Author Archives: calvin

How More Services Providers Are Thinking ‘Outside In’

June usually signals two things in my household: the end of the school year, and the beginning of the trips to the multiplex for the latest family-friendly animated movie. This year is no different, and from everything we’ve heard, Disney / Pixar’s latest entrant, Inside Out, is a winner.

While animated and emotion-based avatars are cute and funny, it’s the reverse concept that’s driving a lot of service provider thinking. And that is, thinking from the ‘Outside In’.

What do I mean by this? It all depends on the point of view. For a service provider that’s managing a network, be it global, regional, or metro, there’s a natural tendency to think about starting from the core and extending it out to edge. For this network, it’s important to have a reliable, super fast core – big fast iron that can process packets and bandwidth at really fast rates.

This is certainly important, but in order to differentiate and add value to their customers, service providers are investing more at the edge. They are thinking about how to wrap up and package network functionality, offer these up as monetized services, and distribute these all the way to the customer premises. Continue reading

The Flip Side of Overlays

Why Labeled BGP on White Box Will Disrupt How We Buy Routers

For those of us that are old enough to have or remember a record collection, there is familiarity (and probably a little nostalgia) for the term “flip side.” In this context, flip side refers to the B-side of a standard vinyl record, and refers to secondary recordings or bonus tracks that weren’t as heavily marketed as their A-side counterparts.

Why am I writing about an antiquated music medium? And what does this have to do with networking? I bring this up because it’s an interesting parallel with what’s happening with network overlays – and specifically, how these are viewed from the “flip side,” or in other words, the different points of view from the consumer and the provider.

First off, some background. In the simplest terms, an overlay is a logical network that enables you to create paths and connections on top of (and in many cases, regardless of) the physical connections between the end points. More importantly, overlays are a critical construct because they enable network operators to create more virtual subnets – which in turn support multi-tenancy, VM mobility, and service differentiation.

These are all Continue reading

Zero Touch Provisioning in a Bare Metal World

Who doesn’t like automation?  If you’re speaking to somebody in IT, then the short answer is “nobody”.

While the term Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) might be increasingly more common to networking, the concept of automation has existed for years in IT.  At its core, ZTP is an automation solution that’s designed to reduce errors and save time when an IT administrator needs to bring new infrastructure online.

This is particularly useful for data center servers, where scale and configuration similarities across systems make automation a necessity.  In the server world, the Linux-based operating system has revolutionized on boarding and provisioning.  Rather than using command-line interfaces (CLI) to configure these systems one at a time, administrators can use automation tools to roll out the operating system software, patches, and packages on new servers with a single command, or the click of a mouse.

Advanced scripting capabilities also allow administrators to tailor the boot configuration of these systems with profiles for specific applications.  So for example, if you need ten servers for a new Hadoop cluster, you can load this with one profile, but if you need six new servers for a new web application, you can Continue reading

Scaling SDN: Is OpenFlow Ready for Prime Time?

Pica8 Says ‘Yes’ and Challenges the FUD

Up to this point, OpenFlow has mostly been deployed in research and higher-education environments.  These early trials have shed some light on interesting use cases, what OpenFlow is good for, and of course, what OpenFlow might not be so good for.

This is important because OpenFlow and SDN adoption is only going to grow.  It’s imperative that we understand these limitations – specifically, what’s real and what’s FUD.

One of these is scale.

If you’ve kicked the tires on OpenFlow, one question you may have heard is “How many flows does that switch support?”  However, this question is only part of the story.  It’s like asking only about a car’s top speed when what you should be thinking other things too – such as fuel efficiency and maintenance.  So to figure out the right questions, we first need to go over a bit of background.

In its most basic terms, any network traffic, whether it’s Layer 2, Layer 3, or something else, is governed by a of forwarding rules as defined by a series of protocols.  If it’s this MAC, do this.  If it’s that IP, go Continue reading