Blog Posts in November 2011

Virtual Switches – from Simple to Scalable

Dan sent me an interesting comment after watching my Data Center 3.0 webinar:

I have a different view regarding VMware vSwitch. For me its the best thing happened in my network in years. The vSwitch is so simple, and its so hard to break something in it, that I let the server team to do what ever they want (with one small rule, only one vNIC per guest). I never have to configure a server port again :).

As always, the right answer is “it depends” – what kind of vSwitch you need depends primarily on your requirements.

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Sending Wake-on-LAN (WOL) packet with IOS Tcl

Jónatan Þór Jónasson took the time to implement Wake-on-LAN functionality using UDP support introduced in Cisco IOS Tcl in release 15.1(1)T. He found a TCL/TK example of a magic packet being sent, used that as a base, and with small modifications got it to work on his router. Here‘s his code (it’s obviously a proof-of-concept, but you need just a few more lines to get a working Tclsh script):

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Multi-Level IS-IS in a Single Area? Think Again!

Many service providers choosing IS-IS as their IGP use it within a single area (or at least run all routers as L1L2 routers). Multi-level IS-IS design is a royal pain, more so in MPLS environments where every PE-router needs a distinct route for every BGP next hop (but of course there’s a nerd knob to disable L1 default route in IS-IS). Moreover, MPLS TE is reasonably simple only within a single level (L1 or L2).

I’m positive at least some service providers do something as stupid as I usually did – deploy IS-IS with default settings using a configuration similar to this one:

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Junos Interfaces and Protocols: Now I get it

My Junos versus Cisco IOS: Explicit versus Implicit received a huge amount of helpful comments, some of them slightly philosophical, others highly practical – from using interfaces all combined with interface disable in routing protocol configuration, to using configuration groups (more about that fantastic concept in another post).

However, understanding what’s going on is not the same as being able to explain it in one sentence ... and Dan (@jonahsfo) Backman beautifully nailed that one.

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Log the source ports of HTTP sessions

You’re probably tired of this story by now: public IPv4 addresses are running out, lots of content is available only over IPv4, and so the service providers use NAT to give new clients (with no public IPv4 address) access to old content. It doesn’t matter which NAT variant the service provider is using, be it Carrier Grade Nat (CGN), NAT64, DS-Lite or A+P, the crucial problem is always the same: multiple users are hidden behind a single source IP address.

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Nexus vPC and Consistency Checker

Michel sent me a detailed e-mail describing both his enthusiasm with vPC and the headaches consistency checker is causing him. Here’s the good part:

Nexus vPC seems like a perfect solution for real multi-chassis etherchannel. At work we're using it extensively on a few pairs of Nexus 7000's.

... and then it turns sour:

However, there is one MAJOR drawback with vPC at this time, it's the way the consistency checker works (or rather, does not work). We've come across two specific situations where consistency checker will bring down your beautiful and redundant vPC link, and we've found no way around.

Here are his problems:

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OpenFlow: Enterprise Use Cases

One of the comments I usually get about OpenFlow is “sounds great and I’m positive Yahoo! and Google will eventually use it, but I see no enterprise use case.” (see also this blog post). Obviously nobody would go for a full-blown native OpenFlow deployment and we’ll probably see hybrid (ships-in-the-night) approach more often in research labs than in enterprise networks, but there’s always the integrated mode that allows you to add OpenFlow-based functionality on top of existing networking infrastructure.

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LDP-IGP Synchronization in MPLS Networks

A reader of my blog planning to migrate his network from a traditional BGP-everywhere design to a BGP-over-MPLS one wondered about potential unexpected consequences. The MTU implications of introducing MPLS in a running network are usually well understood (even though you could get some very interesting behavior); if you can, increase the MTU size by at least 16 bytes (4 labels) and check whether MTU includes L2 header. Another somewhat more mysterious beast is the interaction between IGP and LDP that can cause traffic disruptions after the physical connectivity has been reestablished.

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Juniper’s Virtual Gateway – a Virtual Firewall Done Right

VMsafe Network API is obsolete, which made Juniper’s Virtual Gateway obsolete (EOL: 2016). This blog post thus has only historical value documenting different architectural approaches. For up-to-date information on firewall service insertion in vSphere environments watch Firewalling and Security section of the VMware NSX Technical Deep Dive webinar.

I stumbled upon VMsafe Network API (the API formerly known as dvFilter) while developing my VMware Networking Deep Dive webinar, set up the vShield App 4.1 in a lab, figured out how it works (including a few caveats), and assumed that’s how most virtual firewalls using dvFilter work. Boy was I wrong!

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IPv6 Security: Getting Bored @ BRU Airport

Yesterday’s 6th Slovenian IPv6 Summit was (as always) full of awesome presentations, this time coming straight from some of the IPv6 legends: check the ones from Eric Vyncke (and make sure you read his IPv6 Security book), Randy Bush and Mark Townsley. The epic moment, however, was the “I was getting bored” part of Eric’s presentation (starts around 0:50:00). This is (in a nutshell) what he did:

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Junos Day One: Translating Configurations The Geeky Way

Abner (@abnerg) Germanov surprised us all at the end of Juniper’s presentation at Networking Tech Field Day when he announced Junosphere access for all the delegates – after a year of nagging, I would finally be able to touch Junos. However, instead of taking it easy and studying the excellent Junos Day One books (which I also did – if you’re new to Junos you should definitely start there; they are well worth reading), I decided to take a more geeky approach.

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Virtual switches need BPDU guard

An engineer attending my VMware Networking Deep Dive webinar has asked me a tough question that I was unable to answer:

What happens if a VM running within a vSphere host sends a BPDU? Will it get dropped by the vSwitch or will it be sent to the physical switch (potentially triggering BPDU guard)?

I got the answer from visibly harassed Kurt (@networkjanitor) Bales during the Networking Tech Field Day; one of his customers has managed to do just that.

Update 2011-11-04: The post was rewritten based on extensive feedback from Cisco, VMware and numerous readers.

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RFC Tidbit: IPv6 Flow Label

Finally someone decided to make IPv6 flow label useful. First they had to justify why they want to change it, and then modify the definition (way too much work for a field nobody ever used). Planned use is to enhance ECMP load balancing, both in native IPv6 environments (where using the flow label is faster than digging deep into variable-length IPv6 extension headers) and (even more importantly) in tunneled environments, where the flow label propagates the entropy from the tunnel payload into the envelope header.

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OpenFlow Deployment Models

I hope you never believed the “OpenFlow networking nirvana” hype in which smart open-source programmable controllers control dumb low-cost switches, busting the “networking = mainframes” model and bringing the Linux-like golden age to every network. As the debates during the OpenFlow symposium clearly illustrated, the OpenFlow reality is way more complex than it appears at a first glance.

To make it even more interesting, at least four different models for OpenFlow deployment have already emerged:

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