Istio is a service mesh, the fundamental property of which is its ability to monitor and manage a network of cooperating microservices under a single administrative domain. A service mesh essentially combines a set of individual microservices into a single controllable composite application.
For applications up to a certain size, all of the microservices comprising the application can be running on a single orchestration platform (e.g., Kubernetes cluster). However, for many reasons such as scale, redundancy, compliance, etc., most applications will eventually need to be distributed and have some of their services running elsewhere.
Istio supports many possible topologies for distributing the services of an application beyond a single cluster, for example:
- Services within the mesh can use service entries to access standalone external services or to access services exposed by another loosely-coupled service mesh.
- You can expand the service mesh to include services running on VMs or bare metal hosts.
- You can combine the services from more than one cluster into a single composite service mesh.
Multicluster service mesh
A multicluster service mesh is a mesh composed of services running within more than one underlying
cluster but with all services running under a single administrative control.
In a multicluster service mesh, a service named
foo in namespace
ns1 of cluster 1 is the same service
ns1 of cluster 2.
This is different from a loosely-coupled service mesh where two clusters may have different
definitions of the same service which will need to be reconciled when integrating the clusters.
A multicluster service mesh has the advantage that all the services look the same to clients, regardless of where the workloads are actually running. It’s transparent to the application whether it’s deployed in a single or multicluster service mesh. To achieve this behavior, a single logical control plane needs to manage all services, however, the single logical control plane doesn’t necessarily need to be a single physical Istio control plane. There are two possible deployment approaches:
Multiple Istio control planes that have replicated service and routing configurations.
A shared Istio control plane that can access and configure the services in more than one cluster.
Even with these two approaches, there is more than one way to configure a multicluster service mesh. In a large multicluster mesh, a combination of the approaches might even be used. For example, two clusters might share a control plane while a third has its own. Which approach to use and how to configure it depends on the requirements of the application and on the features and limitations of the underlying cloud deployment platform.
Multiple control plane topology
In a multiple control plane topology, each cluster has an identical Istio control plane installation and each control plane manages its own endpoints. Using Istio gateways, a common root Certificate Authority (CA), and service entries, you can configure a single logical service mesh that is composed from the participating clusters. This approach has no special networking requirements beyond a functional cloud provider’s load balancer implementation and is therefore generally considered the easiest approach to start with when there is no universal network connectivity between clusters.
To achieve a single Istio service mesh across the clusters, you configure a common root CA and replicate any shared services and namespaces in all clusters. Cross-cluster communication occurs over the Istio gateways of the respective clusters. All clusters are within a shared administrative control for policy enforcement and security.
In this configuration workloads in each cluster can access other local services using their
Kubernetes DNS suffix, e.g.,
foo.ns1.svc.cluster.local, as usual.
To provide DNS resolution for services in remote clusters, Istio includes a CoreDNS server
that can be configured to handle service names of the form
For example, calls from any cluster to
foo.ns1.global will resolve to the
foo service in
ns1 of a specific cluster where it is running as determined by the service discovery
configuration. You configure service discovery of
foo.ns.global by creating an appropriate
To configure this type of multicluster topology, visit our multiple control planes instructions.
Shared control plane topology
This multicluster configuration uses a single Istio control plane running on one of the clusters. The control plane’s Pilot manages services on the local and remote clusters and configures the Envoy sidecars for all of the clusters.
Single-network shared control plane
The following topology works best in environments where all of the participating clusters have VPN or similar connectivity so every pod in the mesh is reachable from anywhere else using the same IP address.
In this topology, the Istio control plane is deployed on one of the clusters while all other clusters run a simpler remote Istio configuration which connects them to the single Istio control plane that manages all of the Envoy’s as a single mesh. The IP addresses on the various clusters must not overlap and DNS resolution for services on remote clusters is not automatic. Users need to replicate the services on every participating cluster.
To configure this type of multicluster topology, visit our single-network shared control plane instructions.
Multi-network shared control plane
If setting up an environment with universal pod-to-pod connectivity is difficult or impossible, it may still be possible to configure a shared control plane topology using Istio gateways and by enabling Istio Pilot’s location-aware service routing feature.
This topology requires connectivity to Kubernetes API servers from all of the clusters. If this is not possible, a multiple control plane topology is probably a better alternative.
In this topology, a request from a sidecar in one cluster to a service in the same cluster is forwarded to the local service IP as usual. If the destination workload is running in a different cluster, the remote cluster Gateway IP is used to connect to the service instead.
To configure this type of multicluster topology, visit our multi-network shared control plane instructions.