Cloud Pak for Integration

A practical example of the Istio service mesh and IBM App Connect Enterprise in IBM Cloud Pak for Integration

By Claudio Tag posted Fri October 30, 2020 05:11 AM


This is the second part of a three-parts blog series, describing how an Istio service mesh architecture can be leveraged in Cloud Pak for Integration and OpenShift, when using App Connect Enterprise. 

In the first part of this series, we have discussed the benefits of a Service Mesh like Istio for Integration, as well as usage patterns for Istio, IBM App Connect Enterprise and IBM API Connect. The core reasons for adopting a service mesh in the application integration space are:

  • Security: simplify locking down of integrations in a zero-trust model, minimizing threats when they are deployed on progressively shared infrastructure.
  • Deployment: simplify and reduce risk when releasing updates to integrations by using canary testing to perform safer rollout and instant rollback.
  • Fault tolerance: separate and standardize resilience mechanisms such as retries, circuit breaker patterns and rate-limiting, thus reducing the knowledge of the integration needed to make adjustments at runtime.
  • Observability: integrations by definition are always part of a chain of interactions. The mesh enables standardized logging, metrics, and tracing, allowing to perform consistent diagnosis of the whole invocation chain.
  • Testing: simulate issues in back end systems through configuration, reducing/removing the need to create and insert mock stubs to test against.

In this post we will provide a practical example of the above concepts.

IBM App Connect Enterprise is a component within IBM Cloud Pak for Integration. The Cloud Pak for Integration runs on Red Hat’s OpenShift Container Platform. Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh – based on the Istio service mesh – is included in the OpenShift Container Platform. In this post, we will provide a guide on how to integrate App Connect Enterprise (ACE) and OpenShift Service Mesh (OSSM) in Cloud Pak for Integration (CP4I) v2020.3.

A GitHub repository with step-by-step instructions and useful resources to follow along this post is available here.

Using ACE and OSSM in CP4I

This post and the accompanying GitHub repository will provide instructions on one example use case for Istio - how to use Istio to enable A/B testing when rolling out a new integration. Other use cases would typically require the same steps to put Istio in place:

  • Deploy the Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh to an OpenShift cluster running the IBM Cloud Pak for Integration
  • Create an istio-enabledproject to run ACE servers
  • Work with the out-of-the-box Network Policies created when deploying ACE
  • Route traffic to ACE using the correct Istio resources
  • Deploy new version of the ACE servers and perform A/B testing through Istio

OSSM and ACE in CP4I
OSSM and ACE in CP4I

Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh

The Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh is based on an opinionated distribution of Istio called Maistra, which combines Kiali, Jaeger, ElasticSearch and Prometheus into a platform managed via operators. This brings a number of benefits, especially to those new to service mesh implementation. Examples include

  • Pre-defined installations of Kiali for observability and Jaeger for tracing
  • All components are managed by operators to simplify installation and ongoing administration
  • Multi-tenancy for simplified management of multiple service-mesh ecosystems within a single cluster

An installation of Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh differs from upstream Istio community installations in multiple ways:

  • OpenShift Service Mesh installs a multi-tenant control plane by default
  • OpenShift Service Mesh extends Role Based Access Control (RBAC) features
  • OpenShift Service Mesh replaces BoringSSL with its general-purpose equivalent: OpenSSL
  • Kiali and Jaeger, visualisation tools for Istio, are enabled by default in OpenShift Service Mesh

Software versions used

In such a rapidly maturing technical space, it is important to be clear which versions of the components were used in the implementation of this example:

  • OpenShift 4.4
  • CP4I 2020.3.1
  • OpenShift Service Mesh 1.1.9
    • Jaeger 1.17.6
    • Kiali 1.12.15
    • Elasticsearch 4.4

Note that deviating from the aforementioned versions of Jaeger, Kiali, and Elasticsearch might lead to errors, as those configurations haven’t been tested together.

It is also worth noting that latest versions of OpenShift Service Mesh are based on Istio v1.4.8. This is important as the Istio architecture in v1.5 onwards ( shifts drastically. Amusingly, when you visit, you will find the branding changes to Istioldie as you navigate older documentation.

Istio v1.4.8 neatly breaks down the Service Mesh into a Control Plane and a Data Plane, as the diagram below from Istiooldie shows.

Istio architecture
Istio architecture

Install OpenShift Service Mesh for App Connect Enterprise

The base of this implementation is a CP4I 2020.3 installation (on OpenShift 4.4), which has the ACE Dashboard, ACE Designer, and Operations Dashboard deployed in a project called ace.

For more information on how to install and configure CP4I 2020.3, please refer to the knowledge center documentation.

From that starting point, the next step is to install and deploy the OpenShift Service Mesh. More detailed instructions are provided in the GitHub repository accompanying this post, which summarises some of the key steps that help to understand what is happening.

The OpenShift Service Mesh is a supported feature in OpenShift 4, so it should come as no surprise that it is deployed via Kubernetes operators. As noted, it has dependencies on three other supported features, Elasticsearch, Kiali and Jaeger. 

Istio operators
Istio operators


  • The OSSM control plane then requires creation of a unique project, such as istio-system, where instances of the operators are installed.
  • All the operators mentioned above must be installed in the specified order and in all OpenShift projects that will use the mesh.

Once all operators are installed, a control plane can be deployed in the istio-system project from the Installed Operator view.

Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh
Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh


With the Control Plane in place, the projects which will be part of the data plane can be added to the Service Mesh member roll - which lists the namespaces to be istio-enabled – from the same view. 

