Canary Upgrades

Upgrading Istio can be done by first running a canary deployment of the new control plane, allowing you to monitor the effect of the upgrade with a small percentage of the workloads before migrating all of the traffic to the new version. This is much safer than doing an in-place upgrade and is the recommended upgrade method.

When installing Istio, the revision installation setting can be used to deploy multiple independent control planes at the same time. A canary version of an upgrade can be started by installing the new Istio version’s control plane next to the old one, using a different revision setting. Each revision is a full Istio control plane implementation with its own Deployment, Service, etc.

Before you upgrade

Before upgrading Istio, it is recommended to run the istioctl x precheck command to make sure the upgrade is compatible with your environment.

$ istioctl x precheck
✔ No issues found when checking the cluster. Istio is safe to install or upgrade!
  To get started, check out https://istio.io/latest/docs/setup/getting-started/

Control plane

To install a new revision called canary, you would set the revision field as follows:

$ istioctl install --set revision=canary

After running the command, you will have two control plane deployments and services running side-by-side:

$ kubectl get pods -n istio-system -l app=istiod
NAME                             READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
istiod-1-21-1-bdf5948d5-htddg    1/1     Running   0          47s
istiod-canary-84c8d4dcfb-skcfv   1/1     Running   0          25s
$ kubectl get svc -n istio-system -l app=istiod
NAME            TYPE        CLUSTER-IP       EXTERNAL-IP   PORT(S)                                 AGE
istiod-1-21-1   ClusterIP   10.96.93.151     <none>        15010/TCP,15012/TCP,443/TCP,15014/TCP   109s
istiod-canary   ClusterIP   10.104.186.250   <none>        15010/TCP,15012/TCP,443/TCP,15014/TCP   87s

You will also see that there are two sidecar injector configurations including the new revision.

$ kubectl get mutatingwebhookconfigurations
NAME                            WEBHOOKS   AGE
istio-sidecar-injector-1-21-1   2          2m16s
istio-sidecar-injector-canary   2          114s

Data plane

Refer to Gateway Canary Upgrade to understand how to run revision specific instances of Istio gateway. In this example, since we use the default Istio profile, Istio gateways do not run revision-specific instances, but are instead in-place upgraded to use the new control plane revision. You can verify that the istio-ingress gateway is using the canary revision by running the following command:

$ istioctl proxy-status | grep "$(kubectl -n istio-system get pod -l app=istio-ingressgateway -o jsonpath='{.items..metadata.name}')" | awk '{print $10}'
istiod-canary-6956db645c-vwhsk

However, simply installing the new revision has no impact on the existing sidecar proxies. To upgrade these, you must configure them to point to the new istiod-canary control plane. This is controlled during sidecar injection based on the namespace label istio.io/rev.

Create a namespace test-ns with istio-injection enabled. In the test-ns namespace, deploy a sample sleep pod:

  1. Create a namespace test-ns.

    $ kubectl create ns test-ns
    
  2. Label the namespace using istio-injection label.

    $ kubectl label namespace test-ns istio-injection=enabled
    
  3. Bring up a sample sleep pod in test-ns namespace.

    $ kubectl apply -n test-ns -f samples/sleep/sleep.yaml
    

To upgrade the namespace test-ns, remove the istio-injection label, and add the istio.io/rev label to point to the canary revision. The istio-injection label must be removed because it takes precedence over the istio.io/rev label for backward compatibility.

$ kubectl label namespace test-ns istio-injection- istio.io/rev=canary

After the namespace updates, you need to restart the pods to trigger re-injection. One way to restart all pods in namespace test-ns is using:

$ kubectl rollout restart deployment -n test-ns

When the pods are re-injected, they will be configured to point to the istiod-canary control plane. You can verify this by using istioctl proxy-status.

$ istioctl proxy-status | grep "\.test-ns "

The output will show all pods under the namespace that are using the canary revision.

Stable revision labels

Manually relabeling namespaces when moving them to a new revision can be tedious and error-prone. Revision tags solve this problem. Revision tags are stable identifiers that point to revisions and can be used to avoid relabeling namespaces. Rather than relabeling the namespace, a mesh operator can simply change the tag to point to a new revision. All namespaces labeled with that tag will be updated at the same time.

Usage

Consider a cluster with two revisions installed, 1-21-1 and 1-22-1. The cluster operator creates a revision tag prod-stable, pointed at the older, stable 1-21-1 version, and a revision tag prod-canary pointed at the newer 1-22-1 revision. That state could be reached via the following commands:
  1. Install two revisions of control plane:

    $ istioctl install --revision=1-21-1 --set profile=minimal --skip-confirmation
    $ istioctl install --revision=1-22-1 --set profile=minimal --skip-confirmation
    
  2. Create stable and canary revision tags and associate them to the respective revisions:

    $ istioctl tag set prod-stable --revision 1-21-1
    $ istioctl tag set prod-canary --revision 1-22-1
    
  3. Label application namespaces to map to the respective revision tags:

    $ kubectl create ns app-ns-1
    $ kubectl label ns app-ns-1 istio.io/rev=prod-stable
    $ kubectl create ns app-ns-2
    $ kubectl label ns app-ns-2 istio.io/rev=prod-stable
    $ kubectl create ns app-ns-3
    $ kubectl label ns app-ns-3 istio.io/rev=prod-canary
    
