Google releases Istio for good

After an unsuccessful experience in the governance of the Istio service mesh, Google finally entrusts the project to an open source foundation.

The trademark for Istio will be transferred from Google’s Open Usage Commons, established to widespread dismay in 2020, to the CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation)a Linux Foundation subgroup founded to govern Kubernetes in 2015.

The news, announced at this week’s virtual IstioCon event, comes about five months after the Knative event computing project was donated by Google. Naturally, pros and analysts expected Istio to follow Knative and Kubernetes. According to Google spokespersons, this decision to release Istio (finally) is partly motivated by the desire to have a single foundation for its three frameworks at the center of container management policies.

“Istio will now progress faster and, […] enterprises have a clear road to hybrid cloud without proprietary lock-in, no matter the hyperscaler choice. »

Larry CarvalhoIndependent Analyst, RobustCloud.

“The Istio brand, which was under the relative control of Google, is being transferred to CNCF, where it will be managed like the Kubernetes brand, reducing community risk and creating a truly open ecosystem” , said Eric Brewer, vice president and fellow of Google, during a speech at IstioCon. “It will then be part of a complete Kubernetes-based technology stack.”

Istio supporters and IstioCon attendees praised the move. They expect it to widen the adoption of the project among users. Additionally, it relieves publishers who were wary of Google’s exclusive control over the governance of the project.

“I pushed this project behind the scenes for years,” says Nicolas Chaillan, an early adopter of Istio, formerly at the Department of Defense (DoD) and now an independent consultant and member of the advisory board of Tetrate, a publisher of a commercial distribution of the service mesh. ” [Maintenant, Istio] will conquer the whole market. People follow what the CNCF adopts”.

The adoption of the service mesh was also at the heart of the speech Lin Sun, director of open source at, another publisher custodian of an offer based on Istio and former head of governance of Istio at IBM.

“No need to do scouting for different service mesh projects: you just choose what is most deployed in production environments, the project supported by the CNCF,” boasts Lin Sun.

The Istio service mesh has always enjoyed its high-profile backers, including Google, IBM, and ride-sharing company Lyft, which launched the project together in 2017. But so far, it hasn’t dominated competitors like Kubernetes. did it. Its competitor Linkerd, also overseen by the CNCF, is hot on its heels. Its ease of use and flexible deployment helped it outpace Istio’s growth in North America in 2021, according to the CNCF’s annual survey.

By breaking the chain between Google Cloud and Istio, vendors, publishers and customers could take another look at Istio, an analyst says.

“Istio will now move faster and, more importantly, enterprises have a clear path to hybrid cloud without proprietary lock-in, regardless of hyperscaler choice,” said Larry Carvalho, independent analyst at RobustCloud.

The CNCF has yet to formally accept the Istio project, but it most certainly will, as it has already done with Knative.

A coalition between Istio and Linkerd possible, according to Buoyant

Linkerd community managers have suggested that this could pave the way for collaboration between CNCF service mesh projects.

“We have always welcomed Google’s participation in Linkerd,” said William Morgan, founder and CEO of, Linkerd’s main business backer. “And I hope this shift signals a deeper shift that will finally allow them to join us – in the name of contributing, maintaining and improving the ecosystem, if not more.”

Istio is already widely deployed, especially in large enterprises that need fine-grained security features, where Istio has led the market since its inception. However, the complexity of the project has opened up opportunities for competitors, which include Kong Mesh and HashiCorp Consul in addition to Linkerd.

The upstream community is still working on “making Istio boring,”’s Lin Sun repeats, with updates such as refinement to pod networking and a separate, cleaner interface for proxy configuration in recent versions. Editors such as and Tetrate have also added features to make Istio easier to use, to make it more engaging.

“We know that this technology is not as boring as Kubernetes,” confesses Lin Sun during his presentation at IstioCon. “But that’s our intention.”

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