HP’s SDN App Store launched earlier this month, providing a single marketplace for integrated and validated SDN applications and support for the developers who create those apps. We talked to Michael Worlund of KEMP Technologies, one of the inaugural partners for the store, about how KEMP worked with HP to develop an app for the HP SDN App Store. Now a technical director for Kemp, Worlund has been actively researching and working specifically on SDN-related technology since 2010.
What products and solutions does KEMP provide to customers?
Worlund: KEMP develops load balancers and application delivery controllers (ADCs). We are the third largest ADC vendor in North America and the Europe, Middle East, and Asia (EMEA) market by units shipped, and we offer four types of ADC platforms. In a sign of the times, our fastest-growing product is the Virtual LoadMaster, which runs on any of the popular hypervisor releases and is the base platform of our SDN-enabled ADC.
What customer problems does your SDN application solve?
Traditional ADCs and load balancers care only about what they know about: the application service they are load balancing, and the servers those applications reside on. The issue with this is they don’t take into account the performance of the network infrastructure.
In other words, the application and server can be performing fine, but there could be congestion or a failure condition beginning to develop in the network switches feeding that application. This would have a significantly negative effect on the quality of experience for the users of that application, and the ADC wouldn’t know until there was a complete failure.
KEMP has enhanced our LoadMaster ADC by including SDN as a load balancing metric. We call this this new capability “SDN Adaptive,” and it enables better decision-making based not just on the status of the destination application, but also based on the condition of the underlying switched network paths.
What features does the SDN application provide?
With SDN Adaptive, LoadMaster ADC pulls the switch statistics via the Statistics API in the controller and parses for specific congestion and error conditions for the switch ports the ADC is load balancing through. If there are congestion thresholds beginning to be reached, or errors beginning to increase on a port or ports, the Load Master ADC will dynamically adjust the weight for the related application service and will not send flows to that service until the condition clears.
This is a great benefit to users of those application services, as they will always experience the best response times possible from the application and won’t experience an outage of that application as a result of the SDN infrastructure or the service itself.
How is this different from existing approaches? What role does SDN play in this new app approach?
The ability for SDN to have a broad view of the switch infrastructure is key to the added capability in the LoadMaster platform. Many SDN controllers offer a RESTful interface to statistics on any connected switch that can be queried by network entities that normally would not have any visibility on Layer 2 or Layer 3 stats. For these higher level network entities like load balancers, this additional data improves the traffic-forwarding decision-making process and ultimately improves network performance and resilience.
As the capabilities of SDN continue to expand, KEMP will further enhance its SDN Adaptive technology to take advantage of them and provide an even better quality of experience for our users.
Why did you pick the HP VAN SDN platform to develop on?
KEMP chose the HP VAN Controller to interact with because it was the furthest along as a complete solution at the time we evaluated the various offerings. Also, HP has been stressing openness and the importance of the partner ecosystem. They’ve been able to deliver on this message, and the company has been a very good partner to work with.
What was your experience working with HP while developing the application?
HP has been messaging the importance of a strong partner ecosystem and how the partner applications are really the strength of a complete SDN solution. They also stress the importance of being as open as possible to ensure interoperability between applications and various infrastructure vendor solutions. So far, HP has been true to this messaging. They’ve been very supportive and have delivered on the commitments they made to the partners.
What other applications do you see as being interesting to the SDN app world?
Without giving up too much information, I see quality of service (QoS) as an integral piece of SDN, and I feel security is a huge hill still left to climb with regard to SDN. There are several vendors messaging their DDoS solutions for SDN, but I think we are only at a starting point for security.
There is a lot more that needs to be done to ease the minds of weary customers that have been struggling with securing their traditional networks — networks they already understand and are familiar with. Convincing customers that they can move to SDN and have a “more secure” network is still a bit of a stretch today.
What would your advice be to other potential application developers?
I would suggest developers exercise a cautiously optimistic approach to developing for SDN. I truly believe, now more than ever, that SDN will succeed and be widely deployed in some form over the next several years. But there is still room for things to evolve, so I would tell people to develop with an open perspective. Don’t lock into a specific platform or language that won’t provide you the flexibility to adapt to other platforms or strategies.
For instance, we consciously decided to develop outside the controller, and without OpenFlow. We made this decision to avoid having to recode our platform to Java and to avoid having to make other changes if OpenFlow significantly changed from 1.1 on, or worse yet, was abandoned altogether.
For more about this application and the rest of the ecosystem please visit HP SDN App Store