Thought we were done talking about tunneling protocols? Ha!
Pica8 is adding a new one — actually, a very old one — to its network OS for white boxes today: labeled BGP, which takes advantage of the BGP routing and MPLS tunneling that are already widespread in carrier networks.
Yes, this arrives after the issue of tunneling was supposedly settled. After a brief period of working with two awfully similiar standards — VXLAN and NVGRE — the industry last year seemed to have settled on Geneve, a superset protocol that puts a common wrapper around both. Networking software can now be written to talk to Geneve, without caring whether it’s VXLAN or NVGRE that’s doing the tunneling.
Labeled BGP doesn’t fit under the Geneve umbrella. It represents an entirely different option.
But Pica8 didn’t do this just for laughs. As often happens in the tech industry, customers asked for the feature.
Labeled BGP it’s exactly a hot water-cooler topic. (I’d never encountered the phrase before last week.) That’s partly because it’s so old — older than SDN, even older than Myspace. The IETF request for comments (RFC) dates back to 2001, when the standard was proposed by Juniper and Cisco.
Really, it’s MPLS tunneling. In labeled BGP, the well known BGP routing protocol performs control-plane signaling at Layer 3, using MPLS to create tunnels in Layer 2. VXLAN and its ilk also create Layer 2 tunnels, so the end result is in the same ballpark.
Here’s the appeal: Some service providers are already using labeled BGP in their networks, implemented in Cisco and Juniper edge routers. They’ve told Pica8 that they like the idea of moving it into the data center as well, rather than having to learn about VXLAN or Geneve.
“The service provider is just like any IT organization. If they have something they can use in a new way, that’s a better path for them than trying something new and figuring out what they can use it for,” says Steve Garrison, Pica8 vice president of marketing.
Pica8’s labeled BGP is in proofs-of-concept including one with a webscale provider and another with a mid-sized service provider, Garrison says.