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Consul vs Istio: What are the differences?

Key Differences between Consul and Istio

Consul and Istio are two popular tools used in the field of service mesh architecture. While both of them serve the same purpose of managing and securing microservices, there are several key differences between them.

  1. Service Discovery: Consul provides a built-in service registry that allows services to be discovered based on their name and tags. On the other hand, Istio relies on Kubernetes service discovery to locate and manage services within the mesh.

  2. Traffic Management: Consul focuses on service-to-service communication by offering features such as service segmentation, load balancing, and health checking. In contrast, Istio provides advanced traffic management capabilities like intelligent routing, fault injection, traffic splitting, and mirroring.

  3. Service Mesh Control Plane: While both Consul and Istio provide a control plane for managing the service mesh, Consul's control plane is based on a distributed consensus protocol known as Raft, which ensures data consistency across the cluster. In contrast, Istio's control plane uses a combination of components like Pilot, Mixer, and Citadel to enforce policies and perform traffic management.

  4. Multi-Cloud Support: Consul is designed to be cloud-agnostic and supports multiple cloud providers, making it easier to deploy and manage services across different environments. On the other hand, Istio, being tightly coupled with Kubernetes, primarily focuses on managing microservices within a Kubernetes cluster.

  5. Service Mesh Architecture: Consul is a standalone tool that can be used independently to implement a service mesh architecture. It provides its own proxy called Envoy for managing service-to-service communication. In contrast, Istio is an extension of Kubernetes and leverages its existing infrastructure for deploying and managing the service mesh.

  6. Security Features: Consul offers a variety of security features such as secure service communication with built-in TLS encryption and mutual authentication. It also provides features like service access control and certificate management. Istio, on the other hand, extends Kubernetes security features with features like identity and access management, end-to-end encryption, and secure service communication.

In summary, Consul and Istio differ in terms of service discovery, traffic management capabilities, service mesh control plane, multi-cloud support, service mesh architecture, and security features. They cater to different use cases and provide distinct features for managing and securing microservices within a service mesh architecture.

Decisions about Consul and Istio
Prateek Mittal
Fullstack Engineer| Ruby | React JS | gRPC at Ex Bookmyshow | Furlenco | Shopmatic · | 4 upvotes · 294.5K 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 Consul
Pros of Istio
  • 61
    Great service discovery infrastructure
  • 35
    Health checking
  • 29
    Distributed key-value store
  • 26
  • 23
  • 12
  • 10
    Token-based acls
  • 6
    Gossip clustering
  • 5
    Dns server
  • 4
    Not Java
  • 1
    Docker integration
  • 1
  • 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 Consul
Cons of Istio
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    • 16

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    What is Consul?

    Consul is a tool for service discovery and configuration. Consul is distributed, highly available, and extremely scalable.

    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 Consul?
    What companies use Istio?
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    Blog Posts

    What are some alternatives to Consul and Istio?
    etcd is a distributed key value store that provides a reliable way to store data across a cluster of machines. It’s open-source and available on GitHub. etcd gracefully handles master elections during network partitions and will tolerate machine failure, including the master.
    A centralized service for maintaining configuration information, naming, providing distributed synchronization, and providing group services. All of these kinds of services are used in some form or another by distributed applications.
    SkyDNS is a distributed service for announcement and discovery of services. It leverages Raft for high-availability and consensus, and utilizes DNS queries to discover available services. This is done by leveraging SRV records in DNS, with special meaning given to subdomains, priorities and weights (more info here:
    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.
    Kubernetes is an open source orchestration system for Docker containers. It handles scheduling onto nodes in a compute cluster and actively manages workloads to ensure that their state matches the users declared intentions.
    See all alternatives