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Service Mesh : To Deploy Applications in the Cloud

Service meshes have been touted as the new way to deploy applications in the cloud. An application deployed with a service mesh is more resilient to failures, easier to maintain, and easier to operate than one with a classic monolithic architecture. 

This explains why the global service mesh market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 41.3% until 2027.

Read on to understand service meshes and how they can help you build better cloud-native applications. In this article, we will understand

  • What is a Service Mesh
  • Why do you need it?
  • How does a Service Mesh work?
  • Service Mesh Architecture and Concepts 
  • How to start using it?
  • Benefits and drawbacks of Service Mesh

What Is a Service Mesh?

Service mesh is a software layer that sits between the applications and the underlying network. It provides a rich set of services for building, deploying, and operating microservices-based distributed systems. The most important thing about a service mesh is that it allows enterprises to control the quality of service (QoS) for their application traffic.

Essentially, service meshes enable load balancing, request tracing, circuit breaking, retry logic, routing rules, and more.

Why Do You Need a Service Mesh? 

A cloud is a powerful tool. But when you’re building your application, you need to be careful: you can’t assume that everything will work as expected.

In a service mesh, all the communication between different parts of the application happens through a centralized system called the “mesh.” When one part fails, others are not affected. It also means that you have full control over who has access to what information and how that information is shared with other parts of your application. The result is a faster, more reliable user experience—and less work for developers.

How Does a Service Mesh Work? 

A service mesh is a network of services running on a cluster of machines that works together to provide high availability, load balancing, and firewall functionality.

It’s a way to deploy your applications in the cloud. Each service in your application is assigned to run on a different server, and the service mesh acts as a load balancer between them. It will route requests from users to the best-performing server and ensure that requests can still be routed to other servers if one server goes down.

This allows enterprises to deploy complex applications with multiple tiers that can be scaled up or down depending on traffic levels.

Service Mesh Architecture and Concepts 

Today, cloud providers provide a core set of services most applications use. These services can be broadly categorized into computing, storage, and networking.

The service mesh architecture is an overlay network that sits on top of these core services and provides functionality such as routing and monitoring. It contains tools to implement the necessary state management functions for the applications running in the cloud. These tools include load balancing, service discovery, routing, circuit breaking, observability, and more.

What Is an Example Use Case for Service Mesh? 

An example use case for a service mesh is when you have multiple applications and services running in a cloud environment and must ensure they can communicate with each other. When you’re using the service mesh, you can do things like configure policies that determine how traffic gets routed between different applications. 

So, for example, if your application needs to talk to an external API or database, it doesn’t need to talk to any internal services. You can set up a policy that routes all traffic from your application through an external gateway node. Therefore, no one else can access the database or API unless they go through this proxy (configured with appropriate permissions).

It can also serve as a security layer for your applications. This is especially useful if you have several teams working on separate projects in different environments and want them all talking to each other securely. You can set up policies in the service mesh so that only certain teams can access certain resources (such as databases or APIs), while other teams have access only to their resources.

How to Start Using Service Mesh with Your Microservices Architectures? 

First, you need to understand what a service mesh is and why it’s useful. Again, a service mesh is a configurable infrastructure layer for a microservices application. It manages network traffic between the microservices, making it easier to deploy new services and roll back when things go wrong.

Next, you’ll want to decide if your existing infrastructure is ready for a service mesh. If you’re using Kubernetes, it may be time to upgrade to the latest version of Kubernetes (which supports service meshes) or consider using another container orchestration system.

Once you’ve figured out all that, it’s time to install a service mesh on your cluster. The ideal way to do this depends on how many nodes make up your cluster: if there are just two or three nodes, then Helm (a package manager for Kubernetes) will be sufficient; if there are four or more, then use Kubo or Linkerd as an alternative.

Benefits of Service Mesh

The service mesh provides many benefits, including:

  • Load balancing: Service mesh allows you to load balance traffic across multiple instances of an application. This is especially useful if you have more than one instance of an application running behind a load balancer, but you want to ensure that only one instance is used at a time.
  • Circuit breaking: Service mesh also allows you to prevent requests from reaching an instance of an application if it’s not ready or has failed. This prevents users from experiencing errors due to errors in your system.
  • Tracing: Service mesh can also be used for tracing requests through your system to see where they’re failing or taking too long (and why).

Drawbacks of Service Mesh

One drawback of a service mesh is that it requires you to change your application code if you want to use it. If you’re using an existing framework or library, like Spring Boot or Django, you’ll need to modify these frameworks to be compatible with the service mesh. Another drawback is that there are no standards for implementing service mesh yet. Each vendor has its way of doing things, and there isn’t necessarily any interoperability between them.

3 Ways That Implementing a Service Mesh Can Help with a Smooth Transition to Microservices 

  1. Service Discovery: With a service mesh, you can easily find the services you need and discern how to talk to them. This will help your application get up and running faster and make it easier for you to scale it as needed.
  2. Security: A service mesh can help protect applications by enforcing security policies on every request. You don’t have to worry about setting up individual policies for each microservice or API endpoint; instead, you can use a single security policy that applies across all your services.
  3. Monitoring: A service mesh helps you monitor the health of your entire system so that you have better visibility into the performance of each part of your system and can identify problems before they cause trouble for users or customers.

Service Mesh: A New Architecture Pattern Enabling Microservices Scalability, Security, and Resiliency

With the evolution of various programming languages and deployment choices, the enterprise tech stack tends to get complicated and hard to manage. That’s where service mesh helps. By enabling seamless and secure communication between individual components, it allows development teams to create innovative solutions without worrying about implementation challenges. 

The future of service mesh looks promising. As of today, several major service mesh projects have emerged, and they’re driving heightened collaboration. At Heptagon, we genuinely believe that these systems can aid in bridging the gap between cloud-native and legacy applications.

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