Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Open-Source Kuma Tackles Service Mesh Limits 

A new open-source project targeting micro-services and cloud-native applications running on everything from bare metal to Kubernetes is billed as a universal control mechanism for emerging service meshes.

API hub specialist Kong Inc. said Tuesday (Sept. 10) it has released Kuma to the open-source community. The control plane for service meshes is based on the open-source Envoy edge and service proxy. Kong touts Kuma as addressing the limitations of early service mesh technologies by enabling improved management of network services.

Among its attributes is the ability to run on legacy infrastructure and bare metal as well as virtual machines and the de facto standard Kubernetes and the application containers that platform orchestrates.

Indeed, Kubernetes has spawned a broad ecosystem of open-source projects, including the Istio service mesh and Envoy, described as an industry-preferred “sidecar” proxy. San Francisco-based Kong, previously known as Mashape, released its application development tool as an open-source platform in 2015. The platform has since evolved into an API “gateway.”

Rebranded as Kong, the nine-year-old company has since developed an enterprise version of its Kong platform aimed at Envoy-based service meshes. Kuma “will make it faster and easier for companies to create and manage cloud native applications,” said Envoy creator Matt Klein.

“We now have more micro-services talking to each other, and connectivity between them is the most unreliable piece—prone to failures, insecure and hard to observe,” added Marco Palladino, CTO and co-founder of Kong.

“It was important for us to make Kuma very easy to get started with on both Kubernetes and VM environments, so developers can start using service mesh immediately even if their organization hasn’t fully moved to Kubernetes yet,” creating a path to container application and Kubernetes adoption.

The goal, proponents said, is spreading emerging service mesh technologies to companies looking to upgrade legacy IT without sacrificing the ability to customize new operations. For example, new applications could be built on Kubernetes while existing applications would still run on legacy plumbing.

Among Kuma’s claimed advantages are software-defined security features that streamline permissions to maintain access controls, improved network routing and traffic controls along with network monitoring tools to analyze metrics used for debugging.

Kuma is billed as the critical control mechanism for service meshes providing “the master truth for all the service configurations [while] infinitely scal[ing] to manage tens of thousands of services across an organization.”

Kong is also betting that growing adoption of distributed architectures will boost requirements for network visibility, reliability and security—areas where first-generation mesh networks have come up short. Kuma would help automate many of those functions without code changes.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).