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Data Center SDN: Compare VMware NSX, Cisco ACI and Open SDN


Data Center SDN: Compare VMware NSX, Cisco ACI and Open SDN

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The data center network layer is the engine that manages some of your most important business data points. Applications, users, specific services and even entire business units are associated with network functions and delivery architectures. With the growth of cloud, virtualization and digital workspaces, the network layer becomes more important.

Most importantly, we see more intelligence and integration at the network layer. The biggest development of the network includes integration with other services, cloud integration and network virtualization.

Software-defined networks, the abstraction of control and data planes, provide administrators with a new way to manage critical network resources.

Recently, IDC stated that the global SDN market, including physical network infrastructure, virtualization/control software, SDN applications (including network and security services), and professional services, will achieve a compound annual growth rate of 53.9% between 2014 and 2020. . By 2020, the market value will reach $12.5 billion.

As IDC pointed out, although SDN was initially favored in hyperscale data centers or large-scale cloud service providers, it is winning in more and more enterprise data centers in vertical markets, especially in public and private Cloud deployment.

Rohit Mehra, Vice President of IDC Network Infrastructure, said: "Large enterprises are now recognizing the value of SDN in the data center, but in the end, they will also recognize the applicability of SDN in branch and campus networks."

"Although network hardware will continue to occupy a prominent position in network infrastructure, SDN shows that the network industry is shifting from hardware to software value. For suppliers, this will herald a shift to a business model based on software and services. For enterprise customers, this will mean a more collaborative IT approach and a more business-oriented network to achieve application delivery," said Brad Casemore, IDC Data Center Network Research Director.

There are several vendors that provide various styles of SDN and network virtualization, so how are they different? Are they more open than others? The following are some key suppliers in this field.

VMware NSX. VMware has virtualized your server, so why not virtualize the network? NSX integrates security, management, functionality, VM control and many other network functions directly into your hypervisor. From there, you can create the entire network architecture from the management program. This includes L2, L3 and even L4-7 network services. You can even create a fully distributed logical architecture that spans L2-L7 services. Then, you can configure the required services programmatically when deploying the VM. The goal of NSX is to separate the network from the underlying hardware and direct fully optimized network services to the VM. From here on, micro-segmentation became a reality, increasing the continuity of applications and even integrating with more security services.

● Use cases and limitations. The only way to use NSX is to run a VMware hypervisor. From there, you can control routing, virtual network automation, VM routing/bridging services, and other core network functions. If you are a VMware store hosting a large number of virtual machines and are caught in the complexity of virtual network management, you definitely need to look at NSX. However, there are some limitations. First, your level of automation can only be limited to virtual networks and virtual machines. The physical switch has no automation function. In addition, some L4-L7 advanced network services are provided through closed APIs and may require additional licenses. Finally, if you are focused on virtualization and your infrastructure of choice revolves around VMware, NSX may be a good choice. With this in mind, there are two more points to note: If you have a very simple VMware deployment with minimal complexity, then you may hardly need NSX. If you have a large number of VMware network management points in your virtual machine architecture, then NSX can make your life easier.

Big Switch Networks. These types of architectures provide more options and even support white box solutions. Big Switch has a product called Big Cloud Fabric, which is built with open network switch and SDN controller technology. Big Cloud Fabric is designed to meet physical, virtual, cloud and/or containerized workloads. Big Switch is one of the first SDN providers to design network services specifically for containerized microservices. There is also a cool part: BCF supports multiple hypervisor environments, including VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM and Citrix XenServer. In the structure, you can connect virtualized servers and physical servers to achieve workload flexibility. For the cloud environment, BCF will continue to support Red Hat and Mirantis releases of OpenStack. The more exciting part is that you can integrate it with Dell Open Networking switches.

