Mutual TLS Migration

This task shows how to migrate your existing Istio services’ traffic from plain text to mutual TLS without breaking live traffic.

In the scenario where there are many services communicating over the network, it may be desirable to gradually migrate them to Istio. During the migration, some services have Envoy sidecars while some do not. For a service with a sidecar, if you enable mutual TLS on the service, the connections from legacy clients (i.e., clients without Envoy) will lose communication since they do not have Envoy sidecars and client certificates. To solve this issue, Istio authentication policy provides a “PERMISSIVE” mode to solve this problem. Once “PERMISSIVE” mode is enabled, a service can take both HTTP and mutual TLS traffic.

You can configure Istio services to send mutual TLS traffic to that service while connections from legacy services will not lose communication. Moreover, you can use the Grafana dashboard to check which services are still sending plain text traffic to the service in “PERMISSIVE” mode and choose to lock down once the migration is done.

Before you begin

  • Understand Istio authentication policy and related mutual TLS authentication concepts.

  • Have a Kubernetes cluster with Istio installed, without global mutual TLS enabled (e.g use install/kubernetes/istio-demo.yaml as described in installation steps, or set global.mtls.enabled to false using Helm).

  • For demo, create three namespaces foo, bar, legacy, and deploy httpbin and sleep with sidecar on both of them. Also, run another sleep app without sidecar (to keep it separate, run it in legacy namespace)

    $ kubectl create ns foo
    $ kubectl apply -f <(istioctl kube-inject -f @samples/httpbin/httpbin.yaml@) -n foo
    $ kubectl apply -f <(istioctl kube-inject -f @samples/sleep/sleep.yaml@) -n foo
    $ kubectl create ns bar
    $ kubectl apply -f <(istioctl kube-inject -f @samples/httpbin/httpbin.yaml@) -n bar
    $ kubectl apply -f <(istioctl kube-inject -f @samples/sleep/sleep.yaml@) -n bar
    $ kubectl create ns legacy
    $ kubectl apply -f @samples/sleep/sleep.yaml@ -n legacy
  • Verify setup by sending an http request (using curl command) from any sleep pod (among those in namespace foo, bar or legacy) to httpbin.foo. All requests should success with HTTP code 200.

    $ for from in "foo" "bar" "legacy"; do kubectl exec $(kubectl get pod -l app=sleep -n ${from} -o jsonpath={.items..metadata.name}) -c sleep -n ${from} -- curl http://httpbin.foo:8000/ip -s -o /dev/null -w "sleep.${from} to httpbin.foo: %{http_code}\n"; done
    sleep.foo to httpbin.foo: 200
    sleep.bar to httpbin.foo: 200
    sleep.legacy to httpbin.foo: 200
  • Also verify that there are no authentication policy or destination rule in the system

    $ kubectl get policies.authentication.istio.io --all-namespaces
    No resources found.
    $ kubectl get destionationrule --all-namespaces
    No resources found.

Configure the server to accept both mutual TLS and plain text traffic

In authentication policy, we have a PERMISSIVE mode which makes the server accept both mutual TLS and plain text traffic. We need to configure the server to this mode.

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -n foo -f -
apiVersion: "authentication.istio.io/v1alpha1"
kind: "Policy"
metadata:
  name: "example-httpbin-permissive"
  namespace: foo
spec:
  targets:
  - name: httpbin
  peers:
  - mtls:
      mode: PERMISSIVE
EOF

Now send traffic to httpbin.foo again to ensure all requests can still succeed.

$ for from in "foo" "bar" "legacy"; do kubectl exec $(kubectl get pod -l app=sleep -n ${from} -o jsonpath={.items..metadata.name}) -c sleep -n ${from} -- curl http://httpbin.foo:8000/ip -s -o /dev/null -w "sleep.${from} to httpbin.foo: %{http_code}\n"; done
200
200
200

Configure clients to send mutual TLS traffic

Configure Istio services to send mutual TLS traffic by setting DestinationRule.

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -n foo -f -
apiVersion: "networking.istio.io/v1alpha3"
kind: "DestinationRule"
metadata:
  name: "example-httpbin-istio-client-mtls"
spec:
  host: httpbin.foo.svc.cluster.local
  trafficPolicy:
    tls:
      mode: ISTIO_MUTUAL
EOF

sleep.foo and sleep.bar should start sending mutual TLS traffic to httpbin.foo. And sleep.legacy still sends plain text traffic to httpbin.foo since it does not have sidecar thus DestinationRule does not apply.

Now we confirm all requests to httpbin.foo still succeed.

$ for from in "foo" "bar" "legacy"; do kubectl exec $(kubectl get pod -l app=sleep -n ${from} -o jsonpath={.items..metadata.name}) -c sleep -n ${from} -- curl http://httpbin.foo:8000/ip -s -o /dev/null -w "sleep.${from} to httpbin.foo: %{http_code}\n"; done
200
200
200

You can also specify a subset of the clients’ request to use ISTIO_MUTUAL mutual TLS in DestinationRule. After verifying it works by checking Grafana to monitor, then increase the rollout scope and finally apply to all Istio client services.

Lock down to mutual TLS (optional)

After migrating all clients to Istio services, injecting Envoy sidecar, we can lock down the httpbin.foo to only accept mutual TLS traffic.

cat <<EOF | kubectl apply -n foo -f -
apiVersion: "authentication.istio.io/v1alpha1"
kind: "Policy"
metadata:
  name: "example-httpbin-permissive"
  namespace: foo
spec:
  targets:
  - name: httpbin
  peers:
  - mtls:
      mode: STRICT
EOF

Now you should see the request from sleep.legacy fails.

$ for from in "foo" "bar" "legacy"; do kubectl exec $(kubectl get pod -l app=sleep -n ${from} -o jsonpath={.items..metadata.name}) -c sleep -n ${from} -- curl http://httpbin.foo:8000/ip -s -o /dev/null -w "sleep.${from} to httpbin.foo: %{http_code}\n"; done
200
200
503

If you can’t migrate all your services to Istio (injecting Envoy sidecar), you have to stay at PERMISSIVE mode. However, when configured with PERMISSIVE mode, no authentication or authorization checks will be performed for the plain text traffic by default. We recommend to use RBAC to configure different paths with different authorization policies.

Cleanup

Remove all resources.

$ kubectl delete ns foo bar legacy
Namespaces foo bar legacy deleted.

See also

Shows you how to use Istio authentication policy to setup mutual TLS and basic end-user authentication.

Describes Istio's authorization and authentication functionality.

Describe Istio's authorization feature and how to use it in various use cases.

Shows how to set up role-based access control for services in the mesh.

Shows how to do health checking for Istio services.

Shows how to enable Citadel health checking with Kubernetes.