Alcatel-Lucent is setting up its OmniSwitch enterprise switches to be a stepping stone toward software-defined networking (SDN) — and doing some catching up on the network virtualization front as well.
The new features, being announced today, are collectively called the Intelligent Fabric, and they’re part of the Application Fluent Network concept AlcaLu has been pushing since 2010. The theme of AFN was to make the network application-aware.
Today, that’s about as unusual as putting gluten-free items on a restaurant menu. AlcaLu thinks AFN is still relevant, though, as a conduit for the mid-sized enterprises that need more agile networks, but don’t want to leap to SDN quite yet.
Intelligent Fabric, in that sense, includes automation features that prepare the enterprise for that eventual SDN deployment. Most of these features are becoming increasingly commonplace, such as automatic configuration of switches as they’re added to the network.
One of the more novel features is the ability to peer into a VXLAN tunnel and even apply quality-of-service (QoS) within the tunnel. “Before, if a VM was inside a VXLAN, we couldn’t see it,” says Heitor Faroni, an AlcaLu director of marketing.
The Intelligent Fabric can also auto-configure a virtual machine as it’s spun up, assigning it a virtual network profile: QoS and security rules telling the network how to treat a VM’s traffic.
AlcaLu expects the OmniSwitches to participate in full SDN deployments as well. To that end, it has completed interoperability testing with NEC’s ProgrammableFlow, a pairing the companies plan to show off next week at Interop.
The Intelligent Fabric features are available as a software upgrade on AlcaLu’s entire OmniSwitch 6900 and 10000 families — except for the OmniSwitch 6900 Q32, which is based on new hardware and is also being announced today.
New Hardware for OmniSwitch
Speaking of the OmniSwitch 6900 Q32…
With that switch, Alcatel-Lucent is finally joining the virtual tunnel endpoint (VTEP) crowd. It’s a fancy term for a router or switch that can create or terminate a tunnel based on encapsulation protocols VXLAN, NVGRE, Geneve, and so on.
Many major switch vendors announced VTEPs almost two years ago, when VMware launched NSX. Note, however, that the switches mentioned in that link weren’t available at that moment; most vendors had to wait for general availability of the Broadcom Trident II chip, the first of the Trident family to include hardware support for VXLAN.
AlcaLu is now following suit with the Q32, its first switch based on the Trident II. It’s able to create and terminate VXLAN tunnels, and it could theoretically do the same for other tunneling protocols such as NVGRE or Geneve, but the software to do so hasn’t been activated in the Q32 yet, says Edgard Vargas, Alcatel-Lucent’s director of product management.