UPDATED 14:26 EDT / MAY 24 2017


Google, IBM and Lyft team up for Istio, a new open-source microservices project

More and more companies are abandoning the traditional approach of deploying software as a tightly integrated package in favor of the microservices model, which relies on loosely coupled containers. This method can streamline management operations a great deal, but also introduces new challenges that are emerging as a major obstacle.

Google Inc., IBM Corp. and Lyft Inc. hope to ease the challenge with a new project called Istio that they launched today under an open-source license. The system removes the need for companies to build the operational mechanisms necessary to support a microservices application directly into their code. Instead, it provides the ability to set up a connective layer between the individual modules that serves the same purpose but doesn’t require making any major modifications.

Administrators can manage Istio using a set of programmatic controls. The system provides the ability to configure a load balancer for distributing traffic among application components, packs a failover feature to help recover from issues and makes it possible to specify exactly how data should flow throughout the network.

The latter function is designed mainly for security purposes. Companies can restrict communications so that each application component may only access the processes that are essential for its operation. The result is that potential hackers are left with fewer paths to propagate malware should they somehow breach the network.

In the same spirit, Istio provides the ability to limit the number and type of requests that a service can send. The rules are enforced by a strict authentication mechanism, but administrators are left with enough wiggle room to perform their work. They can inject artificial traffic into network links to test their reliability and reroute certain packets for special occasions such the release of a new application component.

On launch, Istio only works with services that use Google’s Kubernetes container management framework, but support for other platforms is set to arrive later down the line. The website for the project specifies that the immediate priority is adding compatibility with virtual machines and Cloud Foundry.

Istio is the latest attempt by Google to grow its influence in the open-source ecosystem, an effort that is not limited to containers. The company has also contributed to the development of web standards such as the HTTP/2 protocol and offers an extensive lineup of artificial intelligence tools. Among them is the TensorFlow machine learning engine, which is is among the most popular in the category.

Image: Pixabay

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