Istio vs Kubernetes

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Istio vs Kubernetes: What are the differences?

In the world of container orchestration and management, both Istio and Kubernetes play significant roles. Let's explore the key differences between the two.

  1. Control Plane vs. Data Plane: One major difference between Istio and Kubernetes lies in their functionalities. Kubernetes primarily focuses on container orchestration and management, serving as a powerful container orchestrator. On the other hand, Istio is a service mesh that enhances collaboration, communication, and management among microservices, providing features like load balancing, traffic routing, health checks, and more.

  2. Deployment and Scaling: Kubernetes offers robust container deployment and scaling capabilities. It allows users to specify the desired state of their applications, which Kubernetes then maintains by automatically scaling resources up or down based on demand and ensuring high availability. Although Istio can work alongside Kubernetes, it does not handle deployment or scaling tasks directly. Instead, Istio focuses on fine-grained traffic control within the Kubernetes cluster.

  3. Networking and Traffic Management: While Kubernetes provides some basic networking capabilities, Istio takes it a step further. Istio offers advanced networking functionalities and powerful traffic management features, allowing fine-grained control over communication between services within a cluster. It offers capabilities like traffic routing, load balancing, fault injection, retries, and circuit breaking, enhancing the observability and resilience of microservices.

  4. Observability and Monitoring: While both Istio and Kubernetes provide some level of observability and monitoring, Istio excels in this regard. Istio's data plane sidecar proxies collect rich telemetry data, allowing for advanced monitoring and troubleshooting. It offers features like distributed tracing, metrics collection, and logging, providing deep insights into application behavior and performance. Kubernetes, though capable of facilitating basic monitoring, does not offer the same level of comprehensive observability features.

  5. Security and Policy Enforcement: Kubernetes provides basic security mechanisms like RBAC (Role-Based Access Control) and network policies to ensure secure container orchestration. However, Istio goes a step further in enforcing security and policies at the service mesh level. By offering mutual TLS (Transport Layer Security) authentication, authorization policies, and fine-grained access control, Istio provides enhanced security measures for microservices communication and helps mitigate security risks.

  6. Community and Maturity: Kubernetes has a significantly larger community and is more mature compared to Istio. As the de facto standard for container orchestration, Kubernetes has gained wide adoption and enjoys extensive community support, ensuring regular updates, bug fixes, and a rich ecosystem. Although Istio has been gaining momentum in recent years, it is relatively newer and has a smaller community, making it essential to consider community support and maturity when choosing between the two.

In summary, while Kubernetes primarily focuses on container orchestration and management, Istio adds a layer of networking and management capabilities to enhance service communication, security, observability, and advanced traffic routing within Kubernetes clusters.

Decisions about Istio and Kubernetes
Simon Reymann
Senior Fullstack Developer at QUANTUSflow Software GmbH · | 30 upvotes · 8.8M views

Our whole DevOps stack consists of the following tools:

  • GitHub (incl. GitHub Pages/Markdown for Documentation, GettingStarted and HowTo's) for collaborative review and code management tool
  • Respectively Git as revision control system
  • SourceTree as Git GUI
  • Visual Studio Code as IDE
  • CircleCI for continuous integration (automatize development process)
  • Prettier / TSLint / ESLint as code linter
  • SonarQube as quality gate
  • Docker as container management (incl. Docker Compose for multi-container application management)
  • VirtualBox for operating system simulation tests
  • Kubernetes as cluster management for docker containers
  • Heroku for deploying in test environments
  • nginx as web server (preferably used as facade server in production environment)
  • SSLMate (using OpenSSL) for certificate management
  • Amazon EC2 (incl. Amazon S3) for deploying in stage (production-like) and production environments
  • PostgreSQL as preferred database system
  • Redis as preferred in-memory database/store (great for caching)

The main reason we have chosen Kubernetes over Docker Swarm is related to the following artifacts:

  • Key features: Easy and flexible installation, Clear dashboard, Great scaling operations, Monitoring is an integral part, Great load balancing concepts, Monitors the condition and ensures compensation in the event of failure.
  • Applications: An application can be deployed using a combination of pods, deployments, and services (or micro-services).
  • Functionality: Kubernetes as a complex installation and setup process, but it not as limited as Docker Swarm.
  • Monitoring: It supports multiple versions of logging and monitoring when the services are deployed within the cluster (Elasticsearch/Kibana (ELK), Heapster/Grafana, Sysdig cloud integration).
  • Scalability: All-in-one framework for distributed systems.
  • Other Benefits: Kubernetes is backed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), huge community among container orchestration tools, it is an open source and modular tool that works with any OS.
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Prateek Mittal
Fullstack Engineer| Ruby | React JS | gRPC at Ex Bookmyshow | Furlenco | Shopmatic · | 4 upvotes · 283.5K views

