When we think about networking, we think about things that go bump in the wire—things that place bumps in the wire. Such things could be switches, load balancers, firewalls, routers, gateways, etc. The list is not all that long, thankfully. Things that put bumps in the wire are at odds with software-defined networking (SDN). SDN relies upon key services to exist. These services are DNS, identity management, and key management. Without these, many systems would fail outright. However, they are not considered network functions. Network functions are considered to be the bumps in the wire we need to make applications work. The goal of network functions virtualization (NFV) is to streamline this process, to reduce complexity while maintaining compatibility. NFV and SDN together lead to an interesting mix of hardware and software, and some of these just do not interoperate well. Is there a better solution?
Articles Tagged with SDN
I’ve written before about the difficulty as a user of getting hold of VMware’s NSX and about other problems with the release, but a small recap is in order. Founded in 2007, Nicira was bought by VMware in 2012 for its SDN platform. This consists of deep integration that combines the open VXLAN standard with vSphere’s vShield-like products and some other bit of magic to yield a fully functioning microsegmentation system. Although Nicira is available for OpenStack, too, VMware’s focus has always been on the vSphere implementation and using NSX, combined with some of the vShield products to replace VMware’s own vCNS (vCloud Networking and Security). This $1 billion acquisition has been with VMware for as long as Nicira existed as a company. By now, we would expect it to simply be another part of the VMware product line.
I spent the last couple of weeks preparing for the Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam. Coming from a long history of on-premises data centers, I find the messaging and training from AWS to be totally different. In VMware training, we spent a lot of time looking at designing and setting up networking and storage. The remaining time was spent creating and managing VMs on the infrastructure. In more advanced courses, we looked at automating these configurations. More recently, courses have covered deploying software-defined networking (SDN). But always, we directed our effort toward making sure the VM was up and getting the resources it wanted. In Amazon Web Services, the ability to deploy vast numbers of VMs and have multi-tenant SDN is a given. It’s not even the interesting part of the AWS platform. AWS is all about the services that supplement the applications inside your VMs.
In a shock announcement on Wednesday, Martin Casado announced that he was leaving VMware’s Networking and Security business unit, the group that owns the NSX product, to join the venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner. Casado was co-founder and CTO of Nicira, the network company that VMware brought for $1.2 billion in 2012.
This closes the circle for Martin, whose first institutional investor at Nicira was Andreessen Horowitz. Ben Horowitz of the company served on Nicira’s board and acted as Casado’s business mentor.
It’s the end of the year, and a good time for thinking back. I’m thinking back to a dark past long ago, when physical servers ran server operating systems, and ran applications—when those servers plugged into a switch, and each endpoint was a single server. The network team could see every device, endpoint, or switch, and could trace packets from end to end. Network admins would tell you that those were Golden Days, when troubleshooting was easy and networks were simple. Then, ten or so years ago, along came server virtualization. All of a sudden there were multiple servers on any given endpoint, and worse, the servers would move between endpoints not only at will, but mid-flow. Troubleshooting became Hard, with a capital H.
“SDN” is the current buzzword. Well, to be fair, “SDDC” (software-defined data center) is, but SDN is still a cool kid on the block.
However, who outside of Silicon Valley and the Fortune 500 companies truly knows the details of a software-defined network?