What Is Service Mesh Architecture? (Components and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 12, 2022

Software applications have a number of different features called services that cooperate with one another for the app to work properly. A service mesh is an infrastructure structure layer that developers often use to manage communication between these different services. If you're looking for a job in software development, it might be helpful to learn more about service mesh architecture and how it works.

In this article, we explain what service mesh architecture is, list its different components, explain how it works and explore some of the benefits it provides.

What is service mesh architecture?

Service mesh architecture is a data structure that allows different components or services in an app to interact and communicate. Developers include service meshes as a separate infrastructure layer within applications. Most applications comprise a network of separate services that require information from one another to function. Service meshes can optimize these interactions and ensure that none of the services becomes overloaded with requests. They also provide important capabilities such as encryption, authentication, traceability and authorization.

These are the three primary functions of service meshes:

  • Monitoring: Service meshes give developers important insights into the performance of their applications.

  • Connection: Service mesh architecture allows services to discover each other and communicate in a reliable and secure way.

  • Security: Developers can use service mesh to implement security measures such as encryption and authentication in internal communications.

Related: Service Architecture: Definition and Examples

How does service mesh architecture work?

A service mesh architecture pairs each service in an application with a sidecar proxy. This is similar to web proxies, which receive requests from personal devices, check their security, relay them to web servers and return results. In service mesh, each proxy acts as an intermediary between its service and all others. It also provides authentication, encryption and other monitoring and security services. Human users can manage application policies through an interface connected to the control plane.

Related: Cloud Architecture: Definition, Benefits, Types and Tips

Components of service mesh architecture

Every service mesh includes two primary components: the data plane and the control plane. Here are descriptions of each:

Data plane

In a service mesh architecture, services communicate with one another through a series of proxies. The name data plane refers to this system of proxies. Each proxy can provide encryption, load balancing, authentication, service discovery, logging, tracing and rate-limiting. This simplifies and optimizes calls between services because it allows services to ignore the complications of communicating with other services and only requires interaction with their proxies.

Using proxies to process every call can have the disadvantage of introducing increased latency into an application. Because of this, service meshes use sidecar proxy deployment. This means that proxies and their services run on the same machine or in the same pod and communicate over a local host, diminishing latency.

Related: How To Create a Network Diagram in 5 Steps (With Types)

Control plane

The control plane is the other primary element of a service mesh architecture that allows users to manage the data plane. Each proxy within the data layer connects to the control layer and presents on a user interface. A user can then configure the multiple proxies in the data layer via the interface.

Related: 7 Network Topology Types (Plus Definitions and Key Features)

Benefits of service mesh architecture

A service mesh architecture can have a wide variety of benefits for developers, including:

  • Scalability: Service meshes can streamline a wide variety of tasks that might consume developers' time. They can reduce the effort needed to address resiliency and observability issues, allowing companies to pursue growth and faster deployment.

  • Increased productivity and efficiency: When companies implement service meshes, they can reduce routine work for developers, allowing them to focus their efforts on more important tasks and boost productivity. Service meshes can also reduce financial spending on routine tasks, increasing efficiency.

  • Security: Service meshes allow development teams to increase security within their applications. They use transport layer security to provide encryption, authentication and security enforcement to interactions between services.

  • Observability: Employing a service mesh architecture can give developers greater insight into the health of their applications. Service meshes can collect information on traffic, latency and access and present them to human users via the control plane.

  • Simplified communication: Without a service mesh, each service within an app requires special instructions to communicate with others. The service mesh architecture allows services to communicate with one another via their sidecar proxies, simplifying the communication process and reducing work for developers.

  • Reliability: Service mesh architecture allows developers to simplify communications between services. This can reduce opportunities for error and increase the reliability of applications.

  • Inter-language communication: There is now a wide range of programming languages that coders use, and some applications may include multiple languages throughout their services. One of the primary advantages of service mesh architectures is that they facilitate discovery and communication services that employ different languages.

When to implement a service mesh

Before implementing a service mesh architecture, it's important to determine whether the model is right for you. These are some things to consider before implementing service mesh architecture:

Application design

One of the most important things to consider is the design of your application. In order to use a service mesh architecture, it's necessary to have a series of services that communicate over a network. If your architecture doesn't have multiple connected services or requires services to connect with components outside the system, a service mesh is unsuitable. Service mesh is especially helpful if you have services that employ different languages. It can streamline and simplify communications between these components without extensive intervention from developers.

Investment and scaling

Service mesh requires some expertise to set up and may initially involve extra costs. Businesses may also find it challenging to train their teams and find qualified experts to implement it. Although it may require an investment, service mesh can provide significant ROI to applications that are scaling rapidly and becoming more complex. In these cases, a service mesh architecture can significantly decrease the amount of repeatable work for developers, help companies save money and provide simple, streamlined solutions to security issues.

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