Request Routing

This page describes how requests are routed between services in an Istio service mesh.

Service model and service versions

As described in Pilot, the canonical representation of services in a particular mesh is maintained by Pilot. The Istio model of a service is independent of how it is represented in the underlying platform (Kubernetes, Mesos, Cloud Foundry, etc.). Platform-specific adapters are responsible for populating the internal model representation with various fields from the metadata found in the platform.

Istio introduces the concept of a service version, which is a finer-grained way to subdivide service instances by versions (v1, v2) or environment (staging, prod). These variants are not necessarily different API versions: they could be iterative changes to the same service, deployed in different environments (prod, staging, dev, etc.). Common scenarios where this is used include A/B testing or canary rollouts. Istio’s traffic routing rules can refer to service versions to provide additional control over traffic between services.

Communication between services

Service Versions

As illustrated in the figure above, clients of a service have no knowledge of different versions of the service. They can continue to access the services using the hostname/IP address of the service. The Envoy sidecar/proxy intercepts and forwards all requests/responses between the client and the service.

Envoy determines its actual choice of service version dynamically based on the routing rules specified by the operator using Pilot. This model enables the application code to decouple itself from the evolution of its dependent services, while providing other benefits as well (see Mixer). Routing rules allow Envoy to select a version based on criteria such as headers, tags associated with source/destination, and/or by weights assigned to each version.

Istio also provides load balancing for traffic to multiple instances of the same service version. You can find out more about this in Discovery and Load-Balancing.

Istio does not provide a DNS. Applications can try to resolve the FQDN using the DNS service present in the underlying platform (kube-dns, mesos-dns, etc.).

Ingress and egress

Istio assumes that all traffic entering and leaving the service mesh transits through Envoy proxies. By deploying the Envoy proxy in front of services, operators can conduct A/B testing, deploy canary services, etc. for user-facing services. Similarly, by routing traffic to external web services (for instance, accessing the Maps API, or a video service API) via the sidecar Envoy, operators can add failure recovery features such as timeouts, retries, circuit breakers, etc., and obtain detailed metrics on the connections to these services.

Request Flow