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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Oliver Gould Calls Linkerd the New Service Mesh

interview-linkerd 

Linkerd, based on a platform originally developed at Twitter to defeat the notorious Fail Whale, is celebrating its one-year anniversary as an open source project.  I recently spoke with Oliver Gould, CTO and co-founder at Buoyant, who was on the original Twitter core engineering team tasked with "fixing" the site and banishing the whale.

VMblog:  For those who don't know, can you explain to readers what Linkerd is?

Oliver Gould:  Linkerd is an open source project I started with my Buoyant company co-founder a year ago. We had both worked at Twitter at a time when the Fail Whale was a huge problem to the site. We left Twitter in 2015 after those problems had been fixed, with the idea that the software we had helped create there could help the rest of the world. The internal tool at Twitter was called Finagle. Linkerd extends the ideas behind Finagle and makes it useful to everyone, not just specific to Twitter's infrastructure.

VMblog:  And what are you announcing today?

Gould:  We launched the Linkerd project with the mission to make the same kind of reliability we had at Twitter available to everyone through something we call a "service mesh."  We're off to a fast start.  So far Linkerd has served over 100 billion production requests in companies around the globe.  Today we're celebrating the project's one-year anniversary!

VMblog:  What specifically does Linkerd do?

Gould:  Linkerd solves the problem of the insane amount of complexity involved in running microservices at scale, by automating the hard and the complex parts of the communications layer. It makes it easy for operators to run microservices with automated load balancing, service discovery, and run-time resilience.  It protects against a whole class of reliability issues inherent in distributed systems design.  Think of Linkerd as the network layer for modern cloud applications.  Or as we call it, the new service mesh.

VMblog:  And what do you mean by a service mesh?

Gould:  A service mesh is a software layer that decouples the communication between services, or microservices, into a separate layer that can be managed and controlled independently.  It adds reliability and stability without application developers having to be write code.  At Twitter we showed that this approach was a crucial part of ensuring uptime at massive web-scale operations when they're built as microservices.

In traditional applications, this logic is coded directly into the application itself.  We think it's better for scaling, uptime and security if you abstract that logic to the underlying communications layer.  The monitoring/visibility, tracing, load balancing and service discovery should not be hard-coded into each application.  That's too hard, too brittle, and too complex to scale unless your company has an army of infrastructure engineers to support this kind of architecture.  Few do. 

Compare the idea to the TCP stack.  Just as applications shouldn't be writing their own TCP stack, they also shouldn't be managing the critical communications logic that underlies the reliability of their system.

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Published Tuesday, March 07, 2017 8:02 AM by David Marshall
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