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Networking Hardware/Software Disaggregation in 2022

I started preparing the materials for the SDN – 10 years later webinar, and plan to publish a series of blog posts documenting what I found on various aspects of what could be considered SDN1. I’m pretty sure I missed quite a few things; your comments are most welcome.

Let’s start with an easy one: software/hardware disaggregation in network devices.

Open-Source Network Operating Systems

I found several widely-used open-source2 network operating systems:

Is Fibre Channel Still a Thing?

Here’s another “do these things ever disappear?” question from Enrique Vallejo:

Regarding storage, is Fibre Channel still a thing in 2022, or most people employ SATA over Ethernet and NVMe over fabrics?

TL&DR: Yes. So is COBOL.

To understand why some people still use Fibre Channel, we have to start with an observation made by Howard Marks: “Storage is different.” It’s OK to drop a packet in transit. It’s NOT OK to lose data at rest.

netsim-tools: VLANs, Hardware Labs, VRF Loopbacks

Here’s a short list of major goodies included in netsim-tools release 1.2.2:

More details in the release notes.

To upgrade netsim-tools, use pip3 install --upgrade netsim-tools; if you’re starting from scratch, read the installation instructions.

IPv6 Unique Local Addresses (ULA) Made Useless

Recent news from the Department of Unintended Consequences: RFC 6724 changed the IPv4/IPv6 source/destination address selection rules a decade ago, and it seems that the common interpretation of those rules makes IPv6 Unique Local Addresses (ULA) less preferred than the IPv4 addresses, at least according to the recent Unintended Operational Issues With ULA draft by Nick Buraglio, Chris Cummings and Russ White.

End result: If you use only ULA addresses in your dual-stack network1, IPv6 won’t be used at all. Even worse, if you use ULA addresses together with global IPv6 addresses (GUA) as a fallback mechanism, there might be hidden gotchas that you won’t discover until you turn off IPv4. Looks like someone did a Truly Great Job, and ULA stands for Useless Local Addresses.

Living with Small Forwarding Tables

A friend of mine working for a mid-sized networking vendor sent me an intriguing question:

We have a product using an old ASIC that has 12K forwarding entries, and would like to extend its lifetime. I know you were mentioning some useful tricks, would you happen to remember what they were?

This challenge has no perfect solution, but there are at least three tricks I’ve encountered so far (as always, comments are most welcome):

Worth Watching: Source Routing on the Edge (iNOG::14v)

Most large content providers use some sort of egress traffic engineering on edge web proxy/caching servers to optimize the end-user experience (avoid congested transit autonomous systems) and link utilization on egress links.

I was planning to write a blog post about the tricks they use for ages, and never found time to do it… but if you don’t mind watching a video, the Source Routing on the Edge presentation Oliver Herms had at iNOG::14v does a pretty good job explaining the concepts and a particular implementation.

Video: Practical Aspects of IPv6 Security

Christopher Werny has tons of hands-on experience with IPv6 security (or lack thereof), and described some of his findings in the Practical Aspects of IPv6 Security part of IPv6 security webinar, including:

  • Impact of dual-stack networks
  • Security implications of IPv6 address planning
  • Isolation on routing layer and strict filtering
  • IPv6-related requirements for Internet- or MPLS uplinks
You need Free ipSpace.net Subscription to watch the video.

Configure Hardware Labs with netsim-tools

netsim-tools started as a simple tool to create virtual lab topologies (I hated creating Vagrantfiles describing complex topologies), but when it morphed into an ever-growing “configure all the boring stuff in your lab from a high-level description” thingie, it gave creative networking engineers an interesting idea: could we use this tool to do all the stuff we always hated doing in our physical labs?

My answer was always “of course, please feel free to submit a PR”, and Stefano Sasso did just that: he implemented external orchestration provider that allows you to use netsim-tools to configure IPv4, IPv6, VLANs, VRFs, LLDP, BFD, OSPFv2, OSPFv3, EIGRP, IS-IS, BGP, MPLS, BGP-LU, L3VPN (VPNv4 + VPNv6), SR-MPLS, or SRv6 on supported hardware devices.

What Happened to FabricPath and Its Friends?

Continuing the what happened to old technologies saga, here’s another question by Enrique Vallejo:

Are FabricPath, TRILL or SPB still alive, or has everyone moved to VXLAN? Are they worth studying?

TL&DR: Barely. Yes. No.

Layer-2 Fabric craziness exploded in 2010 with vendors playing the usual misinformation games that eventually resulted in totally fragmented market full of partial- or proprietary solutions. At one point in time, some HP data center switches supported only TRILL, and other data center switches from the same company supported only SPB.

Now for individual technologies:

Detecting Byzantine Link Failures with SNMP

One of my readers has to deal with a crappy Network Termination Equipment (NTE)1 that does not drop local link carrier2 when the remote link fails. Here’s the original ASCII art describing the topology:

PE---------------NTE--FW---NMS 
  <--------IP-------->

He’d like to use interface SNMP counters on the firewall to detect the PE-NTE link failure. He’s using static default route toward PE on FW, and tried to detect the link failure with ifOutDiscards counter.

Multi-Platform Custom Configuration Templates in netsim-tools

In the Building a BGP Anycast Lab I described how you could use custom configuration templates to extend the functionality of netsim-tools.

That example used Cisco IOS… but what if you want to test the same functionality on multiple platforms? netsim-tools provides a nice trick: the custom configuration template could point to a directory with platform-specific templates. Let me show you how that works…

OMG: Hop-by-Hop Path MTU Discovery

Straight from the “Bad Ideas Never Die” (see also RFC 1925 Rule 11) department: Geoff Huston described a proposal to use hop-by-hop IPv6 extension headers to implement Path MTU Discovery. In his words:

It is a rare situation when you can create an outcome from two somewhat broken technologies where the outcome is not also broken.

IETF should put rules in place similar to the ones used by the patent office (Thou Shalt Not Patent Perpetual Motion Machine), but unfortunately we’re way past that point. Back to Geoff:

It appears that the IETF has decided that volume is far easier to achieve than quality. These days, what the IETF is generating as RFCs is pretty much what the IETF accused the OSI folk of producing back then: Nothing more than voluminous paperware about vapourware!

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