Once the OpenShift Service Mesh is created, a couple of extra configuration steps need to be applied. In particular, for ease of use, enabling Automatic route creation is recommended. Automatic route creation creates OpenShift routes for each new virtual service exposed via the Istio Ingress, without the need of creating additional resources.

Configure App Connect Enterprise to leverage the service mesh

Istio-enable ACE project

Once the OpenShift Service Mesh is deployed and configured, the next step is to create a project (e.g. ace-istio) and istio-enable it by enrolling it as a service mesh member.

When a project is enrolled in the Service Mesh, a network policy is automatically created to ensure that no direct access to Kubernetes services in that project is allowed, unless traffic-allowing Network Policies are present. Both ACE Designer and ACE Dashboard deploy such policies, hence remain accessible even after the project is enrolled in the service mesh.

On the other hand, a new container deployment would not be directly accessible.

To enroll the ace-istio project into the service mesh, it needs to be added as a member of the Service Mesh Member Roll, which can be found in Installed Operators > Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh > Istio Service Mesh Member Roll, in the istio-system project.

Service Mesh Member Roll
Service Mesh Member Roll

With the Red Hat Open Shift Service Mesh, enrolling the ace-istio project does not in itself result in the Istio sidecars (i.e. Envoy Proxys) being injected in pods in that namespace.

Enable sidecar injection when deploying ACE servers

For the sidecars to be injected, existing and new Kubernetes deployments need to be explicitly annotated: the annotation 'true' needs to be present in the deployment spec's template metadata.

Only if that annotation is present, the sidecars will be injected automatically into the workload pods.

With Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.3.1, ACE server deployments are performed by operators. The operator allows for custom annotations – like the one needed to enable sidecar injection - to be easily added prior to the deployment, via either Command Line or User Interface.

Let’s use one of the ACE flows in this test case as an example:

This test case uses an ACE flow implementing a simple REST API designed in ACE Designer, which will be deployed from the ACE Dashboard UI, with open tracing enabled.

In order to add a custom annotation to deployment template via the operator, it is sufficient to enable Advanced Settings from the ACE server deployment UI, and to add a custom annotation as name/value pair:

  • operand_create_name:
  • operand_create_value: true 
Enable sidecar injection
Enable sidecar injection

In this test case, the operator will create an ACE server deployment, for each pod in the deployment, 6 containers will be present:

  • The main ACE server container
  • Two sidecar containers to enable designer flows
  • Two sidecar containers to enable tracing
  • One sidecar container with the Envoy Proxy
Deployed sidecars
Deployed sidecars

Deploy second ACE server for A/B testing

A typical use case for the service mesh is to enable A/B testing: routing traffic to a new version of a service without taking the original version offline.

The test case implements an A/B testing scenario by creating a second ACE server – with the same custom annotation to enable sidecar injection – with a new version of the same API used earlier deployed to it.

To deploy the v2 ACE server, follow the instructions for the first deployment, and simply use this v2 bar file.

Create Istio resources

At this point the annotated ACE deployments will have an Envoy Proxy sidecars intercepting traffic running next to the ACE Server containers in the same pod. However, the ACE servers are not yet accessible from outside the cluster, and need to be formally exposed via the Istio ingress using further Istio resources:

  • An Istio Gateway
  • A Virtual Service
  • Destination Rules

An Istio gateway is a YAML file referencing Istio ingress, and specifying how the ACE server will be exposed on it. It also defines one or more hosts, which will be used by the Automatic route creation feature to generate an OpenShift route.

A Virtual Service is a YAML file referencing the Istio gateway, and defining the rules to route traffic to the Kubernetes services exposing the two versions of the ACE deployments: v1 and v2.
Traffic splitting weights can also be defined in the Virtual Service.

Destination Rules are YAML files which define - in a finer grained detail - policies that apply to traffic intended for a service after routing has occurred via the Virtual Service. Traffic policies in Destination Rules can override Virtual Service policies at subset level.

Sample YAML files for these 3 resource types are available in the GitHub repo for this test case.

Worth noting that the Destination Rules provided here are only a simplistic example, with no additional policies to the ones defined in the Virtual Service.

Test ACE and Istio working together

Once all Istio resources have been created and applied to the ace-istio project, both ACE servers will be accessible on the automatically generated route listed in the Istio Gateway.

By calling the service endpoint exposed on the OpenShift route, it is possible to observe how traffic is distributed across the two versions of the ACE server according to the policies defined in the Istio Virtual Service.

ACE via Istio
ACE via Istio

As this test case has tracing enabled, the Operations Dashboard can also be used to validate the ACE functionality.

ACE, Istio, and Operations Dashboard
ACE, Istio, and Operations Dashboard

Additional configurations

The GitHub repository provides four variations of ACE configurations, with and without ACE Designer and Operations Dashboard, all of which integrate successfully with the service mesh.



The Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh is an opinionated implementation of Istio which runs on OpenShift Container Platform and Cloud Pak for Integration.

In the context of Cloud Pak for Integration, the major difference between Istio and the Red Hat OpenShift Service Mesh is that deployments need to be individually enabled for sidecar injection, even if they are running in an istio-enabled project. 

This blog post provides a guide to successfully configure App Connect Enterprise to work with OpenShift Service Mesh in Cloud Pak for Integration 2020.3, running on OpenShift 4.4.

A Git Hub repository with examples and more detailed guidance specific to the test case described in this blog post is available here.

For a video recording of a practical implementation of App Connect Enterprise and the OpenShift Service Mesh, please refer to this post.



This post has been contributed to and reviewed by Kim Clark, Timothy Quigly, and Monica Raffaelli

1 comment




Can you please update this article for latest version of openshift, cp4i operator and istio service mesh operators?