Istio Canary Deployments

This guide shows you how to use Istio and Flagger to automate canary deployments.

Flagger Canary Stages

Prerequisites

Flagger requires a Kubernetes cluster v1.11 or newer and Istio v1.0 or newer.

Install Istio with telemetry support and Prometheus:

istioctl manifest apply --set profile=default

Install Flagger using Kustomize (kubectl 1.14) in the istio-system namespace:

kubectl apply -k github.com/weaveworks/flagger//kustomize/istio

Create an ingress gateway to expose the demo app outside of the mesh:

apiVersion: networking.istio.io/v1alpha3
kind: Gateway
metadata:
  name: public-gateway
  namespace: istio-system
spec:
  selector:
    istio: ingressgateway
  servers:
    - port:
        number: 80
        name: http
        protocol: HTTP
      hosts:
        - "*"

Bootstrap

Flagger takes a Kubernetes deployment and optionally a horizontal pod autoscaler (HPA), then creates a series of objects (Kubernetes deployments, ClusterIP services, Istio destination rules and virtual services). These objects expose the application inside the mesh and drive the canary analysis and promotion.

Create a test namespace with Istio sidecar injection enabled:

kubectl create ns test
kubectl label namespace test istio-injection=enabled

Create a deployment and a horizontal pod autoscaler:

kubectl apply -k github.com/weaveworks/flagger//kustomize/podinfo

Deploy the load testing service to generate traffic during the canary analysis:

kubectl apply -k github.com/weaveworks/flagger//kustomize/tester

Create a canary custom resource (replace example.com with your own domain):

apiVersion: flagger.app/v1beta1
kind: Canary
metadata:
  name: podinfo
  namespace: test
spec:
  # deployment reference
  targetRef:
    apiVersion: apps/v1
    kind: Deployment
    name: podinfo
  # the maximum time in seconds for the canary deployment
  # to make progress before it is rollback (default 600s)
  progressDeadlineSeconds: 60
  # HPA reference (optional)
  autoscalerRef:
    apiVersion: autoscaling/v2beta1
    kind: HorizontalPodAutoscaler
    name: podinfo
  service:
    # service port number
    port: 9898
    # container port number or name (optional)
    targetPort: 9898
    # Istio gateways (optional)
    gateways:
    - public-gateway.istio-system.svc.cluster.local
    # Istio virtual service host names (optional)
    hosts:
    - app.example.com
    # Istio traffic policy (optional)
    trafficPolicy:
      tls:
        # use ISTIO_MUTUAL when mTLS is enabled
        mode: DISABLE
    # Istio retry policy (optional)
    retries:
      attempts: 3
      perTryTimeout: 1s
      retryOn: "gateway-error,connect-failure,refused-stream"
  analysis:
    # schedule interval (default 60s)
    interval: 1m
    # max number of failed metric checks before rollback
    threshold: 5
    # max traffic percentage routed to canary
    # percentage (0-100)
    maxWeight: 50
    # canary increment step
    # percentage (0-100)
    stepWeight: 10
    metrics:
    - name: request-success-rate
      # minimum req success rate (non 5xx responses)
      # percentage (0-100)
      thresholdRange:
        min: 99
      interval: 1m
    - name: request-duration
      # maximum req duration P99
      # milliseconds
      thresholdRange:
        max: 500
      interval: 30s
    # testing (optional)
    webhooks:
      - name: acceptance-test
        type: pre-rollout
        url: http://flagger-loadtester.test/
        timeout: 30s
        metadata:
          type: bash
          cmd: "curl -sd 'test' http://podinfo-canary:9898/token | grep token"
      - name: load-test
        url: http://flagger-loadtester.test/
        timeout: 5s
        metadata:
          cmd: "hey -z 1m -q 10 -c 2 http://podinfo-canary.test:9898/"

Save the above resource as podinfo-canary.yaml and then apply it:

kubectl apply -f ./podinfo-canary.yaml

When the canary analysis starts, Flagger will call the pre-rollout webhooks before routing traffic to the canary. The canary analysis will run for five minutes while validating the HTTP metrics and rollout hooks every minute.

Flagger Canary Process

After a couple of seconds Flagger will create the canary objects:

# applied 
deployment.apps/podinfo
horizontalpodautoscaler.autoscaling/podinfo
canary.flagger.app/podinfo

# generated 
deployment.apps/podinfo-primary
horizontalpodautoscaler.autoscaling/podinfo-primary
service/podinfo
service/podinfo-canary
service/podinfo-primary
destinationrule.networking.istio.io/podinfo-canary
destinationrule.networking.istio.io/podinfo-primary
virtualservice.networking.istio.io/podinfo

Automated canary promotion

Trigger a canary deployment by updating the container image:

kubectl -n test set image deployment/podinfo \
podinfod=stefanprodan/podinfo:3.1.1

Flagger detects that the deployment revision changed and starts a new rollout:

kubectl -n test describe canary/podinfo

Status:
  Canary Weight:         0
  Failed Checks:         0
  Phase:                 Succeeded
Events:
  Type     Reason  Age   From     Message
  ----     ------  ----  ----     -------
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  New revision detected podinfo.test
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Scaling up podinfo.test
  Warning  Synced  3m    flagger  Waiting for podinfo.test rollout to finish: 0 of 1 updated replicas are available
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 5
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 10
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 15
  Normal   Synced  2m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 20
  Normal   Synced  2m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 25
  Normal   Synced  1m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 30
  Normal   Synced  1m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 35
  Normal   Synced  55s   flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 40
  Normal   Synced  45s   flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 45
  Normal   Synced  35s   flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 50
  Normal   Synced  25s   flagger  Copying podinfo.test template spec to podinfo-primary.test
  Warning  Synced  15s   flagger  Waiting for podinfo-primary.test rollout to finish: 1 of 2 updated replicas are available
  Normal   Synced  5s    flagger  Promotion completed! Scaling down podinfo.test

Note that if you apply new changes to the deployment during the canary analysis, Flagger will restart the analysis.

