As core network virtualization technologies go, it’s hard to imagine one that is more strategic than Open vSwitch (OVS). OVS is now the network foundation for most VMware environments and deployments of OpenStack. Because of that dual role it’s only natural that OVS would become an open source project managed by The Linux Foundation, which means a new Open vSwitch future is taking shape.
With so many vendors building platforms based on OVS technology that was owned by VMware, there was always going to be some concern over who is setting the OVS agenda. Becoming a Linux Foundation open source project takes that issue off the table.
“We wanted to make the process a little more formal,” says Justin Pettit, a senior staff engineer for VMware. “Customers now don’t have to be worried about being locked into a virtual switch.”
Here Comes OVS 2.6
The new 2.6 version of OVS is due out before the end of the year. Right now one of the biggest OVS priorities is to create an instance of OVS that makes it possible to take advantage of the Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) originally created by Intel. Now available as open source software, DPDK dramatically reduces the number of compute cycles required to send and receive packets using multicore processors.
Another critical capability will be support for the Open Virtual Network (OVN) overlay, which is being advanced as a separate open source project. Designed from the ground up to work on top of OVS, the goal of OVN is to create a cross-platform layer of network virtualization that can run across open source and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines as well as containers. The goal is to spur the adoption of a common layer of network virtualization that can be deployed across multiple types of virtualization environments.
To what degree OVN might usurp existing network overlays remains to be seen. No doubt many of the open source elements of OVN will be packaged into a number of commercially supported offerings. The real challenge, of course, is that there may also be a number of alternatives to OVS in the offing.
Andy Salo, vice president of product management for Inocybe Technologies, a provider of an OpenDaylight controller for building a software-defined network (SDN), addressed the OpenStack East conference last week. He noted that emerging open source technologies such as Neutron ML2, Glueon, FD.io, vector processing packets, and even DPDK itself are all means to develop control and data planes in a virtual network.
“It seems like there are now more open networking projects than there are flavors at Ben & Jerry’s,” says Salo.
Open Source Primordial Soup
Naturally, there will be a lot of cross-fertilization across many of these projects. But out of that primordial soup there may emerge a number of alternatives to OVS. For example, providers of networking overlays for container environments might opt to bypass altogether a technology such as OVS that was originally developed for a virtual machine environment.
That may, however, take time to fully play out. In the meantime, Salo advises IT organizations to just get started on network virtualization projects.
“There’s so much flux, IT teams should just pick a path,” says Salo. “You need to just do it and then be prepared to change.”