14 Jun 2023 ยท Software Engineering

    The Service Mesh Landscape in 2023

    9 min read

    Service mesh technologies have emerged as a crucial infrastructure tool for handling service-to-service communication in modern distributed applications. It helps organizations manage the complexities of microservices architectures and enables more efficient deployment and scaling of applications. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of service mesh landscape, including the current state of service mesh providers in 2023, use cases for service mesh technology, and an exploration of its future potential.

    What is a service mesh?

    A service mesh is a dedicated infrastructure layer for managing service-to-service communication within a microservices architecture. It provides features such as service discovery, load balancing, traffic management, security, and observability for microservices without requiring changes to the application code. By abstracting away the underlying network complexity, a service mesh allows developers to focus on building and deploying their services, while operations teams can manage the infrastructure more effectively.

    Service mesh landscape: this diagram shows how Istio works in Kubernetes. On its control plane, the istiod process runs. It consists of 3 components: Pilot, Citadel and Galley. Connecting the control plane with the data plance there are two dashed arrows with the title Discovery Configuration and Certificates. Entering the data plane we have an arow called Ingress traffic and exiting one called Egress Traffic. Inside the data plane there are two pods each with a Proxu and a Service.

    In Kubernetes (k8s), a service mesh can be implemented as a set of containers that run alongside the application workloads within a Kubernetes cluster. The service mesh intercepts and manages traffic between microservices, effectively creating a dedicated network overlay on top of the Kubernetes network. Popular service mesh solutions for Kubernetes include Istio, Linkerd, and Consul Connect. By leveraging a service mesh, Kubernetes users can improve the resilience, security, and observability of their microservices-based applications, while also simplifying the deployment and management of the underlying infrastructure.

    To learn more about service meshes in Kubernetes, you can check out service-mesh-kubernetes.

    The service mesh landscape

    Several service mesh providers are available, including Istio, Linkerd, Consul, AWS App Mesh, and Google Anthos Service Mesh. These providers differ in features, performance, ease of use, community support, and pricing. In addition, envoy-based solutions, i.e. mesh solutions for specific cloud providers, startups, and emerging solutions, are also available.


    Istio is an open-source service mesh platform designed to provide a uniform way of managing and securing service-to-service communication in modern cloud-native applications. It was developed by building on top of Envoy, a high-performance proxy that intercepts all traffic between microservices. Istio offers a range of features, including traffic management, security, and observability, making it an essential tool for organizations seeking to manage the complexities of microservices architectures.


    Linkerd is another open-source service mesh platform designed to be lightweight and easy to use. Unlike Istio, it is built on top of a micro-proxy called linkerd2-proxy and provides several key features, including transparent, zero-config WebSocket proxying, automatic TLS, automatic, latency-aware, layer-7 load balancing, etc.


    Consul is a service mesh platform developed by HashiCorp, a leading provider of infrastructure automation software. Consul provides several key features, including service discovery, traffic management, and security.

    AWS App Mesh

    AWS App Mesh is a service mesh platform explicitly designed for use with AWS cloud services. It also provides several key features, including traffic management, security, and observability.

    Google Anthos Service Mesh

    Google developed the Anthos Service Mesh, a service mesh platform designed to provide a unified way to manage microservices architectures across multiple cloud environments.

    Comparison of service mesh providers

    To choose the most suitable service mesh solution for your organization, it is crucial to compare several options based on their features, performance, ease of use, community support, and pricing


    Service mesh platforms are designed to help teams manage and secure microservices-based applications in modern cloud environments. These platforms provide a range of features and capabilities, such as traffic management, security, and observability, that can help teams manage the complex inter-service communication and security requirements of microservices architectures. In this table, we compare four popular service mesh platforms โ€“ Istio, Consul, AWS App Mesh, and Linkerd โ€“ based on their features related to traffic management, security, observability, and ease of use, to help organizations choose the best solution for their specific use case and requirements.

    Service MeshTraffic ManagementSecurityObservabilityEase of Use
    IstioAdvanced traffic routing and controlMutual TLS, access control, and encryptionMetrics, logs, and tracingIntermediate
    ConsulTraffic routing and service discoveryIdentity and access management, encryption, and authorizationMetrics and loggingIntermediate
    AWS App MeshTraffic routing and controlMutual TLS, access control, and encryptionMetrics, logs, and tracingIntermediate
    LinkerdBasic traffic routing and controlMutual TLS, request-level authorization, policy enforcement, and encryptionMetrics and tracing (limited logging support)Easy


    In terms of performance, all service mesh platforms provide high performance and scalability. However, Linkerd is the most lightweight and has the smallest resource footprint, making it a good choice for small or straightforward microservices architectures.

    Ease of use

    Regarding ease of use, Linkerd is the most user-friendly Service Mesh platform, providing a simple and intuitive interface. On the other hand, Istio and Consul require more configuration and management, while AWS App Mesh and Google Anthos Service Mesh are well integrated with their respective cloud platforms.

    Community support

    All service mesh platforms have active and vibrant communities, but Istio has the largest community of contributors and users. In addition, Consul, Linkerd, AWS App Mesh, and Google Anthos Service Mesh have active communities and firm support.


    All service mesh platforms are open-source and free, but some cloud-specific features or integrations may require additional costs or subscriptions. AWS App Mesh and Google Anthos Service Mesh are included in their respective cloud platforms and billed based on usage.

