Solo.io Picks Up $23M to Fuel Service Mesh Ambitions

Solo.io announced today it has picked up an additional $23 million in funding to further adoption of its application programming interface (API) gateway, Service Mesh Hub and Ingress controller for Kubernetes clusters, while simultaneously investing in Web Assembly to build additional extensions to these platforms and the Istio service mesh.

Company CEO Idit Levine says the funding will be employed to increase the size of the company and expand the overall product portfolio.

Solo.io is best known for Gloo, the Ingres controller it developed for Kubernetes on top of the open source Envoy proxy software, which is being developed under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). The company has leveraged its Envoy expertise to create an API management gateway plane and developer portal for Kubernetes clusters.

Service Mesh Hub, meanwhile, is an open source project that provides a management plane for Istio, an open source service mesh based on Envoy originally developed by Google, IBM and Lyft. Solo.io has also created a developer portal for building extensions to Istio using Web Assembly tools.

Levine says given the critical mass of organizations now contributing to Envoy and Istio, these two projects are quickly becoming the dominant proxy and service mesh platforms employed by organizations.

However, the proxy software most widely used in the enterprise today comes from NGINX, a unit of F5 Networks. Most recently, NGINX added an open source service mesh that is lighter-weight than the Istio alternative, which is more complex and challenging to deploy.

In a similar manner, Kong and Microsoft have both launched alternative lighter-weight service meshes based on Envoy. At the same time, Bouyant is the primary driver of Linkerd, a lighter-weight service mesh that is not based on Envoy. Both Linkerd and Kong’s offering, dubbed Kuma, are also being developed under the auspices of the CNCF. Kuma runs across both Kubernetes clusters and traditional virtual machines.

Google, meanwhile, has declined to relinquish control over Istio to an industry consortium.

Proxy software, Ingress controllers and service meshes, to varying degrees, enable IT organizations to manage the interactions between microservices. Most organizations only require the capabilities of a service mesh when they start deploying hundreds of microservices. While Envoy has emerged as a viable alternative to NGINX proxy software, it’s not at all clear which open source projects might emerge as triumphant.

The implications of that battle are significant to not only developers but also networking and security teams. In addition to making it easier to manage APIs, service meshes provide developers with an abstraction that masks the complexity of the underlying networking environment. That abstraction makes it possible to programmatically invoke network services across a heterogeneous IT environment. In addition, tools such as Web Assembly, originally developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), will enable firewalls and other security platforms to be developed as extensions to a service mesh.

There’s clearly a lot at stake in the service mesh war, which enterprise IT organizations should be tracking more closely. Many of the decisions being made today by a relatively small number of contributors to a handful of open source projects are likely to have a profound impact on IT for years to come.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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