● Use cases and limitations. Although it supports other hypervisors, the biggest benefit is the integration with VMware NSX. BCF interoperates with NSX controllers to provide VMware network administrators with enhanced physical network visibility. In addition, you can take advantage of the full capabilities of white box switches and extend these services across the entire virtualization ecosystem and cloud through OpenStack. Having said that, it is important to understand this technology and where it should be deployed. If you are a service provider, a cloud host, or a large-scale distributed organization with a complex network, then it may make sense to use the new open SDN technology. First of all, you can invest in commodity exchanges with great confidence because the software that controls it is very powerful. Second, you are not locked by any vendor, and your entire network control layer is very flexible. However, it is not for everyone. It will not be as simple as buying from a single network provider. You may be entangled between openness and proprietary technology, but you need to ask yourself: "What is the best for my business and network?" If you are an organization focused on growth, business and users , Then you simply don’t have time or don’t want to use open SDN technology, which may not be suitable for you. There may be some learning curve when you leave traditional network solutions.

Cumulus Linux. This is an amazing technology that can be followed and gained greater appeal. (Please note that many SDN vendors have created next-generation network functions built around open and proprietary technologies. Cumulus Linux is used as an example here to show how the SDN system is evolving.) The architecture is built around a native Linux network , Switches running Cumulus Linux provide standard network functions such as bridging, routing, VLAN, MLAG, IPv4/IPv6, OSPF/BGP, access control, VRF and VxLAN coverage. But here is cool: Cumulus can run "bare metal" network hardware from vendors such as Quanta, Accton, and Agema. Customers can purchase hardware at a much lower cost. In addition, Cumulus Linux's hardware can run with existing systems because it uses industry standard switching and routing protocols. Hardware vendors like Quanta are now having a direct impact on commodity hardware. why? They can provide no virtual servers, and their network options can support a more commoditized data center architecture.

● Use cases and limitations. Today, the technology supports Dell, Mellanox, Penguin, Supermicro, EdgeCore, and even some Hewlett Packard Enterprise switches. As an integration point or overlay, Cumulus enables organizations to use a powerful Linux-driven SDN architecture. This technique makes sense in many places. Integrate into a highly virtualized system (VMware), extend to a cloud environment (directly integrate with OpenStack), control big data (zero-touch network configuration of a Hadoop environment), etc. However, you absolutely need to be mentally prepared to accept this type of architecture. Although there are some Cumulus deployments on the market, companies have not given up their current network infrastructure to choose completely open source. However, the more Linux workloads deployed, the more cloud services used, and the more open source technologies implemented, the more attractive.

Cisco's application-centric infrastructure (ACI). At a very high level, ACI creates a tight integration between physical and virtual elements. It uses a policy-based common operating model in the network and security elements across ACI. Centralized management is done by the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller or APIC. It exposes the Northbound API through XML and JSON, and provides a command-line interface and GUI that use this API to manage the structure. Traditionally, network strategies and logical topologies are designed based on prescribed applications, but now they will be applied based on application requirements.

● Use cases and limitations. This is a powerful model that can abstract the network layer and integrate core services with your important applications and resources. Using this architecture, you can create full automation of all virtual and physical network parameters through a single API automation. In addition, you can also integrate with traditional workloads and networks to control this traffic. You can even connect to a non-Cisco physical switch to get information on the actual device and its working content. In addition, it can be fully integrated with the equipment of other partners' suppliers. Having said that, there are some limitations. Obviously, the only way to get the full benefit from the Cisco SDN solution is to use (sometimes not completely cheap) Nexus series switches. In addition, if you run the entire Cisco architecture in the data center, more features will be enabled. For some organizations, this can make costs expensive. However, if you are already using Cisco technology, but have not studied the ACI and APIC architectures, then you should do so.

Of course, there are many other SDN vendors who have not had the opportunity to discuss. especially:

Pluribus Networks
There are several others...
Obviously, as organizations continue to expand and network complexity increases, the importance of SDN is increasing. Most importantly: evolving market trends and technologies can provide SDN and fit your specific use case. When designing a solution, it may make sense for you to use more proprietary technology. In other cases, deploying an open SDN system can help further expand your business and use cases. No matter which path you go, always design around supporting your business and user experience. Remember, all these technologies are meant to simplify your network, not to make it more complicated.

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