Neutron, the open-source project for networking in OpenStack environments, continues to find a niche. But it’s becoming clear that users are looking to a wide range of commercial products to implement software-defined networking (SDN).
Neutron provides popular network virtualization (NV) features IT organizations plan to use for OpenStack. These include software load balancing, distributed virtual routing, DNS resolution, and high-availability routing using technology such as Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP).
But, while a survey of 145 IT managers conducted by the OpenStack Foundation finds that each of those capabilities is in demand by 40 to 50 percent of the respondents, usage of other Neutron components falls off sharply. That would suggest that, though the robustness of the much maligned NV component of OpenStack has clearly improved, Neutron still has a long way to go before gaining parity with commercial NV platforms.
Neutron Networking and Overlays
There’s no shortage of network overlay platforms for OpenStack environments. Vendors looking to add value by plugging into Neutron include Midokura, Cisco, Juniper Networks, and PLUMgrid.
VMware’s NSX platform is also being used with OpenStack, even though the theory was that OpenStack would compete with VMware by replacing proprietary VMware software with cheaper open source modules. VMware NSX software is widely used in networking environments that have deployed both OpenStack and VMware. The reason may be that users find proprietary software more robust and easier to integrate into more complex environments.
“There are many organizations already running NSX today,” says Brad Casemore, an industry analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC). “When it comes to network virtualization and OpenStack, you have to think in terms of greenfield and brownfield opportunities.”
VMware recently went a step further to differentiate NSX by acquiring Arkin Net, a provider of a policy-based security framework that plugs directly into NSX. Milin Desai, vice president of product management for NSX at VMware, says the primary value that Arkin Net adds from a security perspective is that it visualizes vulnerabilities in a software-defined data center environment running VMware using metadata generated by NSX.
“Arkin Net pulls metadata from NSX,” says Desai. “That gives Arkin Net complete visibility into the data center from a security perspective.”
Proprietary Platforms Still Strong
Naturally, some consolidation across the network virtualization category might be overdue. At the same time, however, many of the startups competing in this category continue to pick up additional funding. Midokura recently secured $20 million in funding. While Midokura is fairly well known in OpenStack circles, Midokura CEO Dan Mihai Dumitriu says that, after 10 years of effort, OpenStack has been something of a disappointment. Midokura will continue to support OpenStack, but Dumitriu says in the future more emphasis will be placed on providing a network overlay spanning multiple types of virtual machines and emerging container platforms.
“Most of Neutron is still not being used in production environments,” says Dumitriu. “We’ll be looking to expand to other operating environments such as container-as-a-service.”
In the meantime, IT organizations would be well advised to consider their options based on the number of greenfield and brownfield applications they need to support and the complexity of their overall IT environments. There’s no doubt there is more pressure to respond faster to greenfield application requirements. But, inevitably, those new applications need to connect to legacy applications. The real challenge is finding a heterogeneous approach to network virtualization that balances the needs of both.