The Virtual Data Center Reality

Virtual Data Centers start to become reality.

Previously posted on Router Analysis

With the recent announcement of the CSR 1000v from Cisco, there are now two commercial Virtual Data Center stories (three if we look at the VMWare vCNS products and use one of the other vendors products for a router) Cisco and Vyatta.

What is a Virtual Data Center?  There will be a lot of different answers but in my view it consists of the following:

  • A pair of redundant Routers with multiple provider uplinks
  • A pair of redundant Firewalls
  • A pair of Load Balancers
  • Front and Backend Servers

In my previous life designing and building Internet Data Centers we would have build this entire setup out of separate parts taking up an entire rack or two.  Now it could be done in a single blade server with multiple redundant power supplies or a pair of highly spec’d servers.

Now, I want to be clear here: I don’t think that the software based Firewalls are up to the task of the hardware based ones.  I think most security companies/consultants would agree that there is a danger when you host both your servers and your firewall on the same shared hardware.  You could design the setup in a way that the ASA is only hosted on it’s own blade(s) but there is still the inherent risk of a misconfiguration or privilege escalation hack allowing someone to bypass the firewall.

Sadly the way around the security issue is to put a physical firewall in the line.  This can be easily done, so it’s mainly just a CapEx issue.

For routers at this time, we only have Cisco and Vyatta commercially.  They both are offering strong products but Cisco’s CSR 1000v is more feature rich supporting many protocols and features that come from using the previously designed and coded Cisco code base.

In the coming weeks and months I am going to be writing about the products available in the space and what limitations still need to be overcome.  I will be working with Cisco, Vyatta, VMWare and others to try and compile as much information as possible.

Summary: The Virtual Datacenter is here.  It’s not perfect, but all of the parts exist from multiple vendors.  The world of Virtualization just got a lot more interesting.

What are your thoughts?

What is SDN and What are we Testing?

SDN Testing

SDN stands for “Software Defined Network”, a simple name with thousands of different meanings.  As defined by WikiPedia “SDN separates the control plane from the data plane in network switches and routers. Under SDN, the control plane is implemented in software in servers separate from the network equipment and the data plane is implemented in commodity network equipment.”

The most important aspect of SDN is the separation of the control and data planes.  This decoupling allows end users (Service Providers, Enterprises) to use commodity hardware to build and expand their networks.

Some of the major players in the SDN space are Vyatta, Cisco, Big Switch and Nicira.  Nicira was recently purchased by VMWare and is being merged into VMWares core product offerings.

Vyatta offers a Quagga based software router with firewall and VPN support.  I recently talked with Vyatta and found their vision and commitment to the Open Source community great.  Vyatta is currently the top player when it comes to software defined routers.

Cisco offers many of the parts needed to create SDNs but some parts have not been released yet.  Cisco has released the Nexus 1000v software switch, the ASA 1000v software firewall and has announced the CSR 1000v IOS XE based software router.  Once Cisco gets the full solution out, they have a chance to leapfrog over the competition due to their history and ability to re-use their current software features.

Big Switch offers an SDN Controller.  Currently they are offering Floodlight, a Open Source version of their product with promises of a commercial version coming soon.

The last company I will cover is Nicira.  Nicira provides what they call NVP, or the Nicira Virtualization Platform.  They combine their software with the Open Source OpenVSwitch to provide a fully software controlled and forwarded network.