Embrane Creates a Cargo Container for SDN

Embrane SDN

Embrane is claiming it’s got a better way to let operators treat the software-defined networking (SDN) pieces of a service or service chain as one thing.

The idea is that the pieces of a virtualized service — a firewall, for instance — get treated as a unit, one that can include multiple virtual appliances and any connections between them.

It’s part of a larger parcel of announcements Embrane is making Monday. The overall message is about the structure of what Embrane is doing — namely, using Layer 3 overlays to connect network elements.

All along, Embrane has touted itself as a Layer 4-7 player in software-defined networking (SDN). The company is now using that position as a way to emphasize its closeness to the applications — meaning, Embrane is saying it’s working on “application-centric networking” as opposed to being just obsessed with connectivity.

“It was clear the biggest pain point was the lack of relationship between applications and infrastructure — more specifically, between applications and networking,” says Dante Malagrinò, Embrane’s CEO. Embrane is claiming to have developed a better approach towards mixing the two.

Wrapping an SDN Container

Embrane calls its SDN platform heleos (no capital “H”), and starting today, it includes the ability to connect elements via Layer 3 point-to-point links called vLinks. All the vLinks make up with Embrane calls a vTopology (and to paraphrase Fred Armisen, maybe there’s also a vGenie that grants you three vWishes).

What’s interesting is what you do with the whole package. A collection of these links and topologies, and the elements they’re binding, can be dropped into one ESM Project, a container that’s treated as one item in the network. “To put it in SDN lingo, it’s one API call,” Malagrinò says.

The idea came to light because customers’ discussions about “cloud” weren’t going anywhere, he says. Customers liked to talk about clouds, but the need they were really describing was more of an application container. It gives them an easier way to connect services that might reside in different clouds, for example.

An entire service chain could be put into one such container, theoretically, as a template that could be inserted into networks at will. Providing connectivity to this service chain would theoretically be simple — an operator would just create connections into the proper container.

On Clouds, OpenStack Neutron, and IPv6

Embrane’s announcement includes a few other items, including:

  • The company is announcing its first enterprise customer, Ryan Labs, after spending a year focusing on the service-provider market.  “Our belief is that there is an enterprise play. You just have to know what the play is,” Malagrinò says. Ryan Labs is using heleos for automated deployment of firewalls and VPNs.
  • A plug-in for OpenStack Neutron, which means Embrane’s software structures can get inserted into OpenStack environments.
  • Full IPv6 support, meaning you could use Embrane’s software to create mini-overlays of IPv6 on top of an IPv4 network. This isn’t a feature Embrane plans to emphasize, but it’s a way to slowly migrate to IPv6. Taken to an extreme, it almost sounds like it could be a way to delay IPv6 migration indefinitely — but that’s really not something Embrane wants to emphasize.

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