Mixer Configuration

This page describes Mixer’s configuration model.


Istio is a sophisticated system with hundreds of independent features. An Istio deployment can be a sprawling affair potentially involving dozens of services, with a swarm of Envoy proxies and Mixer instances to support them. In large deployments, many different operators, each with different scopes and areas of responsibility, may be involved in managing the overall deployment.

Mixer’s configuration model makes it possible to exploit all of its capabilities and flexibility, while remaining relatively simple to use. The model’s scoping features enable large support organizations to collectively manage complex deployments with ease. Some of the model’s key features include:

  • Designed for Operators. Service operators control all operational and policy aspects of a Mixer deployment by manipulating configuration resources.

  • Flexible. The configuration model is built around Istio’s attributes, enabling operators unprecedented control over the policies used and telemetry produced within a deployment.

  • Robust. The configuration model is designed to provide maximum static correctness guarantees to help reduce the potential for bad configuration changes leading to service outages.

  • Extensible. The model is designed to support Istio’s overall extensibility story. New or custom adapters can be added to Istio and be fully manipulated using the same general mechanisms as existing adapters.


Mixer is an attribute processing machine. Requests arrive at Mixer with a set of attributes, and based on these attributes, Mixer generates calls to a variety of infrastructure backends. A rate limit system, an ACL provider, and a policy enforcer are examples of infrastructure backends. The set of attributes determines which backend Mixer calls for a given request and what parameters each is given. In order to hide the details of individual backends, Mixer uses modules known as adapters.

Attribute Machine
Attribute Machine

Mixer’s configuration has the following central responsibilities:

  • Describe which adapters are being used and how they operate.
  • Describe how to map request attributes into adapter inputs.
  • Describe when a particular adapter is called with specific inputs.

Configuration is based on adapters and templates.

  • Adapters encapsulate the logic necessary to interface Mixer with a specific infrastructure backend.
  • Templates define the schema for specifying request mapping from attributes to adapter inputs. A given adapter may support any number of templates.

Configuration is expressed using a YAML format built around the following abstractions:

HandlersA handler is a configured instance of an adapter. The adapter constructor parameters are specified as handler configuration.
InstancesA (request) instance is the result of applying request attributes to the template mapping. The mapping is specified as an instance configuration.
RulesA rule defines when a particular handler is invoked using a specific template configuration.

Configuration resources are expressed in Kubernetes resource syntax:

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: rule, adapter kind, or template kind
  name: shortname
  namespace: istio-system
  # kind specific configuration.
  • apiVersion - A constant for an Istio release.
  • kind - A Mixer assigned unique “kind” for every adapter and template.
  • name - The configuration resource name.
  • namespace - The namespace in which the configuration resource is applicable.
  • spec - The kind-specific configuration.


Adapters encapsulate the logic necessary to interface Mixer with specific external infrastructure backends such as Prometheus, New Relic, or Stackdriver. Individual adapters generally need operational parameters in order to do their work. For example, a logging adapter may require the IP address and port of the log sink.

Here is an example showing how to configure an adapter of kind = listchecker. The listchecker adapter checks an input value against a list. If the adapter is configured for a whitelist, it returns success if the input value is found in the list.

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: listchecker
  name: staticversion
  namespace: istio-system
  providerUrl: http://white_list_registry/
  blacklist: false

{metadata.name}.{kind}.{metadata.namespace} is the fully qualified name of a handler. The fully qualified name of the above handler is staticversion.listchecker.istio-system and it must be unique. The schema of the data in the spec stanza depends on the specific adapter being configured.

Some adapters implement functionality that goes beyond connecting Mixer to a backend. For example, the prometheus adapter consumes metrics and aggregates them as distributions or counters in a configurable way.

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: prometheus
  name: handler
  namespace: istio-system
  - name: request_count
    instance_name: requestcount.metric.istio-system
    kind: COUNTER
    - destination_service
    - destination_version
    - response_code
  - name: request_duration
    instance_name: requestduration.metric.istio-system
    - destination_service
    - destination_version
    - response_code
        bounds: [0.005, 0.01, 0.025, 0.05, 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2.5, 5, 10]

Each adapter defines its own particular format of configuration data. The exhaustive set of adapters and their specific configuration formats can be found here.


