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Envoy Tracing

In an Istio cluster, all applications are deployed with an Envoy proxy attached to them and Envoy supports integration with different tracing systems, this means, we can use Envoy’s features to automate tracing in our cluster.

This is what envoy can do for us:

  • Initiate a trace when a request is received
  • Propagate the trace-id over the cluster so spans can be connected
  • Send information to tracing services like Jaeger

Installing Istio

Assuming we already have a Kubernetes cluster, we can use Istio’s installer for learning purposes (It is not intended to be used for production).

We can download the installer using:

curl -L | sh -

The command creates a new folder (for example: istio-1.16.1) that contains istioctl, and the tools we need to experiment with it.

Add the bin folder to the system path:

export PATH=<path to istio folder>/bin:$PATH

Install Istio in our Kubernetes cluster:

istioctl install --set profile=demo -y

Configure Istio to automatically add side cars to our deployments:

kubectl label namespace default istio-injection=enabled

Running the demo app

In order to test that tracing is working, we will need some services running in our cluster. For this, we are going to install the Istio demo app:

kubectl apply -f istio-1.16.1/samples/bookinfo/platform/kube/bookinfo.yaml

Setup ingress gateway:

kubectl apply -f istio-1.16.1/samples/bookinfo/networking/bookinfo-gateway.yaml

Running Jaeger

Istio comes with a template that can be used to install all Jaeger components in our cluster:

kubectl apply -f istio-1.16.1/samples/addons/jaeger.yaml

Once jaeger is running we can open the UI with this command:

istioctl dashboard jaeger

Generating traces

Now it’s time to generate some traces. To do this we need to get the ip address of our ingress gateway:

kubectl get svc istio-ingressgateway -n istio-system

And make a request:

curl http://<External IP>/productpage

The request will now appear in Jaeger UI:

Jaeger tracing from Istio

Sampling rate

Istio’s demo app is configured to send all requests to Jaeger. We can inspect the current sampling rate with this command:

kubectl -n istio-system describe deploy/istiod | grep PILOT_TRACE_SAMPLING

Enabling tracing for all requests in a production cluster is usually not a good idea. To edit the sampling rate, we can use:

kubectl -n istio-system edit deploy istio-pilot

If PILOT_TRACE_SAMPLING is set to 1, it means only 1% of requests will be traced.


In this article we learned how we can use Istio’s sidecars to easily enable tracing in our cluster.

If you want to try running the code yourself, take a look at Instrumenting an Istio cluster with Jaeger tracing.

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