Istio based on powerful Envoy whereas Kong based on Nginx. Istio is K8S native as well it's actively developed when k8s was successfully accepted with production-ready apps whereas Kong slowly migrated to start leveraging K8s. Istio has an inbuilt turn-keyIstio based on powerful Envoy whereas Kong based on Nginx. Istio is K8S native as well it's actively developed when k8s was successfully accepted with production-ready apps whereas Kong slowly migrated to start leveraging K8s. Istio has an inbuilt turn key solution with Rancher whereas Kong completely lacks here. Traffic distribution in Istio can be done via canary, a/b, shadowing, HTTP headers, ACL, whitelist whereas in Kong it's limited to canary, ACL, blue-green, proxy caching. Istio has amazing community support which is visible via Github stars or releases when comparing both.

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Guan Wang
Data engineer at accenture · | 2 upvotes · 10.7K views
Shared insights

In the past two years , the cloud native is becoming more and more popular , down-to-earth and ready for the production . Based on K8S and enriched by the service mesh framework like istio , the ecosystem is on the way to a bright future . Now I am a member of cloud native believer , I am keeping learning on that awesome field.

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Pros of Istio
Pros of Kubernetes
  • 14
    Zero code for logging and monitoring
  • 9
    Service Mesh
  • 8
    Great flexibility
  • 5
  • 5
    Powerful authorization mechanisms
  • 5
    Ingress controller
  • 4
    Easy integration with Kubernetes and Docker
  • 4
    Full Security
  • 164
    Leading docker container management solution
  • 128
    Simple and powerful
  • 106
    Open source
  • 76
    Backed by google
  • 58
    The right abstractions
  • 25
    Scale services
  • 20
    Replication controller
  • 11
    Permission managment
  • 9
    Supports autoscaling
  • 8
  • 8
  • 6
  • 5
    No cloud platform lock-in
  • 5
    Promotes modern/good infrascture practice
  • 5
    Open, powerful, stable
  • 5
  • 4
  • 4
    Quick cloud setup
  • 3
    Cloud Agnostic
  • 3
    Captain of Container Ship
  • 3
    A self healing environment with rich metadata
  • 3
    Runs on azure
  • 3
    Backed by Red Hat
  • 3
    Custom and extensibility
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
    Everything of CaaS
  • 2
  • 2
    Easy setup
  • 2

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Cons of Istio
Cons of Kubernetes
  • 16
  • 16
    Steep learning curve
  • 15
    Poor workflow for development
  • 8
    Orchestrates only infrastructure
  • 4
    High resource requirements for on-prem clusters
  • 2
    Too heavy for simple systems
  • 1
    Additional vendor lock-in (Docker)
  • 1
    More moving parts to secure
  • 1
    Additional Technology Overhead

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What is Istio?

Istio is an open platform for providing a uniform way to integrate microservices, manage traffic flow across microservices, enforce policies and aggregate telemetry data. Istio's control plane provides an abstraction layer over the underlying cluster management platform, such as Kubernetes, Mesos, etc.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open source orchestration system for Docker containers. It handles scheduling onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages workloads to ensure that their state matches the users declared intentions.

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Blog Posts

Dec 8 2020 at 5:50PM


May 21 2020 at 12:02AM

Rancher Labs

KubernetesAmazon EC2Grafana+12
Apr 16 2020 at 5:34AM

Rancher Labs

What are some alternatives to Istio and Kubernetes?
linkerd is an out-of-process network stack for microservices. It functions as a transparent RPC proxy, handling everything needed to make inter-service RPC safe and sane--including load-balancing, service discovery, instrumentation, and routing.
Originally built at Lyft, Envoy is a high performance C++ distributed proxy designed for single services and applications, as well as a communication bus and “universal data plane” designed for large microservice “service mesh” architectures.
Conduit is a lightweight open source service mesh designed for performance, power, and ease of use when running applications on Kubernetes. Conduit is incredibly fast, lightweight, fundamentally secure, and easy to get started with.
Kong is a scalable, open source API Layer (also known as an API Gateway, or API Middleware). Kong controls layer 4 and 7 traffic and is extended through Plugins, which provide extra functionality and services beyond the core platform.
AWS App Mesh
AWS App Mesh is a service mesh based on the Envoy proxy that makes it easy to monitor and control containerized microservices. App Mesh standardizes how your microservices communicate, giving you end-to-end visibility and helping to ensure high-availability for your applications. App Mesh gives you consistent visibility and network traffic controls for every microservice in an application. You can use App Mesh with Amazon ECS (using the Amazon EC2 launch type), Amazon EKS, and Kubernetes on AWS.
See all alternatives