When it comes to deploying modern technology at massive scale, IBM has the process locked down. That’s especially true when it comes to scaling and managing complexity within Kubernetes environments, an area where few companies can match IBM’s experience facing—and solving—these challenges.

During the FutureStack18 San Francisco keynote, Jason McGee, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Platform-as-a-Service at IBM Cloud, explained how IBM is combining New Relic with the open-source Istio project to address the control, visibility, and security issues it has encountered while deploying Kubernetes at massive scale.

Watch Jason’s FutureStack18 appearance here, and read on to learn more:

IBM’s challenge: Scaling massively without sacrificing control

“We have thousands of customer clusters that we run as part of our cloud service,” Jason said during his on-stage conversation with New Relic Senior Vice President of Product Management Aaron Johnson. “And then IBM itself is also a big user of Kubernetes, with properties like our Watson AI platform and the weather.com website running on Kubernetes on IBM Cloud.”

In fact, Jason said, IBM Cloud today runs “at least”10,000 Kubernetes clusters for itself and its customers. That includes some 100,000 containers under management, and IBM deploys about 100 updates per day just for its Kubernetes service.

New Relic has built a close relationship with IBM as a customer and partner. Jason noted that a number of teams within IBM use New Relic as part of their operational process for getting visibility into Kubernetes environments, and IBM Cloud was one of the first customers to adopt New Relic’s Kubernetes monitoring Integration. Today, Jason said, IBM Cloud is working with New Relic to solve increasingly urgent questions about controlling and securing services in distributed architectures at massive scale.

“20 years ago, we built app servers. In the cloud era, we’re building a new, container-based platform,” Jason explained. “We’ve all agreed on containers and Docker, and we’ve all agreed on Kubernetes as the orchestration layer. But one of the things that was missing was how do you actually control the connection between services in a distributed architecture?”

Istio enters the picture

To address this problem, Jason said, IBM recently joined with Google and Lyft to launch Istio, which he sees focusing on four key questions:

  1. How do we connect services together and control the flow of traffic?
  2. How do we observe what’s going on?
  3. How do we secure those interactions?
  4. How do we provide a control point that lets us manage them in production?

Istio’s core capabilities—which include load balancing, traffic routing and control, and securing service-to-service communications—represent an obvious and important point of access for an organization’s broader monitoring and performance functions. “With a platform like Istio, since it’s controlling the actual flow of traffic between services—it’s actually in the middle of all the routing—it has tremendous visibility into what’s going on,” Jason said.

“[Istio] knows who’s talking to whom, it can stop those connections from a security perspective, but it can also collect a lot of information: collect trace data and collect metrics about what’s going on between services,” Jason continued. “And it does all of that in a way that’s language-neutral.”

Jason McGee, VP and CTO, Cloud Platform at IBM onstage at FutureStack18 with Aaron Johnson, New Relic SVP of Product Management

Jason McGee, VP and CTO, Cloud Platform at IBM, describes his team’s work with New Relic and Istio with Aaron Johnson, New Relic SVP of Product Management, at FutureStack18 in San Francisco.

IBM leverages Istio to get more into, and out of, New Relic

In fact, Jason added, Istio is architected to be a conduit for performance data. Rather than building and installing agents to collect the data, developers can write an adapter for Istio that captures performance data and routes it to a team’s preferred monitoring and management tools. “Since a lot of our teams are using New Relic,” Jason said, “one of the things we’ve been working on is writing an adapter for Istio to take all of that microservice data and feed it into the rest of the application data that we’re getting out of New Relic.” The goal, he said, is to “get a single combined view on how this microservice architecture is working,”

New Relic and Istio: A compelling combination

As enterprises continue to migrate core applications to microservices, we’re likely to see Kubernetes gain an even higher profile. At the same time, we’re also likely to see a lot more complexity, especially in terms of intra-service communication and management.

This is a big reason why IBM Cloud has focused on Istio as a key initiative. While Istio promises to help organizations better understand and manage their microservices environments, it will also enable New Relic to become even more valuable as the “one place to see it all”—a single, powerful, and versatile tool for gaining deep visibility into modern cloud environments.

Matthew McKenzie is a Senior Content Editor at New Relic. He's a veteran writer, editor, content strategist and IT industry analyst with more than two decades of experience following the evolution of cloud computing and related technologies. View posts by .

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