    Upcoming service mesh providers

    New service mesh providers, such as Aspen Mesh, Kuma, and Traefik Mesh, offer innovative solutions for managing microservices architectures with unique features such as multi-cloud environment support, hybrid cloud deployments, and API gateway integration. This provides organizations with a broader range of options to choose from, allowing them to select the best platform to meet their specific needs and requirements.

    Envoy-based solutions

    Several service mesh platforms, including Istio and AWS App Mesh, use Envoy, an open-source proxy for cloud-native applications. In addition, several Envoy-based solutions provide service mesh capabilities, such as:

    • Maesh is a lightweight and open-source service mesh solution built on the Traefik reverse proxy. It provides features such as traffic routing, load balancing, and observability.
    • Kuma is a universal service mesh platform designed to work with any service discovery and runtime platform. 

    Mesh solutions for specific cloud providers

    Many cloud providers now offer service mesh solutions that integrate seamlessly with their platforms. Some examples include:

    • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Service Mesh
    • AWS App Mesh
    • Google Anthos Service Mesh:

    Startups and emerging solutions

    Several startups and emerging solutions are also providing service mesh capabilities. Some examples include:

    • Aspen Mesh: Aspen Mesh is a service mesh platform built on top of Istio. It provides advanced features such as multi-cluster support and advanced observability.
    • Solo.io: Solo.io provides several service mesh solutions, including Gloo Mesh, a service mesh platform built on top of Istio and offers advanced features such as multi-cluster support and policy management.
    • Tetrate: Tetrate is a service mesh platform built on top of Istio and provides traffic management, security, and observability features. It also provides tools for managing Istio across multiple clusters.

    The service mesh landscape constantly evolves, with new solutions and capabilities emerging. Therefore, when evaluating service mesh providers, it’s essential to consider factors such as features, performance, ease of use, community support, pricing, and any specific requirements you may have for your microservices architecture.

    Use cases

    Service meshes are particularly well-suited for microservices architectures, where multiple services must communicate over a network. Some of the use cases for service meshes in microservices architectures include:

    • Traffic management: a service mesh provides traffic routing and load balancing capabilities, which can help optimize traffic flow between microservices.
    • Service discovery: a service mesh can automatically discover services and their endpoints, making it easier for microservices to communicate with each other.
    • Security: a service mesh can provide end-to-end encryption and mutual authentication between microservices, helping to secure communication channels.
    • Observability: a service mesh provides a wealth of data about how microservices communicate, including metrics, logs, and traces.

    The future of service meshes

    Service mesh technology is constantly evolving, and several trends are likely to take shape in the future:

    • Greater focus on ease of use: as service mesh adoption continues to grow, there will be a greater focus on making service mesh solutions easier to use and more accessible to developers.
    • Increased standardization: as service meshes become more widely adopted, there will likely be increased standardization around the underlying technologies and protocols used in service mesh solutions.
    • Expansion into new use cases: service mesh technology will likely find new use cases beyond microservices architectures, such as in serverless and edge computing environments.
    • Integration with other technologies: service mesh technology will likely be integrated with other technologies such as Kubernetes, Istio, and Prometheus to provide a more comprehensive set of features.

    Potential challenges and limitations

    While service mesh technology offers many benefits, there are also several challenges and limitations that organizations need to consider:

    • Complexity: service mesh solutions can be complex to set up and manage, which can be a barrier to adoption for some organizations.
    • Performance overhead: service mesh solutions can introduce some performance overhead due to the additional network hops and processing required for traffic routing and security.
    • Limited support for legacy applications: service mesh solutions may only be compatible with some legacy applications, which can challenge organizations with older infrastructure.
    • Integration with existing infrastructure: service mesh solutions must integrate with existing infrastructure, which can be complex and time-consuming.

    Outlook for service mesh adoption in the enterprise

    Despite these challenges, the enterprise’s outlook for service mesh adoption is positive. Service mesh technology is rapidly maturing, and many organizations are beginning to recognize the benefits of using a service mesh to manage their microservices architectures. According to a recent survey by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, service mesh usage was up significantly, going from 27% in 2020 to 47% in 2022.

    As service mesh technology continues to evolve and become more widely adopted, we expect to see a range of new use cases emerge and service mesh solutions increasingly integrated with other technologies. Ultimately, service mesh technology has the potential to help organizations manage the complexity of their microservices architectures and provide a more secure, reliable, and scalable infrastructure for their applications.


    The service mesh landscape is rapidly evolving, with various solutions to help organizations manage their microservices architectures. Significant service mesh providers include Istio, Linkerd, Consul, AWS App Mesh, and Google Anthos Service Mesh.

    There are also several upcoming service mesh providers, including Envoy-based solutions, mesh solutions for specific cloud providers, and startups and emerging solutions.

    Overall, service mesh technology offers many benefits for managing distributed applications, but it’s essential to carefully evaluate and select the right service mesh solution for your organization’s needs.

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    Experienced and passionate engineer with a deep understanding of how systems work and a strong drive to create high-quality software. Skilled in backend development, microservice architecture, algorithm design, and analysis.
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    I picked up most of my skills during the years I worked at IBM. Was a DBA, developer, and cloud engineer for a time. After that, I went into freelancing, where I found the passion for writing. Now, I'm a full-time writer at Semaphore.