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Benefits of Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium Support and replica Customer Testing Environments

Dean Lewis
Dean Lewis
Published: Updated: Isovalent
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At Isovalent, we offer enterprise solutions for Cilium and Tetragon as well as  24/7 follow the sun support for Cilium and Tetragon. Our feature hardening and customer testing environment programs are enhanced through the Solutions Architects (SA) and Customer Reliability Engineering teams here at Isovalent. These teams are made up of world-class, cloud native first talent at the intersection of Kubernetes and networking. In this blog, we’ll dive into the benefits of these support programs that customers such as Adobe, PostFinance, and other leading global multinational enterprises use to improve their time-to-market goals.

At a glance, Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium offers:

Enterprise-hardened Cilium Versions and Testing
24×7 Enterprise Grade Support SLA
Proactive Support Environment Reviews
Exclusive Cilium + Hubble Technical Training
Dedicated Solutions Architect
Replica Customer Testing Environments

Below are some of the Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium use cases that customers have implemented;

  • Avoid vendor lock-in – Cilium abstracts away the vendor-specific bits of the Kubernetes clusters and simplifies cross-cloud networking and maintenance.
  • Modernize the IT platform towards a cloud-like experience.
  • Reduce the support burden of offering platform features and capabilities to the internal platform consumers.
  • Improve compliance with Zero Trust networking for SOC 2 Type II and ISO 27001.
  • Scale Kubernetes-based platforms using a performant CNI, across clouds and platforms.

Choosing the right container networking solution for your cloud native platform is critical. The container networking solution will provide security, high-performance networking, and observability at the inception point between your existing data center and the cloud native platform. 

Before deep diving into this blog post, for a quick overview of Isovalent’s support model, you can hear from Toufic Arabi, Vice President of Customer Success. 

From Open Source to Enterprise Ready with Isovalent

The benefit of using open source offerings is that they allow you to easily validate their feature set within your environment with relative ease and low investment. Although the adoption of the technology may initially benefit from little to no expenditure, further down the line of adoption, costs will come from upskilling employees as well as counterbalancing the lack of vendor support.

Using open source offerings allows you to easily validate their feature set within your environment, with relative ease and low investment. Organizations like the CNCF bring end users together to share their experiences so that you can learn from other teams’ adoption of an open source project – and foundation-owned projects such as Cilium come with the extra reassurance that the open source license can’t be changed in the future. In contrast, when a single vendor owns a project, but finds themselves challenged by other companies also using that project, they have the option to change away from a permissive open source license to protect their business – and there have been a few cases of this in recent years, not without controversy. With foundation-owned projects like Cilium, customers can have confidence that the underlying project will always be permissively licensed, so there will always be options for different ways to consume that technology. 

cilium joins CNCF as an incubating project

Although adopting an open source project may initially benefit from little to no expenditure, further down the adoption line, costs will come from upskilling employees. In production and at scale, you will need expertise on hand to design deployments into more complex scenarios or to troubleshoot issues, because open source projects come with no support and no one to call on if something goes wrong. This is where enterprise versions of open source software come into play, offering hardened and enterprise-ready products based on the open source technology. Isovalent fits this mold, offering the Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium distribution and enterprise support. 

By working with Isovalent, customers and consumers of Cilium immediately benefit from the expertise of the team that knows Cilium best: its creators. This expertise feeds into understanding the nuances, edge cases, and architecture of the platform, and assists with a quicker mean time to resolution when it comes to incident management, through our support offering. The hardened enterprise software offering is synchronized with the open source offering, bringing additional enterprise-ready features such as role-based access control, high availability component architecture, and more. 

Let’s focus on various aspects that Isovalent provides to ensure our customers successfully operate their platforms securely at scale.

What are Customer Testing Environments (CuTEs)?

Are you running your mission-critical applications on your cloud native platform? Does your organization require the platform to be well-architected and highly resilient? To support your vital operations, Isovalent offers Customer Testing Environments (CuTEs) as a live replica of your platform.

A Customer Testing Environment, or CuTE for short, is a running environment maintained by Isovalent Customer Success, which mirrors an environment configuration similar to a customer’s production environment. This environment configuration is based on information gathered during onboarding with Isovalent, regular check-in meetings, and twice a year via proactive campaigns. This allows Isovalent Customer Success to maintain the most up-to-date data about our customers’ running configuration.

Isovalent Enteprise for Cilium - Customer Testing Environment - Architecture Example
With CuTE, Isovalent engineers can easily replicate complex customer multi-cloud deployments.

By running a replica of a customer’s environment, Isovalent Engineering can test new commits to the Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium code, running many in-house continuous integration tests. 

The benefit of this level of testing is two-fold: at an engineering level, code fixes, patches, and additions can be tested on actual customer environments within a safe setting, fully understanding the impact on the latest software release versions. If there are specific hotfixes produced for a customer, again they are fully vetted and tested against their configuration, under the close scrutiny of the engineering teams developing that specific code.

From a customer perspective, you know that as Isovalent is working on new releases of Isovalent Enterprise distributions, the engineering team has the ability to test those updates on a replica of your environment. This brings peace of mind and can aid in the reduction of the customer’s own engineering time, needing to run the software releases through their own testing frameworks.

Feature Hardening

Hardening, in the context of software development, is the movement of a software feature through the stages of maturity. 

Features typically will hit “stable” in Open Source Software (OSS) before the enterprise offering. Reaching “stable” in OSS means that the feature works fine, it passes the testing framework when committed to the repository, and the engineers behind the code are overall happy with it. Feedback from community users, whether in the form of issues raised or commentary in the project Slack channel, suggests that the feature is in good shape. As part of Isovalent’s contributions to the open source community built around Cilium, we are advocating for all of the users, through actions such as searching and finding bugs and resolving those issues by contributing the fixes upstream to the Cilium project.

