TC Currie sat down with Autotrader UK’s Karl Stoney– a DevOps thought leader– to discuss what led them to Istio.

Karl explains that the main reason for the move had been their wish for transparent, mutual TLS, which they wanted to implement without modification to existing apps. He explains that they understood the best way to do this was using a sidecar model, and began their transformation with the use of Google’s managed Kubernetes offering ‘GKE’ when the conversations then pointed to Istio.

Karl notes that Autotrader UK, a car marketplace, isn’t naturally in the business of building mutual TLS and sidecars. The overall goal is to get the product to customers as quickly as they can, and refocus the time of the app developers.

Having been one of the earliest adopters of Istio, Karl discusses their strategies for a successful adoption and implementation, including:

During the install, Karl explains that they were using Istio to solve the single problem of mutual TLS, but they were blown away by all the other functionality that they were being provided with, for free. He notes that they were aware at that point of all the additional added value. The conversation shifted from solving one business problem to more, within their private cloud. [6:42]

They were aware that they didn’t have particularly great visibility between services. The observability that came with Istio reduced their time to resolution when debugging problems. Istio allowed more languages to be used and allowed engineers to solve issues in a more diverse way. [7:25]

Karl details the strategy that Autotrader UK took: to use 20 percent of Istio’s features to deliver 80 percent of the value to the organization. They focused on doing those things extremely well. He notes the tooling that they have built on top of the metrics provided by Istio, including Slack bot integration. [9:38]

He details what he thinks people starting now should know, advising users not to try to use everything. It’s complex and you can move faster once you have the basics. Let people get comfortable with it. [12:02]

He explains the importance of keeping a layer of abstraction between Istio and the app engineers, whilst giving them what they need to be successful. Autotrader succeeded by building a delivery platform on top of it all to provide engineers with a “holistic delivery platform” on which to build applications. [14:48]

He warns that it won’t solve the issue of poorly written apps, but will bring those issues to the surface for debugging. Don’t blame Istio!