Solo distribution of Istio

Learn about deploying your gateways with the Solo distribution of Istio, a hardened Istio enterprise image to maintain n-4 support.

About Solo's distribution of Istio

The Solo distribution of Istio is a hardened Istio enterprise image, which maintains n-4 support for CVEs and other security fixes. The image support timeline is longer than the community Istio support timeline, which provides n-1 support with an additional 6 weeks of extended time to upgrade the n-2 version to n-1. Based on a cadence of 1 release every 3 months, Gloo's n-4 support provides an extra 9 months to run the hardened Istio version of your choice, compared to an open source strategy that also lacks enterprise support. Note that all backported functionality is available in the upstream community Istio, as there are no forked capabilities from community Istio.

The following image provides an overview of how Solo engineers harden the base Istio image release.

Solo image hardening overview

To use a version of Istio that is no longer supported by the community with Gloo Platform, you must install the Solo distribution of Istio. If the Istio version that you want to use is currently supported by the community, you can use either the community Istio or the Solo distribution of Istio. To review supported community versions, see the Istio documentation.


Solo provides two main distributions for Istio as follows.

Both of Solo's standard and solo distributions of Istio come in the following optional varieties.

An image might be tagged to meet multiple use cases, such as 1.20.2-solo-fips-distroless.

To use Solo distributions of Istio, you must use a Solo repo key that you can get by logging in to the Support Center and reviewing the Istio images built by support article.

About Solo FIPS distribution of Istio

For use cases that require federal information processing capabilities, install Solo distributions of Istio that are tagged with fips, which comply with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS).

For example, you might provide a cloud service that runs in a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) regulated environment. In such cases, Gloo Gateway offers FIPS builds of community Istio without the need for any additional tooling or CLIs. You can use the upstream-native Istio tooling, such istioctl or Istio Helm charts, to install Solo's FIPS builds of Istio.

Standard and Solo FIPS builds

Solo provides two main distributions for Istio, which both offer FIPS-compliant builds:

Depending on the distribution, the image tag for installation might look like 1.20.2-solo-fips.

For FIPS-compliant builds of Istio 1.17.2 and 1.16.4, you must use the -patch1 versions of the latest Istio builds published by Solo, such as 1.17.2-patch1-solo-fips for the Solo distribution of Istio version 1.17. These patch versions fix a FIPS-related issue introduced in the upstream Envoy code. In 1.17.3 and later, FIPS compliance is available in the -fips tags of regular Solo distributions of Istio, such as 1.17.3-solo-fips.

Optional: Distroless FIPS builds

In addition, you can also choose a FIPS build that is distroless. A FIPS image that is tagged with distroless is a slimmed down distribution with the minimum set of binary dependencies to run the image, for enhanced performance and security. Keep in mind that there are some challenges around distroless builds; for example, if your app relies on package management, shell, or other operating system tools such as pip, apt, ls, grep, or bash, you must find another way to install these dependencies.

Depending on the distribution, the image tag for a distroless installation might look like 1.20.2-solo-fips-distroless.

More information

See Get the Solo distribution of Istio that you want to use.

Installing a FIPS build

When you install Gloo Gateway, you can specify the FIPS-tagged image that you want to use for the ingress gateway proxies as an installation Helm chart value. For more information, see the getting started or setup guides.

Verifying FIPS compliance

For most auditors, both the Istio control plane and the cluster workloads must be FIPS compliant. You can verify that your images are a FIPS-compliant version by checking Envoy and istiod on each cluster.

  1. To verify the Istio data plane in each workload cluster, check the Envoy proxy version.

    kubectl exec -it -n istio-system deploy/istio-ingressgateway -- /usr/local/bin/envoy --version

    Example output of FIPS compliance:

    /usr/local/bin/envoy  version: fa9fd362c488508a661d2ffa66e66976bb9104c3/1.15.1/Clean/RELEASE/BoringSSL-FIPS
  2. To verify the Istio control plane components in each workload cluster, copy the pilot-discovery binary out of the istiod container, and run goversion against the binary.

    1. Install goversion to your local machine.

      go get
    2. Copy the binary out to the local disk.

      kubectl cp istio-system/<pod-name>:/usr/local/bin/pilot-discovery /tmp/pilot-discovery && chmod +x /tmp/pilot-discovery
    3. Run goversion against the binary.

      goversion -crypto /tmp/pilot-discovery

      Example output of FIPS compliance: Note that the type is indicated as boring and the version number includes a b.

      /tmp/pilot-discovery go1.14.12b4 (boring crypto)

      Example output of FIPS non-compliance: Note that the type is indicated as standard, which means that the image in not a FIPS build of Istio.

      /tmp/pilot-discovery go1.14.14 (standard crypto)