Istio's policy and telemetry features are configured through a common model designed to put operators in control of every aspect of authorization policy and telemetry collection. Specific focus was given to keeping the model as simple and possible, while being powerful enough to control Istio's many features at scale.


Attributes are an essential concept to Istio's policy and telemetry functionality. An attribute is a small bit of data that describes a single property of a specific service request or the environment for the request. For example, an attribute can specify the size of a specific request, the response code for an operation, the IP address where a request came from, etc.

Each attribute has a name and a type. The type defines the kind of data that the attribute holds. For example, an attribute can have a STRING type which means it has a textual value, or it can have an INT64 type indicating it has a 64 bit integer value.

Here are some example attributes with their associated values:

request.path: xyz/abc
request.size: 234
request.time: 12:34:56.789 04/17/2017
destination.service: example

Mixer is the Istio component that implements policy and telemetry functionality. Mixer is in essence an attribute processing machine. The Envoy sidecar invokes Mixer for every request, giving Mixer a set of attributes that describe the request and the environment around the request. Based on its configuration and the specific set of attributes it was given, Mixer generates calls to a variety of infrastructure backends.

Attribute Machine

Attribute vocabulary

A given Istio deployment has a fixed vocabulary of attributes that it understands. The specific vocabulary is determined by the set of attribute producers being used in the deployment. The primary attribute producer in Istio is Envoy, although specialized Mixer adapters can also generate attributes.

The common baseline set of attributes available in most Istio deployments is defined here.

Configuration model

Controlling the policy and telemetry features involves configuring three types of resources:

  • Configuring a set of handlers, which determine the set of adapters that are being used and how they operate. Providing a statsd adapter with the IP address for a statsd backend is an example of handler configuration.

  • Configuring a set of instances, which describe how to map request attributes into adapter inputs. Instances represent a chunk of data that one or more adapters will operate on. For example, an operator may decide to generate requestcount metric instances from attributes such as destination.service and response.code.

  • Configuring a set of rules, which describe when a particular adapter is called and which instances it is given. Rules consist of a match expression and actions. The match expression controls when to invoke an adapter, while the actions determine the set of instances to give to the adapter. For example, a rule might send generated requestcount metric instances to a statsd adapter.

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.


Adapters encapsulate the logic necessary to interface Mixer with specific external infrastructure backends such as Prometheus 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.

kind: listchecker
  name: staticversion
  namespace: istio-system
  providerUrl: http://white_list_registry/
  blacklist: false

{}.{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.

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.

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. Templates define the specific required content of individual instances. 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. 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.

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.

Attribute expressions

Attribute expressions are used when configuring instances. 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.

Refer to the attribute expression reference for details.

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