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Ambassador vs Istio: What are the differences?

Introduction: Both Ambassador and Istio are popular solutions for managing microservices in a distributed system. While they share similarities, they also have distinct differences that set them apart. This markdown code will outline the key differences between Ambassador and Istio in a concise and easy-to-read format.

1. Traffic Ingress and Routing: Ambassador focuses on API gateway functionality, providing robust traffic ingress and routing capabilities. It acts as a lightweight edge router and enables easy load balancing, TLS termination, and routing rules configuration. On the other hand, Istio offers a comprehensive service mesh solution that includes traffic routing and balancing, but also provides additional features such as service discovery, load balancing, and network resilience.

2. Configuration Approach: Ambassador uses a declarative configuration approach, allowing users to define desired state via resource definitions that are stored in Kubernetes. This approach simplifies the management of configurations by making them version-controlled and allowing for easier automation through continuous integration and delivery pipelines. In comparison, Istio employs a more programmatic approach to configuration, using a combination of CRDs (Custom Resource Definitions) and controllers that dynamically adjust the state of the system based on the desired configuration.

3. Control Plane Architecture: Ambassador follows a simpler control plane architecture, using a single container running within the Kubernetes cluster. This consolidated control plane makes it easier to deploy and manage, requiring fewer resources. In contrast, Istio utilizes a more complex control plane architecture, consisting of multiple components such as Pilot, Mixer, and Citadel. This modular architecture enables granular control and customization of various aspects but requires more resources and engineering effort to deploy and maintain.

4. Service Discovery and Load Balancing: Ambassador relies on Kubernetes' built-in service discovery and load balancing mechanisms, leveraging Kubernetes Services for routing traffic to the appropriate backend endpoints. It takes advantage of the native Kubernetes ecosystem for service discovery and avoids introducing additional complexity. Conversely, Istio includes its own service mesh-specific control plane components, enabling advanced service discovery and load balancing features like weighted routing and canary deployments.

5. Observability and Metrics: Both Ambassador and Istio offer observability and metrics capabilities, but with some differences. Ambassador provides basic observability features like access logs and metrics for request counts and response latencies. While it integrates with popular observability tools like Prometheus for more advanced metrics, it may require additional configuration and setup. Istio, on the other hand, offers a more comprehensive observability stack, including distributed tracing with Jaeger, metric collection with Prometheus, and log aggregation with tools like ELK or Stackdriver, making it a more feature-rich solution for monitoring microservices.

6. Extensibility and Plugin Ecosystem: Ambassador provides a simpler and more lightweight plugin system, allowing users to extend its functionality through custom plugins. This flexibility enables users to add custom authentication, authorization, or other middleware functionality easily. Istio, on the other hand, offers a more extensive plugin ecosystem with multiple extension points. It allows for more fine-grained control and customization, suiting advanced use cases that require deep integration with the service mesh infrastructure.

In Summary: In summary, Ambassador focuses on providing a lightweight API gateway solution with robust traffic routing capabilities. It uses a declarative configuration approach and has a simpler control plane architecture. On the other hand, Istio offers a more comprehensive service mesh solution with additional features like service discovery, load balancing, observability, and a rich plugin ecosystem. Its control plane architecture is more complex, but it provides advanced capabilities for managing microservices in a distributed system.

Decisions about Ambassador and Istio
Prateek Mittal
Fullstack Engineer| Ruby | React JS | gRPC at Ex Bookmyshow | Furlenco | Shopmatic · | 4 upvotes · 295.1K views

Istio based on powerful Envoy whereas Kong based on Nginx. Istio is K8S native as well it's actively developed when k8s was successfully accepted with production-ready apps whereas Kong slowly migrated to start leveraging K8s. Istio has an inbuilt turn-keyIstio based on powerful Envoy whereas Kong based on Nginx. Istio is K8S native as well it's actively developed when k8s was successfully accepted with production-ready apps whereas Kong slowly migrated to start leveraging K8s. Istio has an inbuilt turn key solution with Rancher whereas Kong completely lacks here. Traffic distribution in Istio can be done via canary, a/b, shadowing, HTTP headers, ACL, whitelist whereas in Kong it's limited to canary, ACL, blue-green, proxy caching. Istio has amazing community support which is visible via Github stars or releases when comparing both.

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Pros of Ambassador
Pros of Istio
  • 3
  • 1
    Kubernetes friendly configuration
  • 14
    Zero code for logging and monitoring
  • 9
    Service Mesh
  • 8
    Great flexibility
  • 5
  • 5
    Powerful authorization mechanisms
  • 5
    Ingress controller
  • 4
    Easy integration with Kubernetes and Docker
  • 4
    Full Security

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Cons of Ambassador
Cons of Istio
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    • 16

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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is Ambassador?

    Map services to arbitrary URLs in a single, declarative YAML file. Configure routes with CORS support, circuit breakers, timeouts, and more. Replace your Kubernetes ingress controller. Route gRPC, WebSockets, or HTTP.

    What is Istio?

    Istio is an open platform for providing a uniform way to integrate microservices, manage traffic flow across microservices, enforce policies and aggregate telemetry data. Istio's control plane provides an abstraction layer over the underlying cluster management platform, such as Kubernetes, Mesos, etc.

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    What companies use Ambassador?
    What companies use Istio?
    See which teams inside your own company are using Ambassador or Istio.
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    What tools integrate with Ambassador?
    What tools integrate with Istio?

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    What are some alternatives to Ambassador and Istio?
    Consul is a tool for service discovery and configuration. Consul is distributed, highly available, and extremely scalable.
    Originally built at Lyft, Envoy is a high performance C++ distributed proxy designed for single services and applications, as well as a communication bus and “universal data plane” designed for large microservice “service mesh” architectures.
    Kong is a scalable, open source API Layer (also known as an API Gateway, or API Middleware). Kong controls layer 4 and 7 traffic and is extended through Plugins, which provide extra functionality and services beyond the core platform.
    JavaScript is most known as the scripting language for Web pages, but used in many non-browser environments as well such as node.js or Apache CouchDB. It is a prototype-based, multi-paradigm scripting language that is dynamic,and supports object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles.
    Git is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.
    See all alternatives