Modes of operation

To support the different use-cases from Day 0 to Day 2 operations, Service Mesh Manager has different modes of operation. The same binary can act as:

You can also use the operator in GitOps scenarios.

Imperative mode

The main purpose of the imperative mode is to install Service Mesh Manager, get you started, and help you experiment with the various components. You can access only a small subset of the available configuration options and features (mostly just the default settings and some of the most important configuration flags) to avoid getting overloaded with command line flags.

Most notably, you can install and delete Service Mesh Manager from the command line. Internally, the install and delete commands change the component-specific parts of the main configuration, then trigger the reconciliation of the affected components.

Other commands do not necessarily change the main configuration, nor trigger reconciliation of any component. Such commands create dynamic resources which are out of scope for the reconcilers, but are convenient for getting started without having to leave the CLI.

Once you are finished experimenting with Service Mesh Manager, the recommended way forward is to start using the reconcile command, and apply all configuration through the custom resource directly. This is analogous to how you use kubectl create and then switch to using kubectl apply when you already have a full configuration and just want to apply changes incrementally. If you are an experienced Kubernetes user, you probably skip the imperative mode and start using the reconcile command from the beginning.

The drawback of the imperative mode is that there is no overall state of components, so it can’t tell what has already been installed.

Also, it it not suitable for automation. CD systems typically require Helm charts, Kustomize, or pure YAML resources to operate with. Although the imperative commands of Service Mesh Manager have a --dump-resources flag that generates YAML files instead of applying them, you would still have to run the install command locally for each component, and commit the generated resources into version control. The CD workflow would then have to specify sequential steps for each component separately, making the whole flow difficult to extend over time.

Using the imperative mode

To use Service Mesh Manager in imperative mode, install the smm-cli command-line tool, then use its commands to install Service Mesh Manager and perform other actions. For a list of available commands, see the CLI reference.

Note: You can also configure many aspects of your service mesh using the Service Mesh Manager web interface. To access the web interface run the smm dashboard command (if your KUBECONFIG file is set properly), the smm dashboard command automatically performs the login).

Install/Uninstall components

The following components can be installed/uninstalled individually. The -a flag installs/uninstalls them all. For details on installing and uninstalling the Service Mesh Manager operator, see Operator mode.

Reconciler mode

Reconciler mode is a declarative CLI mode. The reconcile command is a one-shot version of an operator’s reconcile flow. It executes the component reconcilers in order, and can decide whether they require another reconciliation round, or are already finished. Reconciling can apply new configuration, and remove disabled components from the system.

Note: In this mode, the operator is not installed on the cluster. The controller code runs from the CLI on the client side.

A component can be anything that receives the whole configuration, understands its own part from it to configure itself, and is able to delete its managed resources when disabled or removed. Service Mesh Manager uses two different implementations:

  • The native reconciler triggers a “resource builder” to create Kubernetes resources along with their desired state (present or absent) based on the configuration of the component. Such resource builders create CRDs, RBAC, and a Deployment resource to be able to run an operator.

  • The other implementation is the Helm reconciler that basically acts as a Helm operator. It installs and upgrades an embedded chart if it has changed, or uninstalls it if it has been removed from the main configuration.

Compared to kubectl apply, these solutions add ordering, and allow executing custom logic if required. Also, they remove resources that are not present in the config anymore. The CLI in this case executes the control logic as well.

Compared to terraform, the dependencies are managed in a predefined execution order and have static binding using deterministic names. Lower performance, but easier to follow. Remote state is the CR saved to the API server.

Using the reconciler mode

To use Service Mesh Manager in reconciler mode, complete the following steps. In this scenario, the manifest is read from a file, allowing you to declaratively provide custom configuration for the various components.

  1. Login to your Service Mesh Manager installation.

  2. Prepare the configuration settings you want to apply in a YAML file, and run the following command. For details on the configuration settings, see the ControlPlane Custom Resource.

    smm reconcile --from-file <path-to-file>
  3. The settings applied to the components are the result of merging the default settings + valuesOverride + managed settings. You cannot change the managed settings to avoid misconfiguration and possible malfunction.

Operator mode

The operator mode follows the familiar operator pattern. In operator mode, Service Mesh Manager watches events on the ControlPlane Custom Resource, and triggers a reconciliation for all components in order, the same way you can trigger the reconcile command locally.

Note: Unlike in the declarative CLI mode, in operator mode the Service Mesh Manager operator is running inside Kubernetes, and not on a client machine. This naturally means that this mode is exclusive with the install, delete, and reconcile commands.

Using the operator mode is the recommended way to integrate the Service Mesh Manager installer into a Kubernetes-native continuous delivery solution, for example, Argo, where the integration boils down to applying YAML files to get the installer deployed as an operator.

Existing configurations managed using the reconcile command work out-of-the box after switching to the operator mode.

Using the operator mode

To use Service Mesh Manager in operator mode, Install Service Mesh Manager in operator mode. In this scenario, the reconcile flow runs on the Kubernetes cluster as an operator that watches the ControlPlane custom resources. Any changes made to the watched custom resource triggers the reconcile flow.


GitOps is a way of implementing Continuous Deployment for cloud native applications. Based on Git and Continuous Deployment tools, GitOps provides a declarative way to store the desired state of your infrastructure and automated processes to realize the desired state in your production environment.

For example, to deploy a new application you update the repository, and the automated processes perform the actual deployment steps.

When used in operator mode, Service Mesh Manager works flawlessly with GitOps solutions such as Argo CD, and can be used to declaratively manage your service mesh. For a detailed tutorial on setting up Argo CD with Service Mesh Manager, see Install SMM - GitOps - single cluster.