Maturity LevelDefinition
StableA feature that is appropriate for production use in various supported configurations due to significant hardening from testing and use.
LimitedA feature that is appropriate for production use only in specific scenarios and in close consultation with the Isovalent team.
BetaA feature that is NOT appropriate for production use, but where user testing and feedback are requested.

Customers should contact Isovalent support before considering Beta features.

Support is limited to non-production environments.

UnsupportedA feature that may be part of the open-source Cilium codebase, but is not supported for any level of use with Isovalent Cilium Enterprise.

These features should not be enabled or used in any Isovalent-supported environment.

Customers interested in using an unsupported feature should provide this feedback to their Isovalent support team for discussion on the required work to harden this feature.

Feature Maturity Level Definitions

With Isovalent Enterprise software offerings, we have additional feedback loops available, built from processes such as support tickets, customer satisfaction reports, and CuTE environment testing that give us a much clearer picture of exactly how new features are being consumed. Additionally, as part of our close customer partnerships, we gather customer input from roadmap sessions based on their future consumption plans, as well as helping them to succeed in their platform goals through our customer success programs.

Using these established processes and the information collected through them, Isovalent is best placed to assess the maturity of features and allocate developer time/effort to stabilizing and testing those features, allowing our engineering teams to plan for and execute further development aligned to our customer’s platform goals. We use this information to continuously improve not only the product but also our own processes, which are tailored to the needs of our customers. Ultimately, at Isovalent we are focused on the success of our customers using the Cilium platform, and our processes and programs have greatly improved customers’ experiences.

Cilium and Isovalent helped our team to build a scalable Kubernetes platform which meets our demanding requirements to run mission-critical banking software in production!

Thomas Gosteli, PostFinance

Focusing on this range of input, allows Isovalent to graduate features through the Enterprise maturity stages, not only based on the number of customers consuming the features and the time in which they have been doing so, but also aligned to customers’ roadmaps, essentially improving the areas our customers directly care about. Through these additional feedback loops, the process ensures features are fully tested, support tickets are reviewed and rectified working with engineering, and a high level of confidence is attributed to maturing the feature through the stages.

Using cutting-edge features? The limited program is here to help

Customers are sometimes happy to be on the cutting edge of feature delivery in Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium releases, or even have compelling events that necessitate consuming features that are not yet in Stable status. 

This is where the Isovalent Limited Program comes into play. As part of the support offering with Isovalent Enterprise, customers can run features that are not yet marked as stable, in their production environments, with the assistance of Isovalent engineering. This program implements a Solution Architect, part of Isovalent’s Customer Success team, to collect additional details and configurations of the environment where this feature is being used. The Solution Architect will ensure the platform is operating in a healthy state and the feature is used within the boundaries of its design at its current maturity level. 

Kubernetes release validation and support for Cilium

The open source Cilium project validates Kubernetes versions at the time of release, such as Cilium 1.15 adding support for Kubernetes 1.28 and 1.29 (PR 27361, PR 29473). When these newer Kubernetes releases are made available, they are not tested against existing stable Cilium version releases. The only guarantee that it’s provided by open source Cilium comes from the backward compatibility of the new Kubernetes versions.

With Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium support, as part of the engineering CI pipelines, we continue to test and validate each supported release with the newer and existing Kubernetes versions.

What Isovalent Enterprise Support means for you as a Customer

At Isovalent, we go further than offering a hardened Cilium offering with additional Enterprise features across Networking, Observability, and Security. Our support services are not only designed to help with break/fix issues, but partner with our customers to understand their design requirements, implementation context, and success criteria. As a trusted advisor, our customer success teams not only help power projects such as the Customer Testing Environments, but also help customers realize the value of Cilium backports, and implement new Cilium features with minimized friction.

Why not check out some of our case studies;

At Isovalent, we pride ourselves on partnering with some of the largest companies in the world. Mission-critical applications power global industries on top of Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium. The Isovalent Customer Success team is here to lower the operational anxiety for our customers. This means, close partnerships on the architecture and design of Kubernetes and Cilium, close alignment on goals and milestones, tailored success plans, advocacy into our product and engineering organizations, and above all, putting value realization front and center with a clear path to production. For our Isovalent Enterprise customers, our teams go the extra mile, offering proactive support environment reviews, and additional exclusive Cilium and Hubble technical training. 

Through our ability to understand our customer’s requirements and platform deliverables, we collaborate to help define and support our customer’s roadmaps, aligning to product feature development and capability delivery between Cilium and their cloud native platform, while understanding the customer’s constraints and the product’s best practices. With Isovalent Enterprise for Cilium and our associated support programs, customers implementing their cloud native platform can benefit from lower operational complexity. Such examples include our newly released Enterprise Dashboards, designed to help operational teams monitor and manage their Cilium deployments at scale.

Wrapping up, let’s focus on the team members who make this possible. Our customers regularly provide feedback about the great relationships they’ve built with us and our team members. This is based on the trust we deliver to our customers by placing them in the hands of our experts. Our customer success and support teams come from various backgrounds and experiences, including being published authors covering container networking, acting as Kubernetes release lead for the open source project, and delivering cloud native platforms as either customers or consultative partners. Collectively, at Isovalent, collaboration with our customers to reduce their time to production goals is a key objective. 

Looking to work with the experts in the leading graduated container network platform? Reach out today!

Dean Lewis
AuthorDean LewisSenior Technical Marketing Engineer


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