Blog Posts in September 2013

OpenFlow and Fermi Estimates

Fast advances in networking technologies (and the pixie dust sprinkled on them) blinded us – we lost our gut feeling and rule-of-thumb. Guess what, contrary to what we love to believe, networking isn’t unique. Physicists faced the same challenge for a long time; one of them was so good that they named the whole problem category after him.

Every time someone tries to tell you what your problem is, and how their wonderful new gizmo will solve it, it’s time for another Fermi estimate.

read more see 5 comments

Configure physical firewalls based on VM groups? Sure, use DSE from Plexxi

Plexxi has an interesting problem. They have a shiny new solution that requires unorthodox approaches to network forwarding and allows them to implement potentially cool concepts like affinities (traffic engineering in disguise). They also need to sell these new concepts to the customers, and the first question I would ask after recovering from a hefty dose of cool-aid is "and how do I configure these affinities?"

read more see 1 comments

Layer-2 Extension (OTV) Use Cases

I was listening to the fantastic OTV Deep Dive PQ Packet Pushers podcast while biking around the wonderful Slovenian forests. They started the podcast by discussing OTV use cases, Ethan throwing in long-distance vMotion (the usual long-distance L2 extension selling point), but refreshingly some of the engineers said “well, that’s not really the use case we see in real life.”

So what were the use cases they were mentioning?

read more see 7 comments

Test virtual appliance throughput with Spirent Avalanche NEXT

During the Networking Tech Field Day 6 Spirent showed us Avalanche NEXT – another great testing tool that generates up to 10Gbps of perfectly valid application-level traffic that you can push through your network devices to test their performance, stability or impact of feature mix on maximum throughput.

Not surprisingly, as soon as they told us that you could use Avalanche NEXT to replay captured traffic we started getting creative ideas.

read more see 2 comments

Migrating a cold VM into a foreign subnet

Moving a running VM into a foreign subnet is Mission Impossible due to stale ARP entries (anyone telling you otherwise is handwaving over a detail or two - maybe their VM doesn't communicate with other VMs in the same subnet), but it's entirely feasible to migrate a cold VM into a foreign subnet if you can fix IP routing. Here's how you can do the trick with Enterasys switches.

add comment

How Much Data Center Bandwidth Do You Really Need?

Networking vendors are quick to point out how the opaqueness (read: we don’t have the HW to look into it) of overlay networks presents visibility problems and how their favorite shiny gizmo (whatever it is) gives you better results (they usually forget to mention the lock-in that it creates).

Now let’s step back and ask a fundamental question: how much bandwidth do we need?

read more see 6 comments

Why Is Network Virtualization So Hard?

We’ve been hearing how the networking is the last bastion of rigidity in the wonderful unicorn-flavored virtual world for the last few years. Let’s see why it’s so much harder to virtualize the networks as opposed to compute or storage capacities (side note: it didn’t help that virtualization vendors had no clue about networking, but things are changing).

read more see 4 comments

Sooner or Later, Someone Will Pay for the Complexity of the Kludges You Use

I loved listening to OTV/FabricPath/LISP Packet Pushers podcast. Ron Fuller and Russ White did a great job explaining the role of OTV, FabricPath and LISP in a stretched (inter-DC) subnet deployment scenario and how the three pieces fit together … but I couldn't stop wondering whether there is a better method to solve the underlying business need than throwing three new pretty complex technologies and associated equipment (or VDC contexts or line cards) into the mix.

read more see 16 comments

Extending Layer-2 Connection into a Cloud

Carlos Asensio was facing an “interesting” challenge: someone has sold a layer-2 extension into their public cloud to one of the customers. Being a good engineer, he wanted to limit the damage the customer could do to the cloud infrastructure and thus immediately rejected the idea to connect the customer straight into the layer-2 network core ... but what could he do?

read more see 9 comments

The Plexxi Challenge (or: Don’t Blame the Tools)

Plexxi has an incredibly creative data center fabric solution: they paired data center switching with CWDM optics, programmable ROADMs and controller-based traffic engineering to get something that looks almost like distributed switched version of FDDI (or Token Ring for the FCoTR fans). Not surprisingly, the tools we use to build traditional networks don’t work well with their architecture.

In a recent blog post Marten Terpstra hinted at shortcomings of Shortest Path First (SPF) approach used by every single modern routing algorithm. Let’s take a closer look at why Plexxi’s engineers couldn’t use SPF.

read more see 10 comments

Combining DMVPN with Existing MPLS/VPN Network

One of the Expert Express sessions focused on an MPLS/VPN-based WAN network using OSPF as the routing protocol. The customer wanted to add DMVPN-based backup links and planned to retain OSPF as the routing protocol. Not surprisingly, the initial design had all sorts of unexpectedly complex kludges (see the case study for more details).

Having a really smart engineer on the other end of the WebEx call, I had to ask a single question: “Why don’t you use BGP everywhere” and after a short pause got back the expected reply “wow… now it all makes sense.”

see 7 comments