DIY, Build, or Buy?
Saving Time and Money with the Grey Matter Universal Mesh Networking Platform
March 15, 2021
The service mesh is a hot topic in enterprise tech. IT teams spanning every industry are investigating it as a way to enhance enterprise microservice and cloud-native operations and deliver value to their customers.
One of the first decisions IT leaders must make along the journey toward service mesh adoption is the age-old question of whether to “build or buy.” There are generally three different ways your company can approach this or any IT project:
- Build from scratch,
- DIY it using open source capabilities, or
- Buy one off the shelf.
At Grey Matter, we realize this decision isn’t always easy. Though not always obvious, each option comes with inherent costs, some obvious, and others not so much. In the following sections, we’ll examine some of the challenges facing enterprise IT decision-makers on their service mesh journey when it comes to the “build vs buy” question. Along the way, we’ll point out some of the issues that come with each option, explaining how we at Grey Matter help overcome them.
To Build or Not to Build
Let’s quickly address the idea of building from complete scratch. Unless you’re a tech company, building from scratch is generally inadvisable. Even if you are a tech company, unless you specialize in service mesh development, the challenges — from talent acquisition to development time and attention — are often far too difficult to overcome to make it worthwhile.
Next, let’s look at DIYing it with open-source tools. On the face of it, the DIY option seems like an attractive approach. Most current media attention centers around open source service mesh technologies, so naturally, they jump to mind as readily available alternatives to introduce service mesh capability into your enterprise stack. You already have your technology team in place, so what better way to augment an existing investment than free software?
Not so fast.
With closer inspection, open-source service mesh capabilities present three immediate challenges: innovation pace, intention, and talent.
Pace of Innovation
The open-source service mesh market is in a constant state of change, sometimes overnight. We often see this in the case of Istio. The more well-publicized a capability is, the faster it changes. Keeping up with this change rate is incredibly tricky and time-consuming, drawing your development team’s focus away from your business while placing your deployments at risk.
Using open-source service mesh capabilities in actual enterprise-scale production can be incredibly challenging. Open-source service mesh “enterprise readiness” requires a constant upgrade. You may also discover that a single open-source service mesh solution is insufficient to meet your enterprise needs. Many typical enterprise requirements, like visibility, security, and segmentation, are sacrificed at the expense of developer “ease of use.” Additional visualization and security tools become necessary, introducing capability sprawl, each presenting its architectures and resource demands.
Grey Matter doesn’t just keep up with innovation. We set the pace. Our universal service mesh platform is purpose-built with more built-in security than any other product on the market today. We’re also the only mesh platform providing level 3, 4, and 7 insight and operational reach today, meaning no other mesh can match the additive features for insight, operational control, and real-time business intelligence already built into the Grey Matter Universal Service Mesh Platform.
Environment Optimization vs. “Good Enough”
If you’re only interested in using a service mesh as a means of managing network traffic from service to service, open-source service mesh capabilities will probably suffice. But modest goals probably aren’t driving your decision to take on this kind of technology investment.
A single open-source service mesh capability will often require augmentation to drive any real enterprise value. This usually occurs through the ad hoc piecemealing together of open-source capabilities with proprietary add-ons. These too often require additional training and independent upkeep requirements.
Open-source service mesh solutions are often bound to certain environmental limitations. For instance, Istio, LinkerD, and Kuma require K8s or containers. In the case of VMWare’s Tanzu, you are limited to Amazon’s on-prem hybrid cloud solutions. Each introduces some level of vendor lock-in, potentially exacerbating the already high “cost of free.”
After accounting for everything needed to make the open-source service mesh work, architectural bloat is a near certainty. The next thing you know, your infrastructure has gone from this:
And yet you’re still no closer to achieving the cloud-native goals you set out to achieve!
Grey Matter cuts down on the bloat, working with your existing IT investments and introducing a suite of unmatched features that no other mesh can match. We bring mesh support to the areas your business needs it most, working with your tech stack, rather than against it.
