforming to service level agreements (SLAs). Enforcing policy, and tracking to ensure those policies are met, are two of the many tasks a service mesh performs. The service mesh gives administrators a place to enforce governance and policy for cloud applications at the network layer.
- Simplify microservices implementations. Another big benefit of service meshes is the ease with which they can be deployed. Past solutions to this problem required developers to code intra-service functionality into each microservice. This required rewriting applications and maintaining various libraries across different programming languages. A service mesh is a hands-off abstraction for developers. Developers can simply call the necessary message passing and service discovery functions so that the source code of the microservice focuses just on business logic.
- Faster time-to-market with new services. Old-world library solutions, such as Finagle, Hystrix, and Stubby, require too much involvement from the developer and force developers to code redundant functions into every service. A simpler approach is put a sidecar proxy with each microservice and connecting them together. For this reason, service meshes are winning out as the choice for the future of cloud application design. Put simply, service meshes keep developers productive, enabling them to bring more services to market, faster.
- Secure interservice communication. Your services communicate with each other across clouds, across data centers, and across continents. A service mesh ensures those communications are performed securely. By encapsulating all communications, and coordinating them through the controller plane, you automatically address security concerns with in-pipe encryption, contact policies, and service permissions.
Feature image via Pixabay.