Istio will follow Knative to Cloud Native Computing Foundation, ending uncertainty over stewardship

Istio, a service mesh commonly used with Kubernetes to manage traffic between microservices, has been submitted to the CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) where it will join Kubernetes itself as well as Envoy (a distributed proxy) and Knative (automated deployment and management of containers). The CNCF accepted Knative last month as an incubating project.

The open source status of Kubernetes, and that fact that it is stewarded by an independent foundation, has been key to its wide adoption. Kubernetes, Knative, Istio and Envoy are also critical components of Google’s cloud platform, while Kubernetes was conceived by Google.

The importance of these technologies to Google, and its control over Knative and Istio, has been a source of tension between the cloud giant and other vendors, with companies like IBM (co-developer of Knative) arguing that they belong at CNCF while Google held back, perhaps concerned about the possibility of ceding commercial advantage.

In 2019 Google said it had “decided not to donate Knative to any foundation for the foreseeable future.”

Two years ago, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said that Istio would be donated to a foundation, but what emerged, a few months later, was a new Google-flavored organization called Open Usage Commons (OUC), which took control of the Istio trademark, but took no other role.

It now seems that Google has overcome its concerns and accepted that CNCF is the best home for all these projects. “Istio is the last major component of organizations’ Kubernetes ecosystem to sit outside of the CNCF, and its APIs are well-aligned to Kubernetes. On the heels of our recent donation of Knative to the CNCF, acceptance of Istio will complete our cloud-native stack under the auspices of the foundation, and bring Istio closer to the Kubernetes project,” said VP of engineering Chen Goldberg.

A chorus of approving posts appeared at the same time from various vendors. “We enthusiastically applaud today’s submission of Istio to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation,” said IBM, accompanied by similar posts from VMWare, Red Hat, Tetrate, Solo.io and Aspen Mesh.

Presuming the CNCF accepts the project, which seems certain, there will be some tidying up to do regarding the OUC. “The trademarks will move to the Linux Foundation but continue to be managed under OUC’s trademark guidelines,” said the Istio steering group. This will leave the OUC holding just the Angular and Gerrit trademarks.