A canary deployment is triggered by changes in any of the following objects:

  • Deployment PodSpec (container image, command, ports, env, resources, etc)
  • ConfigMaps mounted as volumes or mapped to environment variables
  • Secrets mounted as volumes or mapped to environment variables

You can monitor all canaries with:

watch kubectl get canaries --all-namespaces

NAMESPACE   NAME      STATUS        WEIGHT   LASTTRANSITIONTIME
test        podinfo   Progressing   15       2019-01-16T14:05:07Z
prod        frontend  Succeeded     0        2019-01-15T16:15:07Z
prod        backend   Failed        0        2019-01-14T17:05:07Z

Automated rollback

During the canary analysis you can generate HTTP 500 errors and high latency to test if Flagger pauses the rollout.

Trigger another canary deployment:

kubectl -n test set image deployment/podinfo \
podinfod=stefanprodan/podinfo:3.1.2

Exec into the load tester pod with:

kubectl -n test exec -it flagger-loadtester-xx-xx sh

Generate HTTP 500 errors:

watch curl http://podinfo-canary:9898/status/500

Generate latency:

watch curl http://podinfo-canary:9898/delay/1

When the number of failed checks reaches the canary analysis threshold, the traffic is routed back to the primary, the canary is scaled to zero and the rollout is marked as failed.

kubectl -n test describe canary/podinfo

Status:
  Canary Weight:         0
  Failed Checks:         10
  Phase:                 Failed
Events:
  Type     Reason  Age   From     Message
  ----     ------  ----  ----     -------
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Starting canary deployment for podinfo.test
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 5
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 10
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Advance podinfo.test canary weight 15
  Normal   Synced  3m    flagger  Halt podinfo.test advancement success rate 69.17% < 99%
  Normal   Synced  2m    flagger  Halt podinfo.test advancement success rate 61.39% < 99%
  Normal   Synced  2m    flagger  Halt podinfo.test advancement success rate 55.06% < 99%
  Normal   Synced  2m    flagger  Halt podinfo.test advancement success rate 47.00% < 99%
  Normal   Synced  2m    flagger  (combined from similar events): Halt podinfo.test advancement success rate 38.08% < 99%
  Warning  Synced  1m    flagger  Rolling back podinfo.test failed checks threshold reached 10
  Warning  Synced  1m    flagger  Canary failed! Scaling down podinfo.test

Traffic mirroring

Flagger Canary Traffic Shadowing

For applications that perform read operations, Flagger can be configured to drive canary releases with traffic mirroring. Istio traffic mirroring will copy each incoming request, sending one request to the primary and one to the canary service. The response from the primary is sent back to the user and the response from the canary is discarded. Metrics are collected on both requests so that the deployment will only proceed if the canary metrics are within the threshold values.

Note that mirroring should be used for requests that are idempotent or capable of being processed twice (once by the primary and once by the canary).

You can enable mirroring by replacing stepWeight/maxWeight with iterations and by setting analysis.mirror to true:

apiVersion: flagger.app/v1beta1
kind: Canary
metadata:
  name: podinfo
  namespace: test
spec:
  analysis:
    # schedule interval
    interval: 1m
    # max number of failed metric checks before rollback
    threshold: 5
    # total number of iterations
    iterations: 10
    # enable traffic shadowing 
    mirror: true
    metrics:
    - name: request-success-rate
      thresholdRange:
        min: 99
      interval: 1m
    - name: request-duration
      thresholdRange:
        max: 500
      interval: 1m
    webhooks:
      - name: acceptance-test
        type: pre-rollout
        url: http://flagger-loadtester.test/
        timeout: 30s
        metadata:
          type: bash
          cmd: "curl -sd 'test' http://podinfo-canary:9898/token | grep token"
      - name: load-test
        url: http://flagger-loadtester.test/
        timeout: 5s
        metadata:
          cmd: "hey -z 1m -q 10 -c 2 http://podinfo.test:9898/"

With the above configuration, Flagger will run a canary release with the following steps:

  • detect new revision (deployment spec, secrets or configmaps changes)
  • scale from zero the canary deployment
  • wait for the HPA to set the canary minimum replicas
  • check canary pods health
  • run the acceptance tests
  • abort the canary release if tests fail
  • start the load tests
  • mirror traffic from primary to canary
  • check request success rate and request duration every minute
  • abort the canary release if the metrics check failure threshold is reached
  • stop traffic mirroring after the number of iterations is reached
  • route live traffic to the canary pods
  • promote the canary (update the primary secrets, configmaps and deployment spec)
  • wait for the primary deployment rollout to finish
  • wait for the HPA to set the primary minimum replicas
  • check primary pods health
  • switch live traffic back to primary
  • scale to zero the canary
  • send notification with the canary analysis result

The above procedure can be extended with custom metrics checks, webhooks, manual promotion approval and Slack or MS Teams notifications.