Instance configuration specifies the request mapping from attributes to adapter inputs. The following is an example of a metric instance configuration that produces the requestduration metric.

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: metric
  name: requestduration
  namespace: istio-system
  value: response.duration | "0ms"
    destination_service: destination.service | "unknown"
    destination_version: destination.labels["version"] | "unknown"
    response_code: response.code | 200
  monitored_resource_type: '"UNSPECIFIED"'

Note that all the dimensions expected in the handler configuration are specified in the mapping.

Each template defines its own particular format of configuration data. The exhaustive set of templates and their specific configuration formats can be found here.


Rules specify when a particular handler is invoked with a specific instance configuration. Consider an example where you want to deliver the requestduration metric to the prometheus handler if the destination service is service1 and the x-user request header has a specific value.

apiVersion: config.istio.io/v1alpha2
kind: rule
  name: promhttp
  namespace: istio-system
  match: destination.service == "service1.ns.svc.cluster.local" && request.headers["x-user"] == "user1"
  - handler: handler.prometheus
    - requestduration.metric.istio-system

A rule contains a match predicate expression and a list of actions to perform if the predicate is true. An action specifies the list of instances to be delivered to a handler. A rule must use the fully qualified names of handlers and instances. If the rule, handlers, and instances are all in the same namespace, the namespace suffix can be elided from the fully qualified name as seen in handler.prometheus.

The match predicate is an attribute expression, which are explained below.

Attribute expressions

Mixer features a number of independent request processing phases. The Attribute Processing phase is responsible for ingesting a set of attributes and producing template instances necessary to invoke individual adapters. The phase operates by evaluating a series of attribute expressions.

You have already seen a few simple attribute expressions in the previous examples:

  destination_service: destination.service
  response_code: response.code
  destination_version: destination.labels["version"] | "unknown"

The sequences on the right-hand side of the colons are the simplest forms of attribute expressions. The first two only consist of attribute names. The response_code label is assigned the value from the request.code attribute.

Here’s an example of a conditional expression:

  destination_version: destination.labels["version"] | "unknown"

With the above, the destination_version label is assigned the value of destination.labels["version"]. However if that attribute is not present, the literal "unknown" is used.

The attributes that can be used in attribute expressions must be defined in an attribute manifest for the deployment. Within the manifest, each attribute has a type which represents the kind of data that the attribute carries. In the same way, attribute expressions are also typed, and their type is derived from the attributes in the expression and the operators applied to these attributes.

Refer to the attribute expression reference for details.


When a request arrives, Mixer goes through a number of request processing phases. The Resolution phase is concerned with identifying the configuration resources to use in order to process the incoming request. For example, a request arriving at Mixer for service A likely has some configuration differences with requests arriving for service B. Resolution is about deciding which config resources to use for a request.

Resolution depends on a well-known attribute to guide its choice, called the identity attribute. The default identity attribute is destination.service. The mesh-wide configuration is stored in the configDefaultNamespace whose default value is istio-system.

Mixer goes through the following steps to arrive at the set of actions.

  1. Extract the value of the identity attribute from the request.

  2. Extract the service namespace from the identity attribute.

  3. Evaluate the match predicate for all rules in the configDefaultNamespace and the service namespace.

The actions resulting from these steps are performed by Mixer.


Manifests capture invariants about the components involved in a particular Istio deployment. The only kind of manifest supported at the moment are attribute manifests which are used to define the exact set of attributes produced by individual components. Manifests are supplied by component producers and inserted into a deployment’s configuration.

Here’s part of the manifest for the Istio proxy:

  - name: istio-proxy
    revision: "1"
        valueType: STRING
        description: The name of the source.
        valueType: STRING
        description: The name of the destination
        valueType: IP_ADDRESS
        description: Did you know that descriptions are optional?
        valueType: STRING
        valueType: TIMESTAMP
        valueType: STRING
        valueType: INT64


You can find fully-formed examples of Mixer configuration by visiting the Guides. Here is some example configuration.

What’s next

  • Read the blog post describing Mixer’s adapter model.