The 5 traits of successful service mesh adopters

Tetrate’s Zack Butcher gave a whirlwind session, a “Practical Guide to Istio,” at DockerCon in San Francisco last week, with one of the 5 top-rated talks at the conference. He pointed to 5 traits of successful service mesh adopters.

#1. They’re focused on a single pain point.

A mesh is just too big to adopt wholesale from day one. Service mesh is a tool, not an end-point, and organizations are very likely to fail if it’s adopted for its own sake. Rather, service mesh should be adopted incrementally to address one problem at a time. If you’re getting started, pick the specific thing that hurts most and use the mesh to solve only that problem.

#2. A small group champions the mesh for the organization.

The folks experiencing pain points in an organization will be the very same group who will become your mesh experts and its biggest champions. Sometimes this is an individual application team, but typically it’s a central team responsible for observability, networking, and/or security across the organization.

#3. They invest time in learning Envoy.

Often, organizations will start using Envoy at ingress and then gradually move to a sidecar model. Commonly they’ll use Envoy without a control plane at all, then move to their mesh control plane of choice.

#4. They only expose a small subset of configuration to application developers consuming the mesh.

Successful mesh adopters err on the side of giving app developers less, expanding later as their champion team gains confidence in the system. It’s easier to give teams new functionality than abstract away a thing they’re already using. For example, if you’re solving traffic management, you only need to give application developers the VirtualService resource to start with.

#5. They’re in it for the long haul.

It’s not a one day or one week or one quarter thing. A constant process of education across the org is a key to long-term success with service mesh.

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