What is a service mesh?
A service mesh governs how various components of an application share data and accommodates the unique nature of distributed microservices. It is a dedicated, configurable infrastructure layer built into an application. The layer documents how effectively different parts of the application interact. This ensures communication among containerised and often short-lived application infrastructure services is fast, reliable, and secure. Not only does a service mesh optimise communications, but it also increases resilience to downtime and optimises service communications.
In a microservices architecture, a specific service might need data from various other services. However, what if some of the services experience overload? A service mesh helps resolve this. It optimises how the different functions work together by routing the requests from each of them. So, if you already have microservices, why should you use a service mesh?
Individual microservices, unlike application development in other architectures, are built by different teams who choose their tools and languages. The microservices communicate with each other and can fail individually without causing an application-wide outage. Even though you can code the logic governing communication into each service without using a service mesh layer, a mesh layer is valuable when communication becomes complicated. Therefore, a service mesh is a method of comprising many services into a single functional application for cloud-native applications built in a microservices architecture.
For a microservice to operate without a service mesh, it needs the logic governing service-to-service communication from individual services and abstracts it to a layer of infrastructure.
A service mesh forms part of an application as an array of network proxies. A proxy works as follows:
- As a request for a webpage goes out, the company’s web proxy receives the request.
- After passing the proxy’s security measures, the request goes to a server that hosts the webpage.
- The page returns to the proxy and checks it against the security measures.
- The person who requested the webpage receives it.
With a service mesh, you route requests between microservices through proxies that sit in their infrastructure layer. ‘Sidecars’ are individual proxies that constitute a service mesh, named so because they run alongside each service, rather than within it, and form a service mesh network.
Without a service mesh, each microservice must be coded with logic to govern service-to-service communication. This means the developers become less focused on business goals. Communication failures become harder to diagnose due to the logic that regulates communication hidden in each service.
A service mesh optimises communication in the following way. With the introduction of a new service to an application and new instances of an existing service running in a container, the communication environment becomes increasingly complicated because they introduce new points of failure. It is challenging to locate problems in a microservice without a service mesh.
A service mesh captures every aspect of service-to-service communication as a performance metric. Over time the data that is made visible by the service mesh can be applied to the rules for inter-service communication. The result is more efficient and reliable service requests. For example, if a service fails, a service mesh can collect data at the time it took before a retry succeeded. As the data aggregates, you can write rules to determine the optimal wait time before retrying the service. It ensures that the system does not become overburdened by unnecessary retries.
The more you update applications for the modern world, the more you increase their complexity. If you want applications to communicate and connect while running on container platforms, you need to have modular, flexible microservices. However, the more flexible microservices become, the more involved they are, which is why a service mesh becomes relevant.
Service meshes offer the centralised control plane that your team needs while they are still enabling the flexible style of agile, cloud-based application development. A service mesh gives you a central point to apply policies rather than having to code it directly into the business logic of your applications.
Hopefully, you are convinced of the validity of leveraging service mesh. If you are still not convinced, here are my top five reasons why you should consider leveraging service mesh:
- Increased visibility
From an administrative viewpoint, it is imperative to have visibility of containers and microservices. The distributed components make debugging difficult, but with a service mesh, you can easily debug and optimise your systems because a service mesh facilitates the visibility of every aspect of your service-level operations. You can tweak systems over time to expand capabilities and to address performance and stability. With better visibility of your traffic, your reliability also increases as you identify potential issues before they become significant problems.
You may think that visibility comes with the price of performance. However, this is not the case with service mesh technology. Sidecar proxies are specifically built for speed, meaning your developers have the required levels of visibility without sacrificing performance. You have visibility of the runtime and can monitor and regulate all incoming and outgoing traffic. The advantages of service mesh tools demonstrate how little changes in performance can have significant impacts on your users.
- Developers can go back to developing
Your team might be spending too much time and money on writing code to solve problems that a service mesh could address automatically. A service mesh improves productivity and efficiency, meaning your developers can focus on the app instead of operational issues with component service communication.
Previously your developers’ main focus was writing infrastructure code to effectively deploy an app and build libraries to manage service-to-service communication and in different languages. A service mesh resolves these issues. It provides the tools and functionality to support microservices and allows your developers to focus exclusively on the application logic. So they can concentrate their effort, time and resources on the services themselves, rather than on networks and telemetry.
- Faster time-to-market
Old library solutions like Finagle, Hystrix and Stubby require tremendous involvement from your developers. It also forces them to code redundant functions into every service. It is simpler to put a sidecar proxy with each microservice and connect them. Service meshes keep your developers productive, enabling them to bring more services to the market faster.
- Improve security
Another area where a service mesh plays a vital role is in microservices security. It is an industry best practice to use the same security guidelines for communication between microservices and their communication with the outside world. It means authentication, authorisation and encryption for all intra-micro service communications. The service mesh enforces security measures without affecting the application code. It also enforces security-related policies like whitelists/blacklists or rate-limiting if there is a denial-of-service (DoS) attack. The security features of a service mesh include inbound and outbound communications that occur in the ingress and egress API gateways that connect the microservices to other applications.
Seeing as public and private cloud providers have settled on the default standard of Docker containers and Kubernetes orchestration, a service mesh is platform-independent. Building a service mesh in AWS with these tools does not preclude moving the system to Microsoft Azure or forming a mesh within a vSphere private cloud.
That means your service mesh endpoints can run in any container-based architecture and various systems can be architected to run between different clouds. The cross-cloud capacity extends to cross-service delivery because service meshes track latency and performance metrics.
So, if you are managing hundreds of discrete microservices, have a look at the possibility of using a service mesh. For large environments, they are the final piece of the cloud application puzzle. It is the piece that ties the entire state together, whether it is inside the public cloud, your business or enterprise data centre or in a hybrid cloud implementation. If you have a service mesh in place, your team can trace problems, ensure that services are available and maintain proper distribution of routing tables.
Why talk to LimePoint about Microservices
At LimePoint, part of our services capability is to help enterprises in modernising their IT legacy systems with independent, secure, and agile microservices. Our developers have long-standing experience of successfully implementing microservices architecture by selecting the right platform that fulfils the business needs of our clients. We have deep expertise in rebirthing legacy applications, adding new components to an existing application or developing microservice applications from scratch.
Our microservices capability includes:
Microservices assessment and consulting: We assess organisational IT systems and provide a roadmap for the adoption of microservices. We also provide advisory services in the microservices landscape.
Microservices integration: We offer customised integration using open source tools and APIs to make applications and databases more flexible and agile.
Microservices migration: We can help you develop a strategy for incrementally refactoring your monolith applications to a microservice-based architecture.
Microservices applications: We facilitate transformation into core microservices architecture in order to drive business agility and modernisation.
If you would like to know more, visit https://www.limepoint.com/api-integration to learn how a service mesh and microservices can improve your business.