Talent and Skill
You designed and built your IT team to meet the precise needs of your business. In other words, it probably wasn’t made to manage open source projects. Few organizations have an open-source governance process in place. Those that do have likely don’t have the cultural mindset needed to avoid in-house licensing and interoperability issues.
The core engineering skills necessary to implement and maintain a service mesh are1) hard to find, 2) increasingly coveted, and 3) expensive to keep. For argument’s sake, let’s say you already have a couple of experts in-house. As service mesh tech continues to grow in popularity, retention will be harder. Brain drain is real and comes in many forms. If it can happen to the biggest companies in the world, it can happen to you.
With Grey Matter, you get not only cutting edge software, but the direct support and experience of service mesh experts proven under fire in support of the largest enterprise customer in the world. Like the platform itself, Grey Matter engineers know how to work for you, putting your technical needs and business goals first. We ensure all our code is clean before you place it on your network.
Unlike open-source service mesh offerings, Grey Matter also manages its own end-to-end security compliance and risk mitigation process, building directly from upstream projects.
So what about buying off the shelf?
As Warren Buffett once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
The “price” of buying off the shelf is obvious. You pay upfront for a capability or service and, in return, receive everything packaged with it. This may include a few extra bells and whistles you may not immediately need, but it usually means it’s ready to go from day one, with the company’s backing and support.
Not all off-the-shelf service mesh offerings are the same. Since they’re proprietary, it’s not always easy to tell what’s out there. To get the best value for the price you’ll want to factor both the unique value proposition of the technology itself and the strength and dedication of the B2B partnership.
You’re probably exploring service mesh as part of a service or performance improvement and efficiency effort. You’ll want a capability that works with your existing IT investments, rather than treating them as an impediment to work around. You’ll want a capability that can interoperate across different environments and clouds, regardless of vendor. Also, be sure to look for additive value-added features such as business intelligence and visibility, data and ops governance, security in-depth, and built-in API gateway functionality.
Introducing Grey Matter
Grey Matter is much more than a service mesh. It’s is an enterprise-proven universal mesh networking platform offering zero-trust security, unmatched business intelligence, and automated performance optimization.
We built Grey Matter to treat your business as a first-class concern. It’s a full universal platform ready to deliver out-of-the-box connectivity, utility, and value to developers, engineers, architects, and business decision-makers alike.
With Grey Matter, your enterprise immediately gains:
- Unmatched value-added business intelligence and service mesh-powered insight,
- Unique multi-cloud and hybrid agnostic service mesh with full and exposed support for Envoy configuration and control supported by an additional collection of bespoke filters not available anywhere else,
- Ansible, Helm, and Terraform tooling for installation on multiple environments,
- A full audit-compliance engine and SPIFFE/SPIRE identity authorization out of the box,
- A clean RESTFUL API for mesh configuration and cataloging of mesh resources/assets, and tooling
- Unique layer 3, 4, and 7 visibility and control, with live your service taps for full audit capture
- Optimization for interoperations with tools such as Prometheus and Grafana, Jaeger and Zipkin, and Elasticsearch,
- Multi-platform support, including K8s, AWS EKS, Azure AKS, Openshift OCP, OKD, Konvoy, and bare metal,
- API Gateway functionality,
- Intelligently automated indications and warning, scaling, and performance optimization, and
- A team of proven, dedicated service mesh industry professionals ready to support and guide you through your entire service mesh journey.
Finally, while Grey Matter is a proprietary capability, we are also highly engaged in the open-source community surrounding service mesh technology. Doing so helps us maintain knowledge and awareness of the open-source environment. In our case, we pay specific attention to the popular Envoy Proxy, Prometheus, and SPIRE projects, using their unique capabilities to enhance our universal service mesh platform. We also provide an open-source team that works on some of the most challenging problems facing these open source projects, such as administrative endpoints security and incremental discovery services. These efforts help us further maximize your investment and minimize your risk.