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Linkerd Achieves CNCF Graduation

July 30, 2021

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation detailed the graduation of Linkerd. Linkerd was the first project to join the CNCF Sandbox, known as inception at the time, and is now the first service mesh project to achieve graduated status.

Linkerd is a service mesh that provides critical observability, security, and reliability features to cloud native applications without requiring code changes. The project was created in 2016 by Buoyant and joined CNCF in early 2017 as the foundation’s fifth project. It was the first service mesh project and the first CNCF project to adopt the Rust programming language to improve security and performance. Today, organizations like Microsoft, Nordstrom, Expedia, JPMC, Clover Health, Entain, H-E-B, and more rely on Linkerd to power mission-critical production systems.

According to the most recent Cloud Native Survey, 27% of organizations use a service mesh in production, a 50% increase over the previous year, and another 42% are evaluating or planning to use one. Linkerd has faced unprecedented competition in this rapidly-growing space, but its user base has continued to grow dramatically, predominately by word of mouth. Linkerd’s focus on simplicity, performance, and end user experience has garnered it hundreds of contributors worldwide, tens of thousands of GitHub stars, and a vocal and active community of adopters and enthusiasts.

“Service mesh has been arguably one of the fastest-growing areas of cloud native technology, and Linkerd has been leading that charge since it helped kickstart the service mesh movement,” said Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. “As organizations make the move to cloud native, traffic management, observability, and security become a critical part of the infrastructure. It’s been exciting to watch Linkerd grow and adapt to ever-changing industry needs and pave the way for a growing ecosystem of service mesh and proxy-related projects.”

“We’re thrilled for Linkerd to join the ranks of other mature Cloud Native projects like Kubernetes, Prometheus, and Envoy,” said Oliver Gould, creator of Linkerd and CTO of Buoyant. “Our mission is to bring simplicity and user empathy to the service mesh space, and we’ve had to work tirelessly to dispel the prevailing narrative that service meshes are complex and unwieldy. While we’ve made controversial technology decisions—adopting Rust instead of C++, building a service-mesh-specific ‘micro-proxy’ rather than using a generic proxy, focusing on Kubernetes rather than building abstraction layers—these decisions have been validated time and again by our global community of operators who have bet on this vision.”

“Graduation is a reflection of the incredible momentum behind Linkerd right now,” said William Morgan, CEO of Buoyant and frequent speaker on Linkerd. “In the past year alone, we’ve seen a 300% increase in downloads, adoption at high-profile organizations like Elkjřp, Entain, H-E-B, HP, Microsoft, and NAV, and a surge of new adopters who tell us that they end up on Linkerd because it’s faster, lighter, and simpler than any other option. Linkerd is the future of the service mesh because it’s built with a singular focus on, and empathy for, the user—and in the end, that empathy must and will prevail.”

“We didn’t choose a service mesh based on hype,” said Justin Turner, Director of Engineering at H-E-B, which recently deployed Linkerd to production to help its customers get their groceries in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “My teams weren’t worried about which mesh had the most marketing behind it. We needed a service mesh that would just work and let us focus on the job of building the best possible platform and tools for our business. Linkerd’s ease of adoption, its reduction of operational complexity, and the capabilities it unlocked for us made the decision easy. Linkerd has been a critical factor in us reaching our goals quickly.”

Linkerd is working on an extensive roadmap, including server and client-side policies, “mesh expansion” to allow the Linkerd data plane to operate outside of Kubernetes, and much more. In keeping with the project’s focus on simplicity, performance, and end-user experience, these features will be developed to minimize overhead and operational complexity for the user.

To officially graduate from incubating status, Linkerd demonstrated the project maturity expected of a stable and well-established project, including rapidly-growing adoption and a commitment to a sustainable and inclusive community. Linkerd features a clear path to maintainership, a steering committee comprising production end users, and a public commitment to open governance. The project performs yearly third-party security audits and recently added proxy fuzz testing to its rigorous production tests.

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