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Building network automation solutions

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We need both OpenFlow and NETCONF

Every time I write about a simple use case that could benefit from OpenFlow, I invariably get a comment along the lines of “you can do that with NETCONF”. Repeated often enough, such comments might make an outside observer believe you don’t need OpenFlow for Software Defined Networking (SDN), which is simply not true. Here are at least three fundamental reasons why that’s the case.

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NETCONF = Expect on steroids

After the initial explosion of OpenFlow/SDN hype, a number of people made claims that OpenFlow is not the tool one can use to make SDN work, and NETCONF is commonly mentioned as an alternative (not surprisingly, considering that both Cisco IOS and Junos support it). Unfortunately, considering today’s state of NETCONF, nothing can be further from the truth.

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Does TRILL make sense at all?

It’s clear that major hypervisor vendors consider MAC-over-IP to be the endgame for virtual networking; they’re still squabbling about the best technology and proper positioning of bits in various headers, but the big picture is crystal-clear. Once they get there (solving “a few” not-so-trivial problems on the way), and persuade everyone to use virtual appliances, the network will have to provide seamless IP transport, nothing more.

At that moment, large-scale bridging will finally become a history (until the big layer pendulum swings again) and one has to wonder whether there’s any data center future for TRILL, SPB, FabricPath and other vendor-specific derivatives.

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BGP operations and security, second draft

Jerome has just published the second version of our BGP operations and security Internet draft. Most of the typos and obvious blunders have been fixed (or so we hope) and we’ve incorporated numerous comments received online or during the Paris IETF meeting. Feedback is (as always) highly welcome.

The latest draft is available here.

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Hybrid OpenFlow, the Brocade Way

A few days after Brocade unveiled its SDN/OpenFlow strategy, Katie Bromley organized a phone call with Keith Stewart who kindly explained to me some of the background behind their current OpenFlow support. Apart from the fact that it runs on the 100GE adapters, the most interesting part is their twist on the hybrid OpenFlow deployment.

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Cisco ONE: More than just OpenFlow/SDN

As expected, Cisco launched its programmable networks strategy (Cisco Open Networking Environment – ONE) at Cisco Live US ... and as we all hoped, it was more than just OpenFlow support on Nexus 3000. It was also totally different from the usual we support OpenFlow on our gear me-too announcements we’ve seen in the last few months.

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Big Switch and Overlay Networks

A few days ago Big Switch announced they’ll support overlay networks in their upcoming software release. After a brief “told you so” moment (because virtual networks in physical devices don’t scale all that well) I started wondering whether they simply gave up and decided to become a Nicira copycat, so I was more than keen to have a brief chat with Kyle Forster (graciously offered by Isabelle Guis).

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QFabric Lite

QFabric from Juniper is probably the best data center fabric architecture (not implementation) I’ve seen so far – single management plane, implemented in redundant controllers, and distributed control plane. The “only” problem it had was that it was way too big for data centers that most of us are building (how many times do you need 6000 10GE ports?). Juniper just solved that problem with a scaled-down version of QFabric, officially named QFX3000-M.

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OpenFlow/SDN is not a silver bullet

Last autumn Todd Hoff (the author of the fantastic High Scalability blog) asked me to write a short article explaining the scalability challenges SDN and OpenFlow in particular might be facing. It took me “a while”, but I finally got it done – the OpenFlow/SDN Is Not a Silver Bullet for Network Scalability article was published last Monday.

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Choose your networking equipment with RIPE-554

In case the industry press hasn’t told you yet, tomorrow is the World IPv6 Launch day. While the obstinate naysayers will still claim IPv6 doesn’t matter (but then there are people believing in flat Earth being ~6000 years old and riding on a stack of turtles), the rest of us should be prepared to enable IPv6 when needed … and it all starts with the networking equipment that supports IPv6 and has IPv6 performance that has at least the same order of magnitude as the IPv4 performance.

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