Consul is a service mesh solution providing a full featured control plane with service discovery, configuration, and segmentation functionality. Each of these features can be used individually as needed, or they can be used together to build a full service mesh. Consul requires a data plane and supports both a proxy and native integration model. Consul ships with a simple built-in proxy so that everything works out of the box, but also supports 3rd party proxy integrations such as Envoy.

You may be interested in our service mesh comparison article.

Prerequisites Details

  • Kubernetes 1.6+
  • PV support on underlying infrastructure

The key features of Consul are:

  • Service Discovery: Clients of Consul can register a service, such as api or mysql, and other clients can use Consul to discover providers of a given service. Using either DNS or HTTP, applications can easily find the services they depend upon.
  • Health Checking: Consul clients can provide any number of health checks, either associated with a given service (“is the web server returning 200 OK”), or with the local node (“is memory utilization below 90%”). This information can be used by an operator to monitor cluster health, and it is used by the service discovery components to route traffic away from unhealthy hosts.
  • KV Store: Applications can make use of Consul’s hierarchical key/value store for any number of purposes, including dynamic configuration, feature flagging, coordination, leader election, and more. The simple HTTP API makes it easy to use.
  • Secure Service Communication: Consul can generate and distribute TLS certificates for services to establish mutual TLS connections. Intentions can be used to define which services are allowed to communicate. Service segmentation can be easily managed with intentions that can be changed in real time instead of using complex network topologies and static firewall rules.
  • Multi-Datacenter: Consul supports multiple data centers out of the box. This means users of Consul do not have to worry about building additional layers of abstraction to grow to multiple regions.
  • Consul is designed to be friendly to both the DevOps community and application developers, making it perfect for modern, elastic infrastructures.

 

Basic Architecture of Consul

Consul is a distributed, highly available system. This section will cover the basics, purposely omitting some unnecessary detail, so you can get a quick understanding of how Consul works. For more detail, please refer to the in-depth architecture overview.

Every node that provides services to Consul runs a Consul agent. Running an agent is not required for discovering other services or getting/setting key/value data. The agent is responsible for health checking the services on the node as well as the node itself.

The agents talk to one or more Consul servers. The Consul servers are where data is stored and replicated. The servers themselves elect a leader. While Consul can function with one server, 3 to 5 is recommended to avoid failure scenarios leading to data loss. A cluster of Consul servers is recommended for each datacenter.

Components of your infrastructure that need to discover other services or nodes can query any of the Consul servers or any of the Consul agents. The agents forward queries to the servers automatically.

Each datacenter runs a cluster of Consul servers. When a cross-datacenter service discovery or configuration request is made, the local Consul servers forward the request to the remote datacenter and return the result.

What is Checkpoint? / Does Consul call home?

Consul makes use of a HashiCorp service called Checkpoint which is used to check for updates and critical security bulletins. Only anonymous information, which cannot be used to identify the user or host, is sent to Checkpoint. An anonymous ID is sent which helps de-duplicate warning messages. This anonymous ID can be disabled. In fact, using the Checkpoint service is optional and can be disabled.

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