One early theme coming from this week’s SDN & OpenFlow World Congress is a desire by vendors to make new technologies accessible to people who aren’t early adopters.
Today, as the conference opens in Dusseldorf, Germany, Dell and HP are each announcing packaged offerings to help the masses get moving with software-defined networking (SDN) and/or network functions virtualization (NFV). Separately, Cumulus‘ latest software update aims to make data center operators more comfortable with adopting bare-metal switching.
Dell Wants to Kickstart NFV
Dell is launching a set of NFV starter kits, trying to spur the market by making NFV available in prepackaged form.
The kits includes:
- Dell’s servers, switches, and storage, as well as some networking in the form of Dell’s Active Fabric Manager and Active Fabric Controller.
- Red Hat‘s Linux OS and OpenStack distribution, drawn from the partnership Dell and Red Hat announced in February. Dell is able to offer other Linux distributions including Ubuntu. The release doesn’t mention the partnership Dell has with Cumulus.
- Data plane acceleration software, as needed — meaning software such as Intel‘s data plane development kit (DPDK). Not all virtual network functions (VNFs) need this part, but two common examples that do are the virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) and virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE), Joshipura says.
The kits will be specific instances of the overall Dell NFV Platform, also being announced today. And of course, Dell pledges to keep that platform open — with open interfaces to other management and orchestration platforms, for instance.
In other words, Dell wants to become the integrator for NFV. Just as Big Switch Networks compares SDN to an Erector set, Dell is saying NFV is emerging as piles of Lego blocks.
Moreover, carriers “still are not clear on who’s going to purchase and deploy” the pieces that make up NFV, says Arpit Joshipura, a Dell VP of marketing. In a traditional organization, IT has the buying power, but the CTO department has the knowledge required to pick what to buy; somehow, these two skill sets have to intersect.
In being an integrator, Dell doesn’t want to upset the system integrators that it already works with. They could still offer the Dell NFV kit and add services on top — OSS integration, for instance — and Dell thinks they’ll be happy with that. “Some integrators do put infrastructure together, but that is mostly on the enterprise side. Carrier integrators forcus on the services,” Joshipura says.
Different varieties of kit are necessary not only because of the variety of VNFs that are emerging, but because carriers aren’t trying to create one monolithic “NFV” deployment. They’re looking at separate NFV platforms for separate functions, Joshipura says.
“A lot of the telcos still think: ‘I will put this one platform in one location, and I will [for instance] just virtualize private lines on it,'” he says “You’re not going to use a single server to do six or seven types of VNF’s, just like today, you’re not using one server to do Hadoop and VNFs. It’s just best practices.”
HP’s SDN Kit
Along similar lines, HP is packaging some of its technologies — including some that appear to be new — into what it’s calling Distributed Cloud Networking (DCN).
DCN consists of:
- HP Virtualized Service Directory, which allows for selection and management of services while keeping them aligned with policies
- HP Distributed Services Controller, the control-plane element of the package
- Virtual routing and switching based on Open vSwitch.
Cumulus and the Bare Metal Gospel
Cumulus, meanwhile, is trying to broaden into the enterprise market with release 2.5 of the Cumulus Linux operating system.
Cumulus started by catering to large cloud providers, customers that relied on Layer 3 networks for scale. The broader market isn’t like that; they prefer Layer 2.
So, Cumulus Linux 2.5 adds Layer 2 features “to let people design networks in the way they’re used to,” says Jason Martin, Cumulus’ head of customer experience. A few of those customers are already running the software in production networks, he says.
The new features are a pragmatic move for Cumulus to expand its market beyond the data center elite. As Martin notes, most organizations can only take so much change in one dose, so if they’re going to make the leap into bare-metal switching, they’re going to want it to fit into whatever networking they do already.
Cumulus is also announcing versions of its OS pre-designed for vSphere, OpenStack, and Apache Hadoop deployments — three of the most common cases Cumulus sees companies building greenfield networks for. These designs come with documentation and training; the packages will be available sometime later this quarter.
Pica8, another company offering software for white box switching, has likewise tried reaching out to the broader market, having announced a white box starter kit in December. And of course, Big Switch is pegging its new business model on bringing bare-metal switching to non-hyperscale customers.
SDNCentral is in Dusseldorf, Germany for the 2014 SDN & OpenFlow World Congress. Check out all our headlines from the show here: SDN & OpenFlow World Congress: The SDNCentral Report