[Editor’s note: Curt is an extended member of the Wiretap/SDNCentral family and graciously agreed to help us cover ONS while Matt and Roy were fulfilling multiple duties at ONS 2013 on Wednesday. If you haven’t read the post from Tuesday yet, check out the highlights from Tuesday first. ]
“Virtual Application Network Innovations: Advanced SDN leadership” by Bethany Mayer (SVP and General Manager, Networking Business Unit at HP)
Bethany delivered a confident, almost leisurely-feeling presentation about HP’s view of SDN. She coined a new term, “human middleware,” to talk about how SDN will help make configuring networks easier. Along the way she mentioned that HP has shipped 15 M OpenFlow-enabled ports and offers 29 OF-enabled switches. Bethany paused to make the point that “overlays are not SDN, they are an application of SDN.” To those who know SDNs well, this felt like a swipe at VMware’s NSX, and caused Bruce Davie from VMware to directly respond later in the day (see below). Bethany stressed that HP will continue to innovate around hardware / ASICs, and that they are in over 60 beta trials with their Virtual Application Networks SDN Controller.
Bethany then handed the stage to Greg Bell, who runs the network at Ballarat Grammar School in Australia. He serves over 1400 students and 200 staff members. Greg gave a pretty vivid account of deploying HP’s Sentinel security SDN application. He was able to thwart various malware threats and even block Facebook during the day “to help keep our students and faculty focused on their work,” which got a good laugh. At the end, one questioner from Cisco panned HP’s “only 60 customers in over 5 years” as “slow growth.” Bethany served up a WWF-style smack-down, correcting him with “that’s 60 beta customers since October, my friend.” The questioner clearly didn’t do himself (or Cisco) any favors. Although Bethany’s talk was still pretty vendor / product focused, it was thankfully more subtle than some of the heavy-handed product pitches we’ve seen at this year’s ONS. A richly described SDN use case, delivered by an actual customer, is how marketing should be done in 2013.
“Transforming Networks with NFV & SDN” by Rose Schooler (VP, Intel Architecture Group and GM, Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group at Intel)
Rose took the stage and delivered a fairly intense talk, opening and closing with an homage to Andy Grove. The inspirational approach was refreshing, and she challenged the audience to think: “Are you the disruptor or the disruptee?” Rose boiled SDN and NFV down into “saving money, making money,” stating that we’re at a new inflection point in the infrastructure markets. She focused on openness and the need for a unified control plane across physical and virtual networks, agreeing with Bethany (HP) that more than overlays are needed to spur infrastructure innovation in a mild swipe at VMware. During the main part of her talk, Rose made 3 announcements (finally, some news!):
- Open Networking Platform Switch: a switching platform reference design based on Intel chips and software intended help product companies build new kinds of infrastructure using open and SDN approaches.
- Data Plane Development Kit: a software package that works with Open vSwitch and helps engineers with low-level operations (memory, queues) and small packet performance. Their acceleration targets are 10x for physical port-to-port switching and 5x for VM-to-VM.
- Open Networking Platform Server: an x86 server reference design that combines the above hardware and software packages to enable creation of virtual appliances or similar products.
See Intel’s press release for more information. Rose brought Allwyn Sequeira, VP/CTO of Security and Networking at VMware, on the stage to talk about their ongoing collaboration. Allwyn talked about the NSX platform, and emphasized decoupling networking from the underlying hardware to “abstract, pool, and automate” network resources like virtualized servers. NSX relies on overlays, but the word wasn’t used directly, which was interesting given Rose’s earlier comments. Prodip Sen, Director of Network Architecture at Verizon also joined for a few minutes to talk about their collaboration on a cloud bursting use case. This and the other use cases mentioned were short on details of actual benefits, but Rose mentioned that they are still getting back hard data.
Plenary session: SDN for Service Providers, Part 1
“OpenFlow / SDN Activities of NTT Communications” by Yukio Ito (SVP, Communications at NTT and member of the ONF Board)
Ito-san’s talk outlined ways NTT that is using SDN in their network today. The first was about providing inter-data center connectivity using a world-wide network (mostly in Asia, but a few sites in the U.S. and U.K). The network supported enterprise cloud backup services, and a portal enabled users to boost traffic speeds from 10 Mbps to 500Mbps in real-time. The second use case automated cloud interconnects using VPNs. Self-provisioning was highlighted as a key benefit of SDN. Ito-san talked freely about the challenges they faced, from a lack of functionality in OF 1.0 (missing controller redundancy) and switch chip limitations (flow table size) to disappointing commercial products. NTT was forced to do their own development and he called for more carrier-grade products. They plan to push SDN into all layers of the network, including optical transport.
