Click here to close now.


Apache Authors: Pat Romanski, Jim Scott, Jnan Dash, Craig Lowell, Liz McMillan

Blog Feed Post

Commodity Network Fabrics

What role does the concept of a “network fabric” play in the march towards commoditization of networking?  Well, let’s discuss!

The Whole Shebang

There can be no doubt that an organization’s relationship to networking is to the aggregate thing they call “the network.”  When there are issues, non-network folks say wonderfully vague things like “The network is dropping packets!” or “I can’t login… must be the network.”  This intuition, to think about the network as a whole, rather than as a collection of systems, is right:  Collectively, the network is supposed to produce desirable aggregate behavior.

This is an important clue as to how networking will evolve in the future.  SDN is a step in this direction.  Intelligent software will undoubtedly coordinate the actions of the underlying constituent systems, on behalf of an operator or an application, to achieve some policy goals.  This software need not exist solely in the form of a network controller.  Indeed, here at Plexxi, our switches can coordinate on their own to achieve aggregate behavior.  This is why you can stand up a Plexxi network, and pass traffic, without the need for a centralized controller.

A network fabric should have the goal of managing network workloads according to a higher-level policy.  However, many fabrics do not do this.  They may have some desirable fabric features, but for edge policies operators must still log into individual devices to achieve their goals.  This, of course, is the fundamental problem of networking that SDN hopes to solve:  Let intelligent software perform these menial tasks, and let the organization, or the operator, express network-wide policy to the software.

The Value of the Network

What is the value of the network?  Fundamentally, the network has one feature that matters: paths.  The job the network, first and foremost, is to facilitate the movement of data between it’s edges.  The more paths a network has, the better.  We even see this in leaf-and-bufferspine designs.

Administrative, control, voice, video, bulk, and garbage are just some of the workload types requiring different treatment in the network.  When you have fewer paths in the network, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage workload conflict that arises when multiple types of traffic converge on an egress interface.  Quality-of-Service has always represented a sort of white flag of surrender before conflict even occurs, and let’s be honest, it’s been an absolute nightmare to manage on the ground.  Aggregate flow characteristics change throughout the day (burstiness, packet size distribution, differing workload types), making static policies difficult to implement.  The best you can hope for is a policy that represents the lowest-common denominator compromise.

Even when you have multiple paths in the network, it’s virtually impossible to manage and move differing workload types.  How frustrating it has been that spanning-tree cut the usable bandwidth down drastically in the data center.  Even if we could use it, how to move only some workloads?  Imagine doing this when you have multiple types of workloads just within HTTP!  Transferring files, web traffic, API calls for automation systems… all in the same encapsulation.

QoS is obviously the product of legacy network thinking:  Fewer paths and indiscriminate workload placement, resulting from the erroneous belief that universal reachability for packets is the primary goal of the network.  Build just enough paths to be redundant, put the routes in… and hope for the best.  Are we done being amazed that we can make packets go yet?  Can’t we do better than making a sequel to “The Hangover” because we can ping?  Aren’t we tired of failing to deal with the complexity of networking as a whole?  Then let’s stop using legacy stuff to accomplish our goals.

Network Commodifabricization

The value of the network goes up as more paths are added.  However, the old way of workload placement in the network, as well as the old way of handling workload conflict, just isn’t going to be manageable by hand.  Adding value to the network should be as simple as adding paths, and adding paths should actually be simple both physically and logically.  A commodity network means lots of paths, which are the primary value of the network to begin with.  It also means intelligent software that manages the many types of workloads on the network by distributing them across those paths.  That same software will present an intuitive policy interface to humans who just want “the network” to work.

Where does that leave the current trend of some companies seeking to commoditize on legacy networking?  Well, like cloud, it would seem that many folks are banking on the idea that IT is done evolving.  Including networking!  Obviously, this is not the case.  What we are experiencing right now is the “big crunch” of IT.  If the mainframe represented some primordial IT state that exploded into the constituent pieces of the IT universe, like the big bang of tech, then the data center of the future represents the big crunch of these pieces.  Lots of intermediate layers will disappear, from the guest OS of a VM, to maybe even the IP protocol!  Will linux-based switches and routers with a subset of legacy network features really have a role here?  Perhaps in the short-term, but not for long.

Intuitive network fabrics are the true start down the path of commoditization, making the real value of the network directly and easily manageable.

[Fun fact:  One time, I drove a bulldozer into a pond.  People get really mad when you do that.  Also, it makes the bulldozer inoperable.  Hmmm... if only there had been a "path" around the pond.]


The post Commodity Network Fabrics appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@ThingsExpo Stories
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.