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Blog Posts in July 2012

Is it safe to run Internet in a VRF?

During the February Packet Party someone asked the evergreen question: “Is it safe to run Internet services in a VRF?” and my off-the-cuff answer was (as always) “Doing that will definitely consume more memory than having the Internet routes in the global routing table.” After a few moments Derick Winkworth looked into one of his routers and confirmed the difference is huge ... but then he has a very special setup, so I decided to do a somewhat controlled test.

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Virtualized Squashed Complexity Sausage

Straight from RFC 6670 (section 3.4):

[...] as is usually the case with communications technologies, simplification in one element of the system introduces an increase (possibly a non-linear one) in complexity elsewhere. This creates the "squashed sausage" effect, where reduction in complexity at one place leads to significant increase in complexity at a remote location.

This is probably the most concise description of the great idea of using long-distance vMotion for “mission-critical” craplications, and applies equally well to the kludges used to compensate the simplicity of virtual switches.

VMware buys Nicira: a Hypervisor Vendor Woke Up

Almost a year ago, I predicted that eventually the hypervisor vendors will wake up and realize it’s time to get rid of VLANs and decouple virtual networks from the physical world. We’ve got the first glimpse of the brave new world a few weeks after that post was published with the VXLAN launch, but that was still a Cisco’s solution running on top of VMware’s (and now everyone else’s) hypervisor. The recent VMware’s acquisition of Nicira proves that VMware finally woke up big time.

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The Difference between Metro Ethernet and Stretched Data Center Subnets

Every time I rant about large-scale bridging and stretched L2 subnets, someone inevitably points out that Carrier (or Metro) Ethernet works perfectly fine using the same technologies and principles.

I won’t spend any time on the “perfectly fine” part (Greg Ferro had a lot to say about that in the early Packet Pushers podcasts), but focus on the fundamental difference between the two: the use case.

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BGP route replication in MPLS/VPN PE-routers

Whenever I’m explaining MPLS/VPN technology, I recommend using the same route targets (RT) and route distinguishers (RD) in all VRFs belonging to the same simple VPN. The Single RD per VPN recommendation doesn’t work well for multi-homed sites, so one might wonder whether it would be better to use a different RD in every VRF. The RD-per-VRF design also works, but results in significantly increased memory usage on PE-routers.

2012-07-24: Updated the conclusions based on feedback from nosx

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Long-Distance Workload Mobility in Perspective

In a recent blog post, Chuck Hollis described how some of EMC customers use long-distance workload mobility. Not surprisingly, he focused on the VPLEX Metro part of the solution and didn’t even mention the earth-flattening requirements this idea imposes on the network. I guess you already know my views on that topic, but regardless of my personal opinions, he got me curious.

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Analyst-driven IPv6 deployment

Straight from the rumor mill (source, translated):

One of German ISPs is actually quite busy rolling out IPv6 after their CFO got a call from a stock analyst right during the RIPE meeting, asking questions “so what are your IPv6 plans?” – “none, what is IPv6?” – “oh, this is not so good”… full panic down the management chain…

Proves the everlasting wisdom from Martin Levy (source, the rest of article is not worth reading):

You can either do a planned, careful migration, or you can do it in a panic. And you should know full well that panicking is more expensive.

Just in case you’ll be pushed into the panic mode: my webinars include intro for enterprises, intro for service providers and in-depth design/deployment webinar.

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Does CPU-based forwarding performance matter for SDN?

David Le Goff sent me several great SDN-related questions. Here’s the first one:

What is your take on the performance issue with software-based equipment when dealing with general purpose CPU only? Do you see this challenge as a hard stop to SDN business?

Short answer (as always) is it depends. However, I think most people approach this issue the wrong way.

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Legacy Protocols in OpenFlow-Based Networks

This post is probably a bit premature, but I’m positive your CIO will get a visit from a vendor offering clean-slate OpenFlow/SDN-based data center fabrics in not so distant future. At that moment, one of the first questions you should ask is “how well does your new wonderland integrate with my existing network?” or more specifically “which L2 and L3 protocols do you support?

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Could MPLS-over-IP replace VXLAN or NVGRE?

A lot of engineers are concerned with what seems to be frivolous creation of new encapsulation formats supporting virtual networks. While STT makes technical sense (it allows soft switches to use existing NIC TCP offload functionality), it’s harder to figure out the benefits of VXLAN and NVGRE. Scott Lowe wrote a great blog post recently where he asked a very valid question: “Couldn’t we use MPLS over GRE or IP?” We could, but we wouldn’t gain anything by doing that.

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