Enabling Istio CA health check

This task shows how to enable Istio CA health check. Note this is an alpha feature since Istio V0.6.

Since Istio V0.6, Istio CA has a health check feature that can be optionally enabled. By default, the normal Istio deployment process does not enable this feature. Currently, the health check feature is able to detect the failures of the CA CSR signing service, by periodically sending CSRs to the API. More health check features are coming shortly.

The Istio CA contains a prober client module that periodically checks the CA’s status (currently only the health status of the gRPC server). If the Istio CA is healthy, the prober client updates the modification time of the health status file (the file is always empty). Otherwise, it does nothing. Istio CA relies on a K8s liveness and readiness probe with command line to check the modification time of the health status file on the pod. If the file is not updated for a period, the probe will be triggered and Kubelet will restart the CA container.

Note: because the Istio CA health check currently only monitors the health status of CSR service API, this feature is not needed if the production setup is not using the Istio Mesh Expansion (which requires the CSR service API).

Before you begin

Deploying the Istio CA with health check

Deploy the Istio CA with health check enabled.

kubectl apply -f install/kubernetes/istio-ca-with-health-check.yaml

Deploy the istio-ca service so that the CSR service can be found by the health checker.

cat <<EOF | kubectl create -f -
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: istio-ca
  namespace: istio-system
    istio: istio-ca
    - port: 8060
    istio: istio-ca

Verifying the health checker is working

Isito CA will log the health check results. Run the following in command line:

kubectl logs `kubectl get po -n istio-system | grep istio-ca | awk '{print $1}'` -n istio-system

You will see the output similar to:

2018-02-27T04:29:56.128081Z     info    CSR successfully signed.
2018-02-27T04:30:11.081791Z     info    CSR successfully signed.
2018-02-27T04:30:25.485315Z     info    CSR successfully signed.

The log above indicates the periodic health check is working. Observe that the health check interval is about 15 seconds, which is the default health check interval.

(Optional) Configuring the health check

Optionally, adjust the health check configuration to meet your own needs. Open the file install/kubernetes/istio-ca-with-health-check.yaml, and locate the following lines.

  - --liveness-probe-path=/tmp/ca.liveness # path to the liveness health check status file
  - --liveness-probe-interval=60s # interval for health check file update
  - --probe-check-interval=15s    # interval for health status check
  - --logtostderr
  - --stderrthreshold
  - INFO
    - /usr/local/bin/istio_ca
    - probe
    - --probe-path=/tmp/ca.liveness # path to the liveness health check status file
    - --interval=125s               # the maximum time gap allowed between the file mtime and the current sys clock.
  initialDelaySeconds: 60
  periodSeconds: 60

The liveness-probe-path and probe-path are the path to the health status file, configured at the Istio CA and the prober; the liveness-probe-interval is the interval to update the health status file, if the Istio CA is healthy; the probe-check-interval is the interval for the Istio CA health check. The interval is the maximum time elapsed since the last update of the health status file, for the prober to consider the Istio CA as healthy. initialDelaySeconds and periodSeconds are the intial delay and the probe running period.

Prolonging probe-check-interval will reduce the health check overhead, but there will be a greater lagging for the prober to get notified on the unhealthy status. To avoid the prober restarting the Istio CA due to temporary unavailability, the interval on the prober can be configured to be more than N times of the liveness-probe-interval. This will allow the prober to tolerate N-1 continuously failed health checks.


  • To disable health check on the Istio CA:
    kubectl apply -f install/kubernetes/istio-auth.yaml
    kubectl delete svc istio-ca -n istio-system
  • To remove the Istio CA:

    kubectl delete -f install/kubernetes/istio-ca-with-health-check.yaml
    kubectl delete svc istio-ca -n istio-system

What’s next