Istio Multicluster

Instructions for the installation of Istio multicluster.


  • Two or more Kubernetes clusters with 1.7.3 or newer.

  • The ability to deploy the Istio control plane on one Kubernetes cluster.

  • The usage of an RFC1918 network, VPN, or alternative more advanced network techniques to meet the following requirements:

    • Individual cluster Pod CIDR ranges and service CIDR ranges must be unique across the multicluster environment and may not overlap.

    • All pod CIDRs in every cluster must be routable to each other.

    • All Kubernetes control plane API servers must be routable to each other.

  • Helm 2.7.2 or newer. The use of Tiller is optional.

  • Currently only manual sidecar injection has been validated with multicluster.

Caveats and known problems

Warning All known caveats and known problems with multicluster for the 0.8 release are tracked here.


Multicluster functions by enabling Kubernetes control planes running a remote configuration to connect to one Istio control plane. Once one or more remote Kubernetes clusters are connected to the Istio control plane, Envoy can then communicate with the single Istio control plane and form a mesh network across multiple Kubernetes clusters.

Deploy all Kubernetes clusters to be used in the mesh

After deployment of remote clusters, each one will have a credentials file associated with the admin context typically located in $HOME/.kube/config.

Gather credential files from remote

${CLUSTER_NAME} here is defined as the name of the remote cluster used and must be unique across the mesh. Some Kubernetes installers do not set this value uniquely. In this case, manual modification of the ${CLUSTER_NAME} fields must be done.

For each remote cluster, execute the following steps:

  1. Determine a name for the remote cluster that is unique across all clusters in the mesh. Substitute the chosen name for the remaining steps in ${CLUSTER_NAME}.

  2. Copy the credentials file form the remote Kubernetes cluster to the local Istio control plane cluster directory $HOME/multicluster/${CLUSTER_NAME}. The ${CLUSTER_NAME} must be unique per remote.

  3. Modify the name of the remote cluster’s credential file field to match ${CLUSTER_NAME}.

  4. Modify the name of the remote cluster’s credential file field contexts.context.cluster to match ${CLUSTER_NAME}.

Instantiate the credentials for each remote cluster

Execute this work on the cluster intended to run the Istio control plane.

Istio can be installed in a different namespace other than istio-system.

Create a namespace for instantiating the secrets:

$ kubectl create ns istio-system

You can create the secrets either before or after deploying the Istio control plane. Creating secrets will register the secrets with Istio properly.

The local cluster running the Istio control plane does not need it’s secrets stored and labeled. The local node is always aware of it’s Kubernetes credentials, but the local node is not aware of the remote nodes’ credentials.

Create a secret and label it properly for each remote cluster:

$ pushd $HOME/multicluster
$ kubectl create secret generic ${CLUSTER_NAME} --from-file ${CLUSTER_NAME} -n istio-system
$ kubectl label secret ${CLUSTER_NAME} istio/multiCluster=true -n istio-system
$ popd

Deploy the local Istio control plane

Install the Istio control plane on one Kubernetes cluster.

Install the Istio remote on every remote cluster

The istio-remote component must be deployed to each remote Kubernetes cluster. There are two approaches to installing the remote. The remote can be installed and managed entirely by Helm and Tiller, or via Helm and kubectl.

Set environment variables for Pod IPs from Istio control plane needed by remote

Please wait for the Istio control plane to finish initializing before proceeding to steps in this section.

These operations must be run on the Istio control plane cluster to capture the Pilot, Policy, and Statsd Pod IP endpoints.

If Helm is used with Tiller on each remote, copy the environment variables to each node before using Helm to connect the remote cluster to the Istio control plane.

$ export PILOT_POD_IP=$(kubectl -n istio-system get pod -l istio=pilot -o jsonpath='{.items[0].status.podIP}')
$ export POLICY_POD_IP=$(kubectl -n istio-system get pod -l istio=mixer -o jsonpath='{.items[0].status.podIP}')
$ export STATSD_POD_IP=$(kubectl -n istio-system get pod -l istio=statsd-prom-bridge -o jsonpath='{.items[0].status.podIP}')

Use kubectl with Helm to connect the remote cluster to the local

  1. Use the helm template command on a remote to specify the Istio control plane service endpoints:

    $ helm template install/kubernetes/helm/istio-remote --namespace istio-system --name istio-remote --set global.pilotEndpoint=${PILOT_POD_IP} --set global.policyEndpoint=${POLICY_POD_IP} --set global.statsdEndpoint=${STATSD_POD_IP} > $HOME/istio-remote.yaml
  2. Create a namespace for remote Istio.

    $ kubectl create ns istio-system
  3. Instantiate the remote cluster’s connection to the Istio control plane:

    $ kubectl create -f $HOME/istio-remote.yaml

Alternatively use Helm and Tiller to connect the remote cluster to the local

  1. If a service account has not already been installed for Helm, please install one:

    $ kubectl create -f install/kubernetes/helm/helm-service-account.yaml
  2. Initialize Helm:

    $ helm init --service-account tiller
  3. Install the Helm chart:

    $ helm install install/kubernetes/helm/istio-remote --name istio-remote --set global.pilotEndpoint=${PILOT_POD_IP} --set global.policyEndpoint=${POLICY_POD_IP} --set global.statsdEndpoint=${STATSD_POD_IP} --namespace istio-system

Helm configuration parameters

The pilotEndpoint, policyEndpoint, statsdEndpoint need to be resolvable via Kubernetes. The simplest approach to enabling resolution for these variables is to specify the Pod IP of the various services. One problem with this is Pod IP’s change during the lifetime of the service.

The isito-remote Helm chart requires the three specific variables to be configured as defined in the following table:

Helm VariableAccepted ValuesDefaultPurpose of Value
global.pilotEndpointA valid IP addressistio-pilot.istio-systemSpecifies the Istio control plane’s pilot Pod IP address
global.policyEndpointA valid IP addressistio-policy.istio-systemSpecifies the Istio control plane’s policy Pod IP address
global.statsdEndpointA valid IP addressistio-statsd-prom-bridge.istio-systemSpecifies the Istio control plane’s statsd Pod IP address


The uninstall method must match the installation method (Helm and kubectl or Helm and Tiller based).

Use kubectl to uninstall istio-remote

$ kubectl delete -f $HOME/istio-remote.yaml

Alternatively use Helm and Tiller to uninstall istio-remote

$ helm delete --purge istio-remote