Zero instrumentation application monitoring for Kubernetes hosted applications with Istio - DEPRECATED


This functionality is currently being deprecated and will no longer be supported after August 1st, 2020. Currently the codeless monitoring can only be enabled for Java through standalone agent. For other languages, use the SDKs to monitor your apps on AKS: ASP.Net Core, ASP.Net, Node.js, JavaScript, and Python.

Azure Monitor now leverages service mesh tech on your Kubernetes cluster to provide out of the box application monitoring for any Kubernetes hosted app. With default Application Insight features like Application Map to model your dependencies, Live Metrics Stream for real-time monitoring, powerful visualizations with the default dashboard, Metric Explorer, and Workbooks. This feature will help users spot performance bottlenecks and failure hotspots across all of their Kubernetes workloads within a selected Kubernetes namespace. By capitalizing on your existing service mesh investments with technologies like Istio, Azure Monitor enables auto-instrumented app monitoring without any modification to your application's code.


This is one of many ways to perform application monitoring on Kubernetes​​​​​​​. You can also instrument any app hosted in Kubernetes by using the Application Insights SDK without the need for a service mesh. To monitor Kubernetes without instrumenting the application with an SDK you can use the below method.



By using zero instrumentation application monitoring for Kubernetes hosted apps, you will be able to use:

Installation steps

To enable the solution, we'll be performing the following steps:

  • Deploy the application (if not already deployed).
  • Ensure the application is part of the service mesh.
  • Observe collected telemetry.

Configure your app to work with a service mesh

Istio supports two ways of instrumenting a pod. In most cases, it's easiest to mark the Kubernetes namespace containing your application with the istio-injection label:

kubectl label namespace <my-app-namespace> istio-injection=enabled


Since service mesh lifts data off the wire, we cannot intercept the encrypted traffic. For traffic that doesn't leave the cluster, use an unencrypted protocol (for example, HTTP). For external traffic that must be encrypted, consider setting up TLS termination at the ingress controller.

Applications running outside of the service mesh are not affected.

Deploy your application

  • Deploy your application to my-app-namespace namespace. If the application is already deployed, and you have followed the automatic sidecar injection method described above, you need to recreate pods to ensure Istio injects its sidecar; either initiate a rolling update or delete individual pods and wait for them to be recreated.
  • Ensure your application complies with Istio requirements.

Deploy zero instrumentation application monitoring for Kubernetes hosted apps

  1. Download and extract an Application Insights adapter release.

  2. Navigate to /src/kubernetes/ inside the release folder.

  3. Edit application-insights-istio-mixer-adapter-deployment.yaml

    • edit the value of ISTIO_MIXER_PLUGIN_AI_INSTRUMENTATIONKEY environment variable to contain the instrumentation key of the Application Insights resource in Azure portal to contain the telemetry.
    • If necessary, edit the value of ISTIO_MIXER_PLUGIN_WATCHLIST_NAMESPACES environment variable to contain a comma-separated list of namespaces for which you would like to enable monitoring. Leave it blank to monitor all namespaces.
  4. Apply every YAML file found under src/kubernetes/ by running the following (you must still be inside /src/kubernetes/):

    kubectl apply -f .

Verify deployment

  • Ensure Application Insights adapter has been deployed:

    kubectl get pods -n istio-system -l "app=application-insights-istio-mixer-adapter"


In some cases, fine-tuning tuning is required. To include or exclude telemetry for an individual pod from being collected, use appinsights/monitoring.enabled label on that pod. This will have priority over all namespace-based configuration. Set appinsights/monitoring.enabled to true to include the pod, and to false to exclude it.

View Application Insights telemetry

  • Generate a sample request against your application to confirm that monitoring is functioning properly.
  • Within 3-5 minutes, you should start seeing telemetry appear in the Azure portal. Be sure to check out the Application Map section of your Application Insights resource in the Portal.


Below is the troubleshooting flow to use when telemetry doesn't appear in the Azure portal as expected.

  1. Ensure the application is under load and is sending/receiving requests in plain HTTP. Since telemetry is lifted off the wire, encrypted traffic is not supported. If there are no incoming or outgoing requests, there will be no telemetry either.

  2. Ensure the correct instrumentation key is provided in the ISTIO_MIXER_PLUGIN_AI_INSTRUMENTATIONKEY environment variable in application-insights-istio-mixer-adapter-deployment.yaml. The instrumentation key is found on the Overview tab of the Application Insights resource in the Azure portal.

  3. Ensure the correct Kubernetes namespace is provided in the ISTIO_MIXER_PLUGIN_WATCHLIST_NAMESPACES environment variable in application-insights-istio-mixer-adapter-deployment.yaml. Leave it blank to monitor all namespaces.

  4. Ensure your application's pods have been sidecar-injected by Istio. Verify that Istio's sidecar exists on each pod.

    kubectl describe pod -n <my-app-namespace> <my-app-pod-name>

    Verify that there is a container named istio-proxy running on the pod.

  5. View the Application Insights adapter's traces.

    kubectl get pods -n istio-system -l "app=application-insights-istio-mixer-adapter"
    kubectl logs -n istio-system application-insights-istio-mixer-adapter-<fill in from previous command output>

    The count of received telemetry items is updated once a minute. If it doesn't grow minute over minute - no telemetry is being sent to the adapter by Istio. Look for any errors in the log.

  6. If it has been established that Application Insight for Kubernetes adapter is not being fed telemetry, check Istio's Mixer logs to figure out why it's not sending data to the adapter:

    kubectl get pods -n istio-system -l "istio=mixer,app=telemetry"
    kubectl logs -n istio-system istio-telemetry-<fill in from previous command output> -c mixer

    Look for any errors, especially pertaining to communications with applicationinsightsadapter adapter.


For the latest info for the progress on this project, visit the Application Insights adapter for Istio Mixer project's GitHub.


To uninstall the product, for every YAML file found under src/kubernetes/ run:

kubectl delete -f <filename.yaml>

Next steps

To learn more about how Azure Monitor and containers work together visit Azure Monitor for containers overview