Generate Istio Metrics Without Mixer [Experimental]

Istio 1.3 adds experimental support to generate service-level HTTP metrics directly in the Envoy proxies. This feature lets you continue to monitor your service meshes using the tools Istio provides without needing Mixer.

The in-proxy generation of service-level metrics replaces the following HTTP metrics that Mixer currently generates:

  • istio_requests_total
  • istio_request_duration_seconds
  • istio_request_size

Enable service-level metrics generation in Envoy

To generate service-level metrics directly in the Envoy proxies, follow these steps:

  1. To prevent duplicate telemetry generation, disable calls to istio-telemetry in the mesh:

    $ helm template install/kubernetes/helm/istio --name istio --namespace istio-system --set mixer.telemetry.enabled=false --set mixer.policy.enabled=false
  2. To generate service-level metrics, the proxies must exchange workload metadata. A custom filter handles this exchange. Enable the metadata exchange filter with the following command:

    $ kubectl -n istio-system apply -f
  3. To actually generate the service-level metrics, you must apply the custom stats filter.

    $ kubectl -n istio-system apply -f
  4. Go to the Istio Mesh Grafana dashboard. Verify that the dashboard displays the same telemetry as before but without any requests flowing through Istio’s Mixer.

Differences with Mixer-based generation

Small differences between the in-proxy generation and Mixer-based generation of service-level metrics persist in Istio 1.3. We won’t consider the functionality stable until in-proxy generation has full feature-parity with Mixer-based generation.

Until then, please consider these differences:

  • The istio_request_duration_seconds latency metric has the new name: istio_request_duration_milliseconds. The new metric uses milliseconds instead of seconds. We updated the Grafana dashboards to account for these changes.
  • The istio_request_duration_milliseconds metric uses more granular buckets inside the proxy, providing increased accuracy in latency reporting.

Performance impact

Here’s what we’ve measured so far:

  • All new filters together use 10% less CPU resources for the istio-proxy containers than the Mixer filter.
  • The new filters add ~5ms P90 latency at 1000 rps compared to Envoy proxies configured with no telemetry filters.
  • If you only use the istio-telemetry service to generate service-level metrics, you can switch off the istio-telemetry service. This could save up to ~0.5 vCPU per 1000 rps of mesh traffic, and could halve the CPU consumed by Istio while collecting standard metrics.

Known limitations

  • We only provide support for exporting these metrics via Prometheus.
  • We provide no support to generate TCP metrics.
  • We provide no proxy-side customization or configuration of the generated metrics.