Key Criteria for Evaluating Service Meshv1.0

An Evaluation Guide for Technology Decision Makers

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Service Mesh Primer
  3. Report Methodology
  4. Decision Criteria Analysis
  5. Evaluation Metrics
  6. Specific Service Mesh Capabilities
  7. Key Criteria: Impact Analysis
  8. Analyst’s Take
  9. About Ivan McPhee

1. Summary

The service mesh approach was conceived to simplify and streamline the development and deployment of microservices-based applications. Replacing monolithic architectures, microservices is an approach—rather than a technology—to developing applications and services, enabling increased agility, flexibility, and scalability. Instead of creating an application as a single, inseparable entity comprising a client-side user interface, a server side-application, and a database, the microservices approach splits up the required functionality into a smaller, loosely coupled collection of independently deployable services.

The microservices architecture introduced a level of complexity that is exacerbated in cloud-native deployments. It requires that developers code and test every service-to-service and service-to-database connection to ensure the optimal performance, reliability, and security of the application’s runtime behavior. However, managing communications becomes increasingly complex in a cloud-native environment where an application can consist of hundreds of services and thousands of instances constantly changing state through dynamic orchestration. Moreover, developers must repeat these resource-intensive and time-consuming tasks for every application.

Addressing these challenges, a service mesh provides a consistent way of seamlessly coordinating a distributed mesh of microservices. Decoupling the application logic from the network communication logic, a service mesh offloads authentication, authorization, encryption, load balancing, rate limiting, service discovery, and logging and tracing from each application. This abstracts those functions as a programmable infrastructure layer running adjacent to each microservice. As a result, deploying a service mesh becomes more valuable as applications scale, providing the “plumbing” for cloud-native applications.

A service mesh:

  • Delivers out-of-the-box observability, resilience, routing, scalability, and security
  • Allows developers to focus on enhancing business value instead of recreating service connections
  • Eliminates the need for language-specific SDKs and tools to manage intra-service communications

Despite being a relatively new technology, more and more organizations are adopting open-source or vendor-provided service mesh solutions. This GigaOm Key Criteria report outlines critical criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting a service mesh. The corresponding GigaOm Radar Report provides an overview of notable service mesh vendors and their offerings available today. Together, these reports are designed to help educate decision-makers, providing critical insights for cloud-native application development.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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