The momentum behind the open source Envoy proxy software project is increasing as the number of platforms it can be deployed on continues to expand.
Envoy provides a layer 7 edge and service proxy that can be employed to provide a layer of network abstraction for both cloud-native applications based on microservices and existing legacy applications based on virtual machines.
Initially developed by Lyft, there are now more than 180 IT vendors and more than 155 companies making contributions to Envoy. Matt Klein, a software engineer for Lyft who is also a maintainer for the Envoy project, said at that level it’s clear Envoy has achieved a critical level of mass. In fact, that level of support is why so many providers of service meshes have elected to deploy their frameworks on top of Envoy.
Klein conceded Envoy is a complex piece of software that requires a significant level of engineering expertise to master. However, as IT teams look to become more agile, the need for a layer of abstraction that reduces network complexity has become more apparent, especially as organizations move to embrace edge computing.
That agility now also can be extended to software platforms via plugins. In the case of Postgres, for example, Envoy can now decode and interpret the wire protocol format for Postgres to extract data and metrics from Postgres traffic. That capability will not only route database traffic more efficiently but it also offloads the management of that task from the Postgres server without any changes to the database platform required.
Envoy makes it possible to extend many of the infrastructure-as-code concepts first put forward to manage virtual machines in the cloud to networks. DevOps teams have been able to provision virtual machines in a matter of minutes for years. However, in on-premises IT environments it can take days, sometimes weeks, to provision networking resources. Envoy provides a layer of abstraction that makes it possible to manage network services at a higher level of abstraction.
Klein said in addition to making Envoy less complex, the team overseeing its development is working to add deeper support for WebAssembly, a platform that makes it easier to build applications on top of Envoy. The Envoy team also plans to tighten integration with multiple observability tools to enable DevOps processes to be applied more easily to networking services, added Klein.
As Envoy continues to evolve, the rate at which network operations and DevOps will converge is only going to accelerate. DevOps teams will be able to employ Envoy in concert with a service mesh to programmatically manage network services at will. It may take some time for roles within enterprise IT organizations to be redefined to reflect that new reality, but the days when networks were managed via command-line interfaces that had to separately accessed for each router, switch or appliance on the network are coming to a close. In its place, a new era of software-defined networking based on commodity processors is finally starting to rise.