Four Cilium trends to watch in 2023

The world of Kubernetes networking has been picking up steam and Cilium has been leading the charge. Let’s dive into four key trends we are tracking in 2023 and beyond:

  1. Cilium Service Mesh 
  2. Enhancing the cloud and telco networking experience
  3. Multicluster multi-workload networking
  4. Platform engineering through Gloo Platform 

What does Cilium do today?

First, let’s break down what Cilium does. Cilium is an extremely powerful container networking layer for Kubernetes and other styles of workloads. Some of Cilium’s key capabilities include:

  • Providing service load balancing
  • Scaling Kubernetes CNI and endpoints
  • Multi-cluster connectivity
  • Advanced and ID aware observability
  • Network telemetry
  • Policy review/audit
  • Encryption
  • Advanced network policy
  • L3, L4, L7 network routing

Four Cilium trends to watch for in 2023

4 Cilium trends in 2023

Let’s break down each of these Cilium trends one by one. 

1) Enhancing the cloud and telco networking experience

eBPF can be used to create a “BPF Dplane Provider” for a routing engine like FRR (Free Range Router), which allows for a variety of network routing use cases such as segment routing for IPv6. This is a strong enhancement and use case that allows for telco adoption. 

There currently is an implementation with Cilium and SRv6.

With Cilium enhancing the network stack, this allows for internet service providers to provide those same enhancements to their telco NFV stacks and allow for resilient eBPF-backed and Cilium-enabled microservices to enhance core provider networks. As mentioned previously, segment routing with IPv6 allows for things like:

  1. Reduction of operational complexity
  2. Network programmability
  3. Data center interconnection
  4. Scalable networks
  5. A path to move toward modern SDN ISP technologies

With enhancements to Cilium’s core network functionality, the recurring theme is IPv6. IPv6 will become a prominent and normalized requirement in service providers, cloud, and consumer-owned networks.

eBPF implemented in Cilium paves the way for hyperscaling. Cloud providers can take advantage of enhanced and optimized packet processing, along with having access to observability data they can then use to tune and optimize various parts of their cloud. They even pass this on to consumers through managed Kubernetes offerings.

2) Cilium service mesh 

Service mesh is the next journey after Kubernetes, and with the Cilium CNI joining the ranks of the mesh world, it’s expected that Cilium will act as a network control plane for a few layers of the OSI stack. Cilium Service Mesh will continue to be developed. 

Currently, Cilium SM supports Kubernetes Ingress through the strict kube-proxy replacement and supports several Envoy filters to apply Layer 7 policy. Cilium service mesh will continue to grow and expand on capabilities in 2023 and beyond. And Cilium will continue to make integration progress with the gateway API spec from Kubernetes.

3) Multi-cluster multi-workload networking

Cilium has provided functionality around multi-cluster networking using the ClusterMesh feature, which extends the data path (data plane) of clusters and their nodes to simulate a private network. This can be advantageous for workloads negatively impacted by changing IP addresses. With ClusterMesh, overlay networks are created between geographically separate clusters. 

This is a corner case and stems from the original idea of LAN extension using data-center interconnects. While the adoption of ClusterMesh could increase, there will be more momentum toward using DNS and Layer-7 aware protocols to alleviate the dependency on underlying Layer 3/4 networks. 

Because of Cilium’s unique architecture, it’s well suited to take on VMs, containers, Nomad workloads, and even Wasm-based workloads, which means Cilium will undergo rigorous testing and validation to further enhance its multi-workload capabilities. This will extend to policy and encryption of communication between workloads of various types.

4) Platform engineering through tech like Gloo Platform 

Solo’s Gloo Platform provides a differentiated application networking approach by joining Cilium, Istio, and Envoy together to create a highly flexible full-stack application network. This takes on more of a platform engineering approach as all applications need to be considered to fit the platform and provide a more developer-oriented experience. 

The Gloo Platform is flexible to accommodate different styles of workloads and application networking needs along with the needs of developers. 2023 is going to see more consumption of Istio, Cilium, and Envoy, and Solo’s Gloo Platform is the platform to solve it all. Gloo Platform offers security, traffic management, telemetry, observability, and shared platform management. 

Key trends in Cilium

These 4 key trends to look out for in 2023 concern how Cilium will evolve over the next year and beyond. Look out for more work on segment routing with IPv6, and enhancements to Cilium’s multi-workload initiatives. 

Gloo Platform provides Cilium’s CNI capabilities alongside Istio and Envoy’s Layer 7 capabilities to provide a true application network platform. Read more about Gloo Platform here

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