Report: Evolving SDN: Tackling challenges for web-scale deployments

Our library of 1700 research reports is available only to our subscribers. We occasionally release ones for our larger audience to benefit from. This is one such report. If you would like access to our entire library, please subscribe here. Subscribers will have access to our 2017 editorial calendar, archived reports and video coverage from our 2016 and 2017 events.
SDN
Evolving SDN: Tackling challenges for web-scale deployments by Greg Ferro:
Customers want mobility, rapid change, and larger networks that work with less hassle through the use of powerful automation because this enables business to build speed in innovation. Software-defined networking (SDN) embraces these requirements with new dynamic networking features that enhance server value and user services while operating with an existing network.
Virtualization arrived in networking more than a decade ago in the form of virtual local area networks (VLAN). In the early 2000s, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network virtualization enabled vast global networks in the wide area network (WAN). Then, in the mid-2000s, device virtualization arrived and delivered virtual firewalls. Throughout this period of change, the network edge remained located at a fixed physical point with simple, static services.
Server virtualization enables data center mobility, while Wi-Fi and LTE networks enable user mobility. Yet our current network technology remains focused on fixed endpoints. The tension is leading to a change that adapts old requirements for static and stable connections to dynamic and variable forwarding methods. Today’s network is built from hundreds of individual devices that act like separate elements instead of a single platform.
So is SDN the best of everything? In examining that question, this report will also address questions including:

  • What are the major technology enablers for SDN?
  • How are carriers and enterprises implementing SDN to enable distributed applications and cloud infrastructures?
  • How can customers prepare for SDN given that the technology and marketplace are rapidly evolving?
  • What are the key industry standards efforts (IETF, ONF, NFV, etc.), and how do they differ?

To read the full report click here.

Report: SDN meets the real world: implementation benefits and challenges

Our library of 1700 research reports is available only to our subscribers. We occasionally release ones for our larger audience to benefit from. This is one such report. If you would like access to our entire library, please subscribe here. Subscribers will have access to our 2017 editorial calendar, archived reports and video coverage from our 2016 and 2017 events.
sdn
SDN meets the real world: implementation benefits and challenges by Ben Kepes:
Software-defined networking (SDN) is an enabling technology shift that mimics for networking what server virtualization brought to data centers. From little more than a research project a decade or so ago, SDN has become one of the biggest trends in the data center, and for good reason. SDN allows organizations to deliver networking with the same level of flexibility and agility as virtualization has allowed them to deliver other parts of their infrastructure.
This report is aimed at both enterprise IT practitioners as well as data-center operators, and gives the audience some historical background, technical context, and specific issues to think about when in SDN.
Key highlights from this report include:

  • SDN is a trend of growing importance to anyone involved in data-center design, management, or utilization. Almost every technology vendor in the networking arena now has an “SDN story.”
  • SDN is a disruptor to traditional networking approaches. However, a hybrid approach towards SDN delivers real benefits for organizations with existing networking assets.
  • In this early stage, not surprisingly, SDN has some barriers to adoption. A hybrid approach that embraces smaller proof-of-concept trials while looking at broader deployment is the best way to approach the SDN opportunity.

To read the full report click here.

Facebook’s latest homemade hardware is a 128-port modular switch

Facebook has been building its own servers and storage gear for years, and last June announced its first-ever networking gear in the form of a top-of-rack switch called “Wedge.” On Wednesday, the company furthered its networking story with a new switch platform called “6-pack,” which is essentially a bunch of Wedge switches crammed together inside a single box.

The purpose of 6-pack was to build a modular platform that can handle the increase in network traffic that Facebook’s recently deployed “Fabric” data center architecture enables. The Facebook blog post announcing 6-pack goes into many more details of the design, but here is the gist:

“It is a full mesh non-blocking two-stage switch that includes 12 independent switching elements. Each independent element can switch 1.28Tbps. We have two configurations: One configuration exposes 16x40GE ports to the front and 640G (16x40GE) to the back, and the other is used for aggregation and exposes all 1.28T to the back. Each element runs its own operating system on the local server and is completely independent, from the switching aspects to the low-level board control and cooling system. This means we can modify any part of the system with no system-level impact, software or hardware. We created a unique dual backplane solution that enabled us to create a non-blocking topology.”

In an interview about 6-pack, lead engineer Yuval Bachar described its place in the network fabric as the level above the top-of-rack Wedge switches. Facebook might have hundreds of 6-pack appliances within a given data center managing traffic coming from its untold thousands of server racks.

A 6-pack line card.

A 6-pack line card.

“We just add those Lego blocks, as many as we need, to build this,” he said.

Matt Corddry, Facebook’s director of engineering and hardware team lead, said all the focus on building networking gear is because Facebook user growth keeps growing as more of the world comes online, and the stuff they’re sharing is becoming so much richer, in the form of videos, high-resolution photos and the like.

That might be the broader goal, but Facebook also has a business-level goal that’s behind its decision to build its own gear in the first place, and to launch the open source Open Compute Project. Essentially, Facebook wants to push hardware vendors to deliver the types of technology it needs. If it can’t get them to build custom gear, it and dozens of other large-scale Open Compute partners can with immense buying power can at least push the Dells and HPs and Ciscos of the world in the right direction.

Corddry said there’s nothing to report yet about Wedge or 6-pack being used anywhere outside Facebook but, he noted, “Our plan is to release the full package of Wedge in the near future to Open Compute.”

6-packdiff2

If you’re interested in hearing more about Facebook’s data center fabric, check out our recent Structure Show podcast interview with Facebook’s director of network engineering, Najam Ahmad.

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