Guest post originally published on Linkerd’s blog by William Morgan

A rocket ship taking off

The 2021 Cloud Native survey results were published last week, and the results are striking: production usage of Linkerd in 2021 surpassed that of Istio in both North America and Europe. And while Istio remains the most popular service mesh in Asia, Linkerd’s rate of growth in Asia was 181%, 74 more percentage points than Istio. In fact, Linkerd’s growth reported by the survey surpassed that of Istio in each of the three regions, with an overall rate of 118% from 2020 to 2021.

Bar chart shows Linkerd vs Istio % production growth 2020 to 2021 in Europe, North America and Asia
Bar chart shows Linkerd vs Istio % of production mesh usage in Europe, North America and Asia

Of course, the CNCF survey is not without its flaws, and it is worth pointing out that in our opinion, some of these questions were not well-worded; that participation is opt-in; and the Linkerd’s advantage in North America was probably not statistically significant (77 vs 73 respondents). However, at the macro level the trends are clear, especially in light of the 2020 survey showing Linkerd adoption behind Istio in every region.

These results come as no surprise. Linkerd’s focus on simplicity, security, and performance have garnered it a stellar reputation in a space that’s notorious for complexity. These results echo the findings in Buoyant’s informal survey of Kubecon adopters, which suggested that simplicity was the deciding factor in service mesh adoption.

These results also underscore just how remarkable a year 2021 was for Linkerd. As I said in last year’s roadmap post:

2021 has been a banner year for Linkerd. The project achieved graduated status in the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the highest possible level of project maturity. It introduced major features such as authorization policy and extensions. The Linkerd team keynoted at Kubecon EU on the many ways Linkerd is used to combat COVID-19; it published multiple benchmarks showing an order-of-magnitude performance and resource usage lead over Istio; and it continued to lead the charge on bringing Rust in the cloud native space. Linkerd’s adoption has skyrocketed this year, with organizations as wide-ranging as MicrosoftS&P Global, and Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, along with many others, all publicly adopting Linkerd.

Finally, for Linkerd, this survey is also a validation of everything we’ve learned about open source along the way: Focus on what’s doing what’s right for the user; build with empathy; and don’t get distracted by the hype. The results, as they say, will speak for themselves.

Linkerd is for everyone

Linkerd is a graduated project of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Linkerd is committed to open governance. If you have feature requests, questions, or comments, we’d love to have you join our rapidly-growing community! Linkerd is hosted on GitHub, and we have a thriving community on SlackTwitter, and the mailing lists. Come and join the fun!

(Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash.)