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Introducing Istio Service Mesh for Microservices by Burr Sutter, Christian Posta

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Chapter 6. Observability

One of the greatest challenges with the management of a microservices architecture is simply trying to understand the relationships between individual components of the overall system. A single end-user transaction might flow through several, perhaps a dozen or more independently deployed microservices or pods, and discovering where performance bottlenecks have occurred provides valuable information.

Tracing

Often the first thing to understand about your microservices architecture is specifically which microservices are involved in an end-user transaction. If many teams are deploying their dozens of microservices, all independently of one another, it is often challenging to understand the dependencies across that “mesh” of services. Istio’s Mixer comes “out of the box” with the ability to pull tracing spans from your distributed microservices. This means that tracing is programming-language agnostic so that you can use this capability in a polyglot world where different teams, each with its own microservice, can be using different programming languages and frameworks.

Although Istio supports both Zipkin and Jaeger, for our purposes we focus on Jaeger, which implements OpenTracing, a vendor neutral tracing API. Jaeger was original open sourced by the Uber Technologies team and is a distributed tracing system specifically focused on microservices architecture.

One important term to understand is span, and Jaeger defines span as “a logical unit of work in ...

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