Rethinking the Network

Marten Terpstra

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[This is not really about the Red Sox or pumpkins this Halloween, but how could I not use those in the title? Go Red Sox] I left an awful teaser at the end of my article last week. In Brent Salisbury's original article that triggered some of these additional virtualization thoughts, he articulated two very clear differences between native network based L2 virtualization mechanisms and the mechanisms that are being provided by overlay solutions based mostly in server vSwitch infrastructure. These two fundamental functions are MAC learning and tunnel encapsulation. In today's post I will spend a little more time looking at encapsulation differences. Outside of logical separation of multiple virtual networks or tenants, network virtualization allows the amount of attached VLANs, networks and devices to scale well beyond what a single physical switch can handle. In a ... (more)

Many Waze to Cambridge

I work mostly in Plexxi’s office in Nashua, NH. That is about a 12-minute commute for me, backroads only through two sleepy towns. Very convenient and a great improvement over my previous commute. Every now and again I make the trek out to our Cambridge office and it is painful. About 40 miles and around 45 minutes of mostly highway on a good day; early morning this is easily a 90-minute exercise, and finding myself on the road for two hours is not unusual. I am not very attached to a GPS, but whenever I travel a distance or know I am going to hit traffic, I turn on Waze on my p... (more)

Aggregation Is Good. Aggregation Is Bad.

For as long as I remember networking has struggled with the balance between aggregated and individual traffic flows. Following the abilities of the technology components we use, we have been forced to aggregate, only to be allowed to de-aggregate or skip aggregation when technology caught up or surpassed the needs of today. The vast majority of networking equipment is driven by specialized hardware. For datacenter switches, speed and port density are driving the requirements and physics and our technology capabilities create trade-offs that ultimately lead to some form of aggreg... (more)

Network Services, Abstracted and Consumable

Perhaps not as popular as its brothers and sisters I, P and S, Network-As-A-Service or NaaS has slowly started to appear in industry press, articles and presentations. While sometimes associated with a hypervisor based overlay solution, its definition is not very clear, which is not at all surprising. Our industry does not do too well in defining new terms. I ran across this presentation from Usenix 2012 that details a NaaS solution that adds a software forwarding engine to switches and routers that provide specific services for some well known cloud computing workloads. I have ... (more)

Big Data Needs a Better Network

Earlier this week I had some interesting conversations with @davehusak. Where the conversation started early in the day with a discussion on overlay networks and what network functions are performed where and in what context, later in the afternoon the discussion moved to networking solutions (and specifically Plexxi solutions) for big data applications. It’s easy to jump to Hadoop or similarly structured cluster computing applications (Spark, Storm, or a long list of others) as the definition of a big data application. With all its simplicity for the overall distribution of wor... (more)