Kaloom has developed a software-defined fabric approach for automating the management of white boxes in data center networks. The company said it is trying to minimize the complexity that has developed from recent initiatives that use open source software and white boxes to manage data center costs.
The Kaloom platform includes its software-defined fabric (SDF), virtual router (vRouter), virtual switch (vSwitch), and virtual gateway (vGW). The platform sits between orchestration, an SDN controller, or a spine controller and the application servers or storage servers in a data center. It offloads data plane functions from virtual machines (VMs) and containers to gain throughput and reduce latency.
Thomas Eklund, vice president of marketing and strategy at Kaloom, said the SDF is deployed as a fully containerized networking fabric. It’s integrated into orchestration platforms like Kubernetes using container networking interface (CNI) and OpenStack using a Neutron modular Layer 2 plugin.
The Kaloom SDF allows a physical data center to be virtually partitioned into multiple independent and isolated virtual data centers. Each of these partitioned components includes its own virtual fabric that can host millions of IPv4 or IPv6 tenant networks. Compute and storage resources can be dynamically assigned or removed from each virtual data center using the virtual fabric. This allows for the use of an elastic pool of network resources that can support network slicing.
Eklund said the zero-touch provisioning of the virtual network and components is able to reduce set-up time from several days to minutes. This also allows for the network components to receive automatic updates during runtime.
Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said the container deployment models echoes modern application development techniques.
“You probably hear about other organizations ‘refactoring’ existing or legacy applications to container-based or microservices-based,” Laliberte said of the broader push toward a cloud native model. “It is a differentiator for the company.”
The platform uses Barefoot Networks’ programmable Tofino Ethernet switch. That switch uses the P4 programming language to allow customization.
“In P4 we get things done much faster,” Eklund said. “Barefoot seems to be the best chip today.”
Kaloom CTO Suresh Krishnan mentioned that future versions of the Kaloom SDF will include support for higher layer services (L4-L7) and maintaining the associated state for them. He said that they would be using field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to augment the Barefoot chips for higher layer services, such as application layer load balancers and firewalls, and to provide additional memory access for these higher layer services.
The Kaloom software has been certified to work with networking white boxes from Accton, Delta, and Foxconn. The company is also working with Red Hat to provide a complete platform for enterprises and telecom operators.
In terms of the current ecosystem for white box switches, AT&T made waves this year with its plans to install more than 60,000 open-source white boxes across its network. The carrier said the white boxes are part of a “radical realignment” of its network architecture and key to supporting 5G services.
AT&T more recently gave its network operating system for its white boxes to the Linux Foundation, which turned it into the DANOS open source project. DANOS is the operating system for individual white boxes that make up a network.
In a white paper, AT&T explained that the platform separates a router’s operating system software from the router’s underlying hardware; provides standard interfaces and APIs for a framework within the base operating system, control and management plane, and data planes; and standard interfaces/APIs that provide a clean separation of control plane from data plane.
Krishnan said the company’s approach differs from DANOS because it uses a routing stack with an integrated data plane component in order to provide customers with better performance.
Laliberte noted that while he has not followed the DANOS efforts specifically, he said it was important for platforms like Kaloom to “remain open with its APIs and its ability to connect to orchestration systems and controllers.”