IBM DOVE Takes Flight with New SDN Overlay, Fixes VXLAN Scaling Issues

IBM DOVE Takes Flight with SDN VE, Network Overlay

IBM today announced a new software solution that provides scalable overlays via SDN technology based on IBM’s DOVE (Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet) architecture. Replacing the DOVE name, IBM’s Software Defined Network for Virtual Environments (SDN VE) is a virtual overlay network solution that is supposed to provide for faster provisioning and more scalable virtual networks. IBM SDN VE uses a modified version of VXLAN as the overlay encapsulation, allowing for up to 16M distinct networks, and appears to be compatible with existing VXLAN-enabled networking infrastructure.  SDN VE is primarily a control plane architecture that is not dependent on multicast for address learning, thus addressing one of the biggest knocks against VXLAN today.

SDN VE provides the following main solution components:

  • Virtual switch which resides inside every hypervisor which is part of the virtual network and represents the termination point of a virtual network. The vSwitch uses the VXLAN frame format over UDP to create a layer 2 and layer 3 virtualized network. Handles control plane functions for VM addressing, migration and network policy configuration.
  • Connectivity server that mitigates the multicast requirement for VXLAN and provides VM address dissemination  all virtual switches that are part of virtual network
  • Gateway that allows communication with non-virtual networks and physical devices
  • Management console to manage the VE

What this means:

  • IBM now has a virtual overlay solution (similar to what VMware provides with VXLAN, and Nicira’s STT) using their virtual switch that is compatible with VXLAN
  • IBM didn’t mention OpenFlow, which probably means that their virtual switch does not yet have support for OpenFlow and instead uses proprietary programmatic APIs to configure the virtual networks
  • We now have a more scalable commercial VXLAN solution that is not dependent on multicast for learning, which is interesting but we haven’t yet seen any large-scale VXLAN deployments

For further insight into IBM’s view on network virtualization in general and APIs for management, check out Vijoy Pandey’s (CTO, IBM’s Network OS)  new post.

Original Press Release Follows:

IBM Advances Software Defined Environment with Solution that Boosts Overall Network Performance, Scalability, and Management

New virtual overlay extends network intelligence and provides cloud-level scalability for all enterprises

ARMONK, N.Y. – 26 Mar 2013: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today strengthened its commitment to helping customers reap the benefits of the Software Defined Environment with the launch of new software that makes it easier for organizations to set up, manage and scale virtual networks for faster delivery of cloud, analytics, mobile and social business services.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is an approach to network design and management that moves the control of network switches – which forward data through an enterprise – from the switches to an extensible software platform with open interfaces. By doing so, administrators can easily manage and change the priorities of switches remotely to accelerate, moderate or block certain types of data from flowing through their network. The result is greater enterprise performance, scalability and security.

The IBM Software Defined Network for Virtual Environments (SDN VE) is a virtual overlay network solution that automates and speeds the process of setting up such SDN networks. In addition, SDN VE enables network administrators to speed up traditionally time-consuming tasks such as network provisioning from days to hours.

“Our vision of the Software Defined Environment is one of an intelligent data-driven ecosystem that is easily managed and scaled to meet ever-changing market demands,” said Dr. Inder Gopal, IBM vice president of System Networking Development. “The SDN VE is a solid, necessary step toward that future.”

In addition to management and provisioning, the IBM SDN VE, which is based on IBM’s DOVE (Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet) architecture, automates network virtualization. While servers and storage systems have supported virtualization capabilities for years, network virtualization is becoming increasingly critical for faster delivery of cloud, Big Data analytics, mobile and social business services. Cloud service providers in particular are turning to SDN to better cope with changing market economies, increase agility and improve multi-tenant security, while significantly reducing costs and complexities along the way.

Media Contact(s)

Maxine Bingham
IBM Media Relations
(831) 425-1084(831) 425-1084

Mike Zimmerman
IBM Media Relations
(585) 698-9974(585) 698-9974


  1. Rakesh Saha says

    Hi Roy,

    Just wanted to let you know that IBM SDN VE uses exact VXLAN frame format. The control plane is IBM’s own.

    Rakesh Saha
    Director Product Management
    IBM System Networking

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