Announcing Preview Support for Istio

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Today we are announcing support for Istio with Rancher 2.3 in Preview mode.

Why Istio?

Istio, and service mesh generally, has developed a huge amount of excitement
in the Kubernetes ecosystem. Istio promises to add fault tolerance, canary rollouts, A/B testing, monitoring
and metrics, tracing and observability, and authentication and authorization, eliminating the need for
developers to instrument or write specific code to enable these capabilities. In effect, developers can just
focus on their business logic and leave the rest to Kubernetes and Istio.

The claims above aren’t new. About 10 years ago, PaaS vendors made exactly the same claim and even delivered
on it to an extent. The problem was that their offerings required specific languages, frameworks, and, for
the most part, only worked with very simple applications. The workloads were also tied to the vendor’s
unique implementation, which meant that if you wanted your applications to use the PaaS services, you were
potentially locked-in for a very long time.

With containers and Kubernetes, these limitations are virtually nonexistent. As long as you can containerize
your application, Kubernetes can run it for you.

How Istio Works in Rancher 2.3 Preview 2

Our users count on us to make managing and operating Kubernetes and related tools and technologies easy,
without locking them in to a specific cloud vendor. With Istio, we take the same approach.

In this Preview mode, we provide users with a simple UI to enable Istio under the Tools menu. Reasonable
default configurations are provided but can be changed as required:

Announcing Istio

In order to monitor your traffic, Istio needs to inject an Envoy sidecar. In Rancher 2.3 Preview, users can
enable automatic sidecar injection for each namespace. Once this option is selected, Rancher will inject the
sidecar container into each workload:

Announcing Istio

Rancher’s simplified installation and configuration of Istio comes with a built-in, supported Kiali dashboard for traffic and telemetry visualization, Jaeger for tracing, and even its own Prometheus and Grafana (separate
instances than the ones used for Advanced Monitoring).

After you deploy workloads in the namespaces with automatic sidecar injection enabled, head over to the Istio
menu entry and observe the traffic as it flows across your microservice applications:

Announcing Istio

Clicking on Kiali, Jaeger, Prometheus, or Grafana will take you to the respective UI of each tool, where you
can find more details and options:

Announcing Istio

As mentioned earlier, the power of Istio is its ability to bring features like fault tolerance, circuit
breaking, canary deployment, and more to your services. To enable these, you will need to develop and apply
the appropriate YAML files. Istio is not supported for Windows workloads yet, so it should not be enabled in
Windows clusters.

Conclusion

Istio is one of the most talked about and requested features in the Rancher and Kubernetes communities today.
However, there are also a lot of questions around the best way to deploy and manage it. With Rancher 2.3.0
Preview 2, our goal is to make this journey quick and easy.

For release notes and installation steps, please visit
https://github.com/rancher/rancher/releases/tag/v2.3.0-alpha5

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