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Delivering Digital

Service Mesh Model Gunning for Disruption of Networking Market

Service mesh networking offers a microservices-friendly networking layer to support the modernization of enterprise applications

As modern software delivery models rely more and more on microservices to break up applications into easily managed bite-sized chunks, the IT networking world stands on a precipice. A new disruptive force called service mesh networking is entering the scene with about the same velocity that container tools like Kubernetes had several years ago. The innovators behind service mesh believe that they will change the face of network performance management and security in very short order.

Currently, enterprises are seeking an easier way to dynamically handle the increasing number of connections between microservices components that make up the pieces of today’s modern applications. According to Dimensional Research, approximately 86 percent of companies expect microservices to be a default part of their application stack in the next five years, as they continue to break up the monolithic legacy software architectures that bog down the delivery of new features to users.

But as things stand, incumbent networking players are struggling to shoehorn their traditional controls and performance management approaches into a microservices-friendly, cloud-native model. And while Kubernetes does a good job of orchestrating the internals of the microservices application compute loads, it’s simply not designed to handle the management of the underlying network infrastructure that connects them together.

All of this is creating a situation where enterprise technology teams are suffering from latency and reliability hotspots and performance degradation of their microservices. They’re struggling to secure cross-cluster and cloud communication between services. And they are finding there is simply no easy way to keep tabs on who or what has access to services and related data at any given time.

This is where service mesh comes into play.

The service mesh model fills in the blanks with load balancing, network management controls, and identity controls to consistently secure, operate and optimize the connection of both micro and macroservices. It’s already gathered momentum in the form of two major open source projects that have achieved tremendous penetration in the enterprise in just a couple of years.

86% of companies expect microservices to be a default part of their application stack in the next 5 years

The first is Envoy, which provides the data plane for service mesh. Originally open sourced by engineers by Lyft in 2016, it’s a Cloud Native Computing Foundation Project with heavy contributions from Google. The second big project is Istio, which provides the control plane for service mesh, and is similarly heavily supported by Google. Both Envoy and Istio have seen plenty of real-world deployments at webscale companies like Lyft, Pinterest, and Square. Now a number of key contributors to Envoy and Istio hope to build on those successes and scale service mesh up to larger enterprise deployments. They’ve teamed up to form a new company called Tetrate, which just today landed a $12.5M funding round from heavy hitters like Dell Technologies Capital, 8VC, Intel Capital, Rain Capital, and Samsung NEXT.

“Tetrate’s mission is to create a secure and flexible application networking layer to help enterprises transition from their decades-old rigid networking stack,” says Varun Talwar, CEO of Tetrate and formerly co-creator of Istio at Google. “Our tools and technologies will help customers with availability and manageability of their applications as they undergo this transformation.”

The question is whether Tetrate will disrupt the market before the incumbents move in on service mesh. Two days ago we saw the marriage of two big contenders with the announcement of F5’s $670 million acquisition of NGINX. While service mesh capabilities weren’t specifically mentioned in the scuttlebutt around the deal, many of the drivers of the acquisition revolved around interrelated capabilities like multi-cloud management, application delivery solutions, and API management. While it has its roots in traditional networking, NGINX has been tackling service mesh architecture since 2017 when it introduced integration with Istio.

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