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Posts Tagged ‘Software-Defined Networking’

This week, traffic visibility solution provider Gigamon announced its Unified Visibility Fabric, which provides Traffic Intelligence to help enterprises and services providers get a better handle on what traffic is flowing across the network. Gigamon has beefed up the application and services layer of its visibility fabric with new applications and features that offer advanced filter capabilities, such as stateful correction, user-level awareness and deep packet visibility. The Traffic Intelligence provides more granular filtering and forwarding to make sure the tools and applications network managers use to manage and secure the network receive only the data that it needs to operate.

Gigamon’s focus is to provide fabric-wide, integrated applications that send the correct data to the correct tools so organizations can optimize the performance of the tools, including network and application performance.

There’s no question that the trends of video, virtualization, software defined networks, BYOD, 40 Gig and 100 Gig have all added significantly more traffic to networks today. The challenge created from the increased volumes of traffic, combined with increased network speeds, is that the management, performance, and security tools customers use can’t capture the volume of data being pushed to it. Think of network traffic having to pass through a tollbooth and when it gets through, it’s directed to the right tool(s). If there’s too much traffic, then the cars get backed up and the things on the other side of the toll plaza won’t operate as well.

For decades now, Cisco has been the single biggest factor in driving network change. Over the years, the company has been aggressive with VoIP, PoE, MPLS, wireless LAN and most recently converged infrastructure, and has gained a significant early-move advantage. However, when it comes to software-defined networks, I think it’s fair to say that Cisco has lagged in both technology and vision, and has let the likes of VMware, Arista and Big Switch get out in front and carry much of the messaging.

Yesterday though, CEO John Chambers effectively grabbed the throats of many of the smaller, SDN pure-plays, and stated “Where are your rebel friends now?” at the company’s Application Centric Infrastructure event in New York. Specifically, the company, to no surprise, announced at the event that it was acquiring the remained of spin-in Insieme following a similar path to what we saw with Nuova and Andiamo, and went through its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) vision.

Getting into the details, ACI is certainly a bold vision for the industry. It promises a unified, single point of control and visibility for the management and provisioning of virtual and physical infrastructure. This would mean networking, compute, storage, virtual machines, application services and security all manage a single entity.

One of the primary value propositions of Software Defined Networks (SDNs) is that it optimizes the performance of the applications that run on networks today. However, almost all of the SDN-related products that have been released to date operate at layer 2/3 which, of course, have no direct relevance to applications. I agree that if there’s congestion or something else impacting performance at those lower layers, applications themselves will be impacted, but for the most part, the world of applications and networks have been managed in independent silos.

To help bridge this gap between applications and networks, many network managers, data center folks and even some application developers have turned to application delivery controllers (ADCs). The ADC speaks both the language of networks and applications and can be thought of as the “Rosetta stone” of IT, and plays a key role in enterprises’ ability to roll out applications rapidly and keep them performing optimally.

However, SDNs have recently turned the networking world upside down. Things that were physical are now software-based and virtual. Networking has a level of dynamism that has never been seen before. This trend has raised the question of what the role of the ADC is in this new virtual, software-driven world.

It seems we can’t go more than a couple of weeks without someone making another product announcement related to software defined networks (SDNs). A couple of weeks ago, VMware announced its NSX network virtualization platform at its user conference, VMworld. Along with the platform, VMware highlighted a number of NSX partners, one of which was Juniper Networks.

This week, Juniper took the covers off it’s own SDN controller by announcing the general availability of its Contrail controller. While Juniper’s vision matches that of VMware’s software defined data center, the approach from Juniper is markedly different than that of VMware. In addition to being a direct competitor to NSX, the Contrail controller is a completely standards-based controller that uses OpenStack as the orchestration protocol, whereas NSX is more of a proprietary platform meant for VMware-only environments.

It’s the end of August, which means “Tis the season.” What season is that? It’s now the end of the summer, which means back to school for our kids. It’s also NFL preseason, so all of us going through football withdrawal are close to getting some real football soon – time for Tebow mania, the football equivalent of SDNs. But, for those of us in tech, the end of August means VMworld time. For me, it means my email inbox is full of messages from PR vendors wanting me to “stop by the booth” and check out the latest and greatest.

This week, Arista and ExtraHop got out in front of the impending noise and announced a strategic partnership between to deliver an integrated solution called the ExtraHop-Arista Persistent Monitoring Architecture. Despite the totally unimaginative name, the product should be compelling to highly virtualized organizations or those considering a move to a software defined data center – the obvious sweet spot for VMworld.

It’s hard to look at Network World or any other tech site without seeing a bunch of articles on software defined networks. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen almost every network vendor, large and small, lay out its vision for SDNs and then back it up with new products to support the vision. One of the vendors that has been absent from the SDN tournament, though, is Huawei – that is, until this week.

Earlier this week, the giant Chinese equipment manufacturer threw its hat into the SDN game with a new switch series, the S12700 Agile Switch, specifically designed for migrating to an SDN. There are two products currently in the Agile Switch line – a big one (S12708) and a bigger one (S12712). From my briefing with Huawei, it appears that these products will be focused on implementing SDNs across the campus network rather than the data center.

Earlier this month, F5 announced its ScaleN architecture designed to make it easier for companies to deploy a software defined network and extend virtual networks to the cloud. ScaleN can be thought of as a unified set of virtual and physical infrastructure that has been configured to optimize SDN environments. ScaleN also provides a new feature called iCall, which is an extension of its popular iRules scripting language and gives F5 ADCs the capability of dynamically reconfiguring based on the real-time status of the ADC infrastructure. The iCall technology allows for applications or networks to interface with the ADCs to trigger the reconfiguration.

Looking at this functionality, it’s easy to see that there’s significant overlap with traditional SDN controllers. One of the value propositions of SDNs is that the controllers offer a set of northbound application programming interfaces (APIs) that give applications more control of the network. F5’s iRules has given customers the ability to create custom features to handle network and application events. But iCall brings automation to F5 infrastructure, removing the need for manual intervention. It would seem that much of the value of the SDN controller is being wrapped into the ADC, and why not? The application delivery infrastructure already sits between the network and application tiers, similarly to how many of the SDN controller vendors position their products.



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