  4. Bring up a sample sleep pod in each namespace:

    $ kubectl apply -n app-ns-1 -f samples/sleep/sleep.yaml
    $ kubectl apply -n app-ns-2 -f samples/sleep/sleep.yaml
    $ kubectl apply -n app-ns-3 -f samples/sleep/sleep.yaml
    
  5. Verify application to control plane mapping using istioctl proxy-status command:

    $ istioctl ps
    NAME                                CLUSTER        CDS        LDS        EDS        RDS        ECDS         ISTIOD                             VERSION
    sleep-78ff5975c6-62pzf.app-ns-3     Kubernetes     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     NOT SENT     istiod-1-22-1-7f6fc6cfd6-s8zfg     1.22.1
    sleep-78ff5975c6-8kxpl.app-ns-1     Kubernetes     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     NOT SENT     istiod-1-21-1-bdf5948d5-n72r2      1.21.1
    sleep-78ff5975c6-8q7m6.app-ns-2     Kubernetes     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     NOT SENT     istiod-1-21-1-bdf5948d5-n72r2      1-21.1
    

The resulting mapping between revisions, tags, and namespaces is as shown below:

Two namespaces pointed to prod-stable and one pointed to prod-canary
Two namespaces pointed to prod-stable and one pointed to prod-canary

The cluster operator can view this mapping in addition to tagged namespaces through the istioctl tag list command:

$ istioctl tag list
TAG         REVISION NAMESPACES
default     1-21-1   ...
prod-canary 1-22-1   ...
prod-stable 1-21-1   ...

After the cluster operator is satisfied with the stability of the control plane tagged with prod-canary, namespaces labeled istio.io/rev=prod-stable can be updated with one action by modifying the prod-stable revision tag to point to the newer 1-22-1 revision.

$ istioctl tag set prod-stable --revision 1-22-1 --overwrite

Now, the updated mapping between revisions, tags, and namespaces is as shown below:

Namespace labels unchanged but now all namespaces pointed to {{< istio_full_version_revision >}}
Namespace labels unchanged but now all namespaces pointed to {{< istio_full_version_revision >}}

Restarting injected workloads in the namespaces marked prod-stable will now result in those workloads using the 1-22-1 control plane. Notice that no namespace relabeling was required to migrate workloads to the new revision.

$ kubectl rollout restart deployment -n app-ns-1
$ kubectl rollout restart deployment -n app-ns-2

Verify the application to control plane mapping using istioctl proxy-status command:

$ istioctl ps
NAME                                                   CLUSTER        CDS        LDS        EDS        RDS          ECDS         ISTIOD                             VERSION
sleep-5984f48bc7-kmj6x.app-ns-1                        Kubernetes     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED       NOT SENT     istiod-1-22-1-7f6fc6cfd6-jsktb     1.22.1
sleep-78ff5975c6-jldk4.app-ns-3                        Kubernetes     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED       NOT SENT     istiod-1-22-1-7f6fc6cfd6-jsktb     1.22.1
sleep-7cdd8dccb9-5bq5n.app-ns-2                        Kubernetes     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED     SYNCED       NOT SENT     istiod-1-22-1-7f6fc6cfd6-jsktb     1.22.1

Default tag

The revision pointed to by the tag default is considered the default revision and has additional semantic meaning. The default revision performs the following functions:

  • Injects sidecars for the istio-injection=enabled namespace selector, the sidecar.istio.io/inject=true object selector, and the istio.io/rev=default selectors
  • Validates Istio resources
  • Steals the leader lock from non-default revisions and performs singleton mesh responsibilities (such as updating resource statuses)

To make a revision 1-22-1 the default, run:

$ istioctl tag set default --revision 1-22-1
When using the default tag alongside an existing non-revisioned Istio installation it is recommended to remove the old MutatingWebhookConfiguration (typically called istio-sidecar-injector) to avoid having both the older and newer control planes attempt injection.

Uninstall old control plane

After upgrading both the control plane and data plane, you can uninstall the old control plane. For example, the following command uninstalls a control plane of revision 1-21-1:

$ istioctl uninstall --revision 1-21-1 -y

If the old control plane does not have a revision label, uninstall it using its original installation options, for example:

$ istioctl uninstall -f manifests/profiles/default.yaml -y

Confirm that the old control plane has been removed and only the new one still exists in the cluster:

$ kubectl get pods -n istio-system -l app=istiod
NAME                             READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
istiod-canary-55887f699c-t8bh8   1/1     Running   0          27m

Note that the above instructions only removed the resources for the specified control plane revision, but not cluster-scoped resources shared with other control planes. To uninstall Istio completely, refer to the uninstall guide.

Uninstall canary control plane

If you decide to rollback to the old control plane, instead of completing the canary upgrade, you can uninstall the canary revision using:

$ istioctl uninstall --revision=canary -y

However, in this case you must first reinstall the gateway(s) for the previous revision manually, because the uninstall command will not automatically revert the previously in-place upgraded ones.

Cleanup

  1. Clean up created revisioned tags:

    $ istioctl tag remove prod-stable
    $ istioctl tag remove prod-canary
    
  2. Clean up the namespaces used for canary upgrade with revision labels example:

    $ kubectl delete ns istio-system test-ns
    
  3. Clean up the namespaces used for canary upgrade with revision tags example:

    $ kubectl delete ns istio-system app-ns-1 app-ns-2 app-ns-3
    
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