What Are Companies Using Service Mesh For?

We recently worked with 451 Research to identify current trends in the service mesh space. Together, we identified some key service mesh trends and patterns around how companies are adopting service mesh, and emerging use cases that are driving that adoption. Factors driving adoption include how service mesh automates and bolsters security, and a recognition of service mesh observability capabilities to ease debugging and decrease Mean Time To Resolution (MTTR). Check out this video for more from 451 Research's Senior Analyst in Application and Infrastructure Performance, Nancy Gohring, on this topic:

Who’s Using Service Mesh 

According to data and insights gathered by 451 Research, service mesh already has significant momentum, even though it is a young technology. Results from the Voice of the Enterprise: DevOps, Workloads & Key Projects 2020 survey tell us that 16% of respondents had adopted service mesh across their entire IT organizations, and 20% had adopted service mesh at the team level. Outside of those numbers, 38% of respondents also reported that they are in trials or planning to use service mesh in the future. As Kubernetes dominates the microservices landscape, the need for a service mesh to manage layer 7 communication is becoming increasingly clear. 

451 Research Service Mesh Adoption

In tandem with this growing adoption trend, the technology itself is expanding quickly. While the top driver of service mesh adoption continues to be supporting traffic management, service mesh provides many additional capabilities beyond controlling traffic. 451 found that key new capabilities the technology provides includes greatly enhanced security as well as increased observability into microservices.

Service Mesh and Security

Many organizations—particularly those in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services—need to comply with very demanding security and regulatory requirements. A service mesh can be used to enforce or enhance important security and compliance policies more consistently, and across teams, at an organization-wide level. A service mesh can be used to:

  • Apply security policies to all traffic at ingress, and encrypt traffic using mTLS traveling between services
  • Add Zero-Trust networking
  • Govern certificate management for authenticating identity
  • Enforce level of least privilege with role-based access control (RBAC)
  • Manage policies consistently, regardless of protocols and runtimes 

These capabilities are particularly important for complex microservices deployments, and allow DevOps teams to ensure a strong security posture while running in production at global scale. 

Observability and Turning Your Data into Intelligence

In addition to helping enterprises improve their security posture, a service mesh also greatly improves observability through traces and metrics that allow operators to quickly root cause any failures and ensure resilient applications. Enabling the rapid resolution of performance problems allows DevOps teams to reduce mean time to resolution (MTTR) and optimize engineering efficiency

The broader market trends around observability and advanced analytics with open source technologies are also key to the success of companies adopting service mesh. There are challenges around managing microservices environments, and teams need better ways of identifying the sources of performance issues in order to resolve problems faster and more efficiently. Complex microservices-based applications generate very large amounts of data. Many open source projects are addressing this by making it easier for users to collect data from these environments, and advancements in analytics tools are enabling users to extract the signal from the noise, quickly directing users to the source of performance problems. 

Overcoming this challenge is why we created Aspen Mesh Rapid Resolve. It allows users to see any configuration or policy changes made within Kubernetes clusters, which is almost always the cause of failures. The Rapid Resolve timeline view makes it simple for operators to look back in time to pinpoint any changes that resulted in performance degradation. 

Aspen Mesh Rapid Resolve

This enables Aspen Mesh users to identify root causes, report actions and apply fixing configurations all in one place. For example, the Rapid Resolve suite offers many new features including:

  • Restore: a smarter, machine-assisted way to effectively reduce the set of things an operator or developer has to look through to find the root cause of failure in their environment. Root causing in distributed architectures is hard. Aspen Mesh Restore immediately alerts engineers to any performance outside acceptable thresholds and makes it obvious where any configuration, application or infrastructure changes occurred that are likely to be breaking changes.
  • Replay: a one-stop shop for application troubleshooting and reducing time to recovery. Aspen Mesh Replay gives you the current and the past view of your cluster state, including microservices connectivity, traffic and service health, and relevant events like configuration changes and alerts along the way. This view is great for understanding and diagnosing cascading failures. You can easily roll back in time and detect where a failure started. It's also a good tool for sharing information in larger groups where you can track the health of your cluster visually over time.

The Future of Service Mesh

Companies strive for stability with agility, which allows them to meet the market and users where they are, and thrive even in an uncertain marketplace. According to 451 Research,

“Businesses are employing containers, Kubernetes and microservices as tools that allow them to more quickly respond to customer demands and competitive threats. However, these technologies introduce new and potentially significant management challenges. Advanced organizations have turned to service mesh to help solve some of these problems. Service mesh technology can remove infrastructure burdens from developers, enabling them to focus on creating valuable application features rather than managing the mechanics of microservices communications. But managing the communications layer isn’t the only benefit a service mesh brings to the table. Increasingly, users are recognizing the role service meshes can play in collecting and analyzing important observability data, as well as their ability to support security requirements.”

The adoption of containers, Kubernetes and service mesh is continuing to grow, and both security and observability will be key drivers that increase service mesh adoption in the coming years.