Network software provider Buoyant, the company that originally developed the Linkerd service mesh, has launched the public beta of Buoyant Cloud, a SaaS suite of diagnostics, performance management, and on-demand support features for the service mesh.
While Buoyant CEO and Linkerd creator William Morgan emphasizes that operational simplicity has always been a focus, he says that they expect Buoyant Cloud to take that one step further.
“We want to take the operational burden off of the shoulders of whoever is bringing Linkerd into their organization. We want to handle that for you,” he said. “We want to carry the pager for you, we want to make it so that running Linkerd in production is a trivial task. This falls right in line with everything we’ve been doing with Linkerd since the very beginning — our focus has been really heavily on operational simplicity and on making it so that when you operate Linkerd, you’re not in this horrendous situation where you need to hire a team of experts just to maintain your service mesh. With Buoyant Cloud, we have the opportunity to take on a lot of those operational tasks for you, and make it so you get all the benefits of Linkerd without having to pay the operational costs.”
Buoyant Cloud can be run on any Linkerd installation and provides a core set of features free to all users. While Buoyant Cloud itself is SaaS, Linkerd still runs locally on a user’s cluster, and Buoyant Cloud can be installed either with the addition of an agent or by using the Buoyant Cloud extension, a feature that was added last March alongside the quiet introduction of Buoyant Cloud. And unlike other managed service meshes, such as Istio on Google Kubernetes Engine, Morgan points out that Buoyant Cloud is able to run on any infrastructure.
Some of the core operational burdens handled by Buoyant Cloud include the tracking of Linkerd data plane and control plane health, service mesh lifecycle and version management, and the addition of a suite of SRE-focused tools that provide service level objectives (SLOs), workload golden metric tracking, and change tracking. So, Buoyant Cloud will, for example, identify data plane and version incompatibilities and sanity-check mesh installs and upgrades. Of these core features, Morgan said that visibility into Linkerd was first and foremost.
“The very first set of things that we’re really focused on is, can we give you confidence in your deployment,” he said. “No matter how many Linkerd clusters you have, and in some cases, we’re talking about many hundreds of production clusters, we want you to have the very basic foundational set of alerts and monitoring setup for each of the Linkerd components, including the proxies, and we want you to be proactively notified if there’s anything that you have to address.”
Buoyant Cloud was in private beta for the past several months, and during that time, Morgan said the company found that visibility into the operation of Linkerd itself was a feature of primary importance for many users. While features like service catalogs — something they thought would be well-received — were nice to have, seeing how Linkerd was operating served a much greater purpose.
“The moment you bring service mesh in, whenever anything goes wrong, you’re immediately the person who gets blamed. Like, ‘Oh, service mesh did this.’ And so putting them in a position where, because they actually know CPU consumption is remaining steady and low, and actually know the issue is over here with this part of the application, is a big part of adopting service mesh,” explained Morgan.
Over the last year, Linkerd has seen a 300% increase in installs, but Morgan says that, while everyone has bought into the value proposition of the service mesh, they get hung up on the idea of complexity, and the visibility and management provided by Buoyant Cloud helps with that.
“People don’t want to be in a situation where they have to hire a team of Istio experts, or whatever,” said Morgan. “Becoming a service expert, that’s part of my job, but that’s not really part of most people’s jobs. It shouldn’t have to be. You want to get the service mesh working and then you want to move on to the rest of what your job actually is.”
Moving forward, Morgan says that Buoyant Cloud will deliver more on what it has started, for example, handling certificate management, and going beyond checking for version incompatibilities and actually handling installations and upgrades entirely.
“What we’ve done today is just the very first step. We’ve given you kind of the foundational set of observability and alerting and monitoring to make you confident in your Linkerd deployment,” he said. “But the next steps for us are doubling down on being able to shoulder that operational burden. We can really give you a turnkey service mesh. We can’t quite do that today, but that’s what the future holds for Buoyant Cloud. I want to make this a totally trivial part of your stack that you don’t spend any brain juice on. It just works.”