So you’ve heard about service mesh. You’ve been told this is the thing for your team and your organization. It’s got a laundry list of features and functionality that everyone in the market is saying you have to try if you’re going through some sort of digital transformation. 

[Warning Klaxon] There’s more to it than that. 

Service meshes, of course, can help transform services, make migrations easier and a couple of other buzzword-worthy things, but here’s the deal. A service mesh is an investment that you make based on your organizational setup.

Do you want faster development cycles? Do you want less asking permission and more doing? How about untethering your development processes from specific languages, libraries and frameworks? This is step one. This is a conscious decision to reorganize your business, and change how you operate at a basic level. 

Step two is to start that implementation process, splitting out services and making those organizational design changes, something that I won’t cover how to do. 

Step three is where you really start to experience what a service mesh can do in the long term. What you won’t need to worry about when you have a service mesh.

How can a service mesh make us more efficient?

Budget and cost-efficient choices are at the top of every organization’s priority list. Having a smoother development process, focused on users and continuous improvement keeps your organization forward-looking and focused on delivering value to customers promptly and safely. 

If you’re to maintain that forward-looking approach and have a good reliable product, it needs a good stable base. That organizational change and service mesh implementation keeps teams focused on their speciality, and playing their part in driving the business forward. The greater focus that you have on these essential elements, the more efficient you’ll be at using resources the best way possible. 

For some organizations, the biggest value of a service mesh is that it decouples development from networking ops. A whole category of concern for developers disappears as security and networking issues are abstracted away from the application, and the platform team get to be proactive heroes to the organization. Moreover, the organization can now focus on its business logic, and the work of delivering value to customers, fast.

What does this mean for engineers?

You’ve decoupled your engineering teams. You’ve deliberately created independently operating teams that don’t need to interact as frequently so that it’s faster to develop your product, but what does this look like from the perspective of engineering teams?

Freedom!

App developers: Develop away to your heart’s content! Use the tools best suited to the job because you’re no longer bound by “this is the language we’ve always used” or “well, if we do that then it won’t play nice with this.”

Security team: You are not there to push back on app developers when you discover a new vulnerability. You are not the reactive – wait for the changes to be made – team. Imagine, you can make the changes in real-time without involving the app team; all you’d need to do is make a policy change in the mesh and watch it take effect almost immediately. You have the ability to set consistent policies across the organization and application, that ensures compliance and very granular access controls. Imagine what else this could mean? We all know how quickly the world changes, traditional network boundaries have been eroded, so your ability to identify and respond to threats and security challenges rapidly and effectively is paramount.

Data/Observability team: This may feel like an odd addition, but it has some major potential for organizations to think deeply about what they need in their observability capabilities, what they collect and what they manage. This team could exist to collect the data that the other teams need, provide the relevant tooling to them, and educate them on how to use the tools they run for maximum success and speed. An Istio service mesh gives you the opportunity to gather a significant amount of information in metrics, logs and traces, and by having a dedicated team you can change how that data is consumed and stored. An observability team can work directly with app and platform engineers to understand what’s necessary for them, and work with Istio’s already extensive observability offerings to build tools and automation that will be of greatest use to those teams. Why? Ease and speed. If engineers don’t have to dig through mounds of data, issue resolution becomes faster, or if there’s a custom alerting tool that already contains information to help troubleshoot, it becomes easier. This can be a powerful tool for your success. 

Platform team: You don’t have to build the control plane yourself. IMAGINE. You can have a central location to take care of your infrastructure. Platform/Networking are all-seeing eyes. By having the level of consistency that a service mesh can provide, you can spend less time bookkeeping, or chasing down problems, and more time strategizing, testing, planning improvements and focusing on automation. The platform and networking team are integral to the success of this entire operation. 

Is there such a thing as too much to manage?

You get the greatest benefits from Istio when you give it as much to work with as you have, and it has tons of capability to help you manage. But, set out with a plan. Istio has a lot of incredibly powerful features, and organizations are most successful when they start with a specific problem that they need to solve first then extend their adoption from there. 

The outcome will be that you’ve relieved the pressure of not knowing what’s going on inside your systems and consequently removed that feeling like there’s developer time being wasted because they must spend more time managing expectations, backporting security changes or controlling several different environments with several different tools. 

A service mesh can make your organization operate differently if you’re willing to take the steps to make it successful. For more information on how Tetrate can help you, contact us to find out how you can make the most of a service mesh.

Tia Loude - Marketing

Tia Louden is a content writer for Tetrate, the service mesh company that helps organizations adopt Istio and Envoy and extend mesh to traditional and modern workloads.