Lippis Report 213: We Are Entering Software-Defined Networking 2.0

nicklippis.jpgIt’s been a few years now that the industry has been working toward delivering a Software-Defined Networking market. The model that kicked off SDN was a Stanford definition that split the data and control plane, connecting them via a new standard protocol called OpenFlow. As OpenFlow was being standardized, the open networking movement entered other parts of the networking market, such as virtualized networking, visualization, programmable networking and white box networking. A broader new SDN 2.0 model is emerging that includes a wide range of use cases and technologies that promise to fundamentally change not just the networking industry, but the IT value chain and, in particular, the storage market. At ONUG, SDN 2.0 will be front and center as ONUG Board of Directors including  Bank of America, CitiGroup, Gap Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase, UBS, and other IT business thought leaders discuss how SDN 2.0 is impacting their IT infrastructure. In this Lippis Report Research Note, we provide a rough sketch of SDN 2.0. To get the full version, you need to come to ONUG!

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SDN 2.0 Architecture Components

White Box Network Physical Infrastructure: In an SDN 2.0 world, IT architects leverage the economic efficiency and programmability of white box networking, which are physical network switches running the Linux OS. Companies, such as Cumulus, Pica8 and Big Switch Networks, are competing to deliver a white box network operating system while ODMs, such as Quanta, Accton, Alpha, Celestica, DNI, Inventec, Foxconn and others, deliver the hardware. Broadcom, Intel, EZChip, Netronome and, to a lesser degree, Marvell are delivering merchant silicon and a reference design for ODM engineers to deliver network switches. These switches are mostly focused on the data center and come in Top of Rack (ToR) or leaf, and at ONUG, the first core or spine modular form factor white box will be announced.

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Linux Tools: With a physical network infrastructure made up of white boxes running Linux, DevOps teams are offered familiar programming tools to write custom applications directly to network switches. These tools are XML, JSON, RESTFull APIs, Phython scripts and potentially directly to the Linux container. In addition to application development via Linux programming tools, automation orchestration tools such as Puppet and Chef can be applied to networking so that compute, storage and network workloads can be configured with the same tools.

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VM-VM Traffic Flows: Virtual overlays are the main source of traffic flow in an SDN 2.0 world. With highly virtualized data centers on the rise, it’s only natural that VM-VM communications will dominate traffic flow. These flows are tunneled through the white box network infrastructure, programmed via OpenFlow or terminated via a VXLAN or another tunneling protocol on-board gateway.

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Workload Visibility: The concept of an SDN 2.0 data center is to manage applications or workload as they flow throughout the data center on an application-by-application basis. As tunneled traffic can look like spaghetti at best, or be invisible at worst, deep network traffic visibility is a fundamental requirement for management and monitoring application performance.

SDN 2.0 envelops a wide range of open networking technologies, such as the Linux OS in network equipment for programming, orchestration automation, provisioning and on-going management. Virtual overlays have been closed and proprietary, but the work that the OpenStack foundation is doing in Quantum and Neutron, plus the integration of OpenFlow and OVSDB (Open vSwitch Data Base), are starting to open up the proprietary overlay market. In SDN 2.0, management is not an afterthought but a fundamental architectural requirement. The open networking approach to visualization through a “Tap” application such as Big Switch Network’s BigTap provides both visibility and control of flows. Note that Tap application is to be included in the OpenDaylight Hydrogen December open source release. There are other visualization approaches from firms such as Gigamon, cPacket, VSS, NetScout, et al, that leverage white boxes for SPAN aggregation and OpenFlow for traffic capture control offering an open approach to workload visibility.

Implications: SDN 2.0 represents a broader view and next phase of the open networking marketplace. There are multiple implications or second order effects that SDN 2.0 puts in play. For example, DevOps teams will find they have increasing influence over network purchasing decisions as Linux becomes the standard operating system to program networks. SDN 2.0 represents a fundamental change in server and storage placement; that is, there is no need for special storage SANs or NASs as in an SDN 2.0 world—IP storage is the norm. It’s no wonder that over the past 18 months, a flurry of new storage firms have emerged, including Cleversafe, Hedvig, Inktank, Ceph, Pure Storage, Riak CS, Saratoga Speed, Scality, Tintri, Nutanix, Skyera, Nimbus Data, Nimble Storage, Zadara Storage and others. SDN 2.0 didn’t take Cisco by surprise either as it recently announced the intent to acquire Whiptail, a solid-state storage company, putting Cisco into the main storage market.

Open Networking technology is expanding into nearly every networking market and as SDN 2.0 ramps up; its implications on how data centers are designed and managed will fundamentally change. At ONUG—at JPMorgan Chase on Oct 29th and 30th—you’ll get the big picture of SDN 2.0 and debate its merits and shortcomings with peers and technology leaders.

Companies actively engaged in Open Networking that you can meet with at ONUG include:


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