“Service Provider SDN Meets Operator Challenges” by Dr. Jan Haglund (VP, Product Area IP & Broadband at Ericsson) and Dr. Frank Ruhl of Telstra
Jan and Frank started by presenting the significant challenges that SPs face. Traffic is forecast to rise by 3x, but it is impossible for Telstra to spend that much on CapEx since revenues are growing slowly. In short, they have to build networks in new ways and network architectures & technologies must change as well. Ericsson and Telstra see value in SDNs across the entire SP network, from the access and aggregation to the core and data centers. Their joint development includes an Ericsson SDN application, available in Q4 2013, that will perform virtual aggregation and service chaining. Telstra wants to do fine-grained traffic steering to cost-effectively deliver services customized for each subscriber. It was nice to see and hear another customer on stage talking very specifically about what they want, even if it hasn’t been delivered yet.
“What Will Global Innovators Do With the Next Innovation Platform?” by Dave Lambert (President and CEO at Internet2)
Dave started by introducing Internet2, a nation-wide high-speed (100 Gbps) network operator owned by a consortium of research universities. He set the premise for Internet2 by saying that network services are going to be as different in the future as the current Internet is when compared to networks 25 years ago. Dave’s vision is to “fundamentally transform how we think about network services by creating an at-scale innovation platform.” Internet2 proposes to do this by delivering abundant bandwidth (limited capacity prevents innovation), SDNs (remove roadblocks in proprietary software and devices), and supporting a research community that is on the cutting edge of data intensive science. He highlighted the use case of genomics analysis, where huge gene sequence files are moved around to help find cures for disease. Although the talk and video felt like a commercial at times, it contained inspirational and vision elements that helped balance things out.
Plenary session: SDN for Cloud Data Centers
“SDN in the Public Cloud: Windows Azure” by Albert Greenberg – Partner Development Manager at Microsoft
Albert provided an interesting talk about the virtual networking capabilities of Windows Azure, Microsoft’s big bet on enterprise IaaS announced as generally available on Tuesday. First, some interesting stats: >50% of the Fortune 500 are users at some level, they add 1 K customers per day, now manage > 100 K servers, and are doubling compute & storage capacity every 6-9 months. Thankfully, Albert also presented technical details about how the service actually works – information that was in short supply at ONS this year.
Microsoft’s goal was for Azure to act just like a branch office connected via VPN. It presents policy abstractions to users and has separate management, control, and data planes underneath. Azure is based on home-grown SDN controllers and a network overlay like VMware’s NSX but using NVGRE. Their virtual switch exposes an action table model similar to an extended OF 1.0. Albert also gave some details about how their load balancing service works. I talked to a number of show participants who wanted to see more time devoted to this kind of session – it definitely stood above the crowd, taking a coveted place as one of the best content sessions of the conference.
“Cloud@Ebay” by JC Martin (Distinguished Architect at Ebay)
JC started by candidly talking about Ebay’s efforts to turn around their business and how his team’s contribution was to implement a private cloud that enabled fast and optimal resource sharing. Their data centers relied on the common approach of using physical isolation to run different workloads for different businesses (sometimes even managed by different teams). JC outlined a number of technical approaches they considered before eventually settling on a layer 3 overlay with help from VMware / Nicira. They were able to preserve the isolation while achieving much higher scale and reliability. JC showed an overall architecture diagram and discussed some technical implementation details, but had very limited time. They now use a “class of service” concept to create different kinds of networks based on user’s specific needs. Load balancing and firewalling is not yet virtualized, but they are looking into it. JC related his vivid experience as a real SDN and network virtualization adopter, making it one of the better presentations of the day, content-wise.
“Network Virtualization: Delivering on the Promises of SDN” by Bruce Davie (Principle Engineer at VMware)
After hearing HP and Intel downplay overlay networks in the morning, Bruce took the stage and gave an energetic (even forceful) talk on the relationship between network virtualization (NV) and SDN. He presented his main points right up front: 1) NV is not the same as SDN, 2) You don’t need SDN to deliver NV, and 3) NV delivers on the important promises of SDN today. He stopped short of saying that SDN isn’t needed, although it was implied. Bruce backed up his view with a systematic take-down of recent SDN marketing messages – everything from “vendor choice” and “simplified programmability” to “applications can control the network” and “simpler operations / provisioning.” While he conceded that SDN is more sane for developers, he also claimed that the burden of distributed algorithms has just shifted to controllers, resulting in few real gains (other than access to better CPUs and more memory.)
According to Bruce, what users really want is an NV platform, consisting of an intelligent edge (virtual) switch, distributed controllers, and tunnels that decouple network services from the physical infrastructure – i.e. VMware’s NSX platform (although to his credit, he never said this directly.) He concluded with a few points: that “network overlays solve more problems than they create,” they will enable network service innovation at software speeds, and that NV is its own thing (i.e. it delivers its own value, apart from SDN). Bruce’s message was a well-constructed attack on the alternative product architectures pitched at ONS this year. Whether you agree or not, he made good points if the use case is a large-scale public cloud. The Microsoft and Ebay sessions certainly support his view. But there are definitely limitations to it (overlays in IP core networks anyone? Optical networks?) Without a doubt this was the most confrontational session at ONS, but the substantive content was well appreciated, making it one of the most interesting sessions of the day.
Stay tuned – there’s more to come on the 2nd-half of the day…