SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Tom Nolle | August 13, 2012 |

 
   

Is Virtual Networking Really New Networking?

Is Virtual Networking Really New Networking? To really revolutionalize networking, virtual networks need to be an underlay or an inlay, not just another type of overlay.

To really revolutionalize networking, virtual networks need to be an underlay or an inlay, not just another type of overlay.

The purchase of Nicira by VMware has led to a lot of predictions that the emergence of virtual networking will cut the heart out of network vendors like Cisco. There's no question that a lot of the speculation is an outgrowth of the desire to be exciting or controversial, but down deep inside this issue is there a speck of reality? Could virtual networking really change things?

Most of the stuff we call virtual networking today is really little more than a retread on some older concepts--tunnels or pseudowires. You can create a virtual path over almost any Level 2 (Ethernet) or Level 3 (IP) protocol, and these virtual paths can "look" to devices or software like physical links. That means that routing or switching logic can use them as trunks and you can create a kind of piggyback network on top of the real one.

That "on top of" point is the critical one here. In order to create a tunnel you need a network to tunnel over, and that means switches or routers. By themselves, overlay networks really just let you tweak connectivity, meaning that you can build "sub-networks" that offer services to a subset of the real network’s connective community. You can't replace those real networks or add QoS or other capabilities to them, because you're just a user, an overlay.

But you don't have to build on top, and that’s the real story of virtual networking. Suppose for a moment that you could create an entirely new OSI layer, that I'll call "Fithernet" for "Fiber/Ethernet", combining Layer 1 and Layer 2. Since we're inventing this layer, we can give it features, right? We'll call the gadgets that create this unified layer "Fitherswitches". OK, we'll say that this new layer offers Fitherpipes that can represent optical paths or electrical subsets of those optical paths--a combination of Layer 2 tunnels and Layer 1 optical wavelengths, for example. Suppose we can manipulate those Fitherswitches easily with software, setting Fitherpipes up, tearing them down, switching in a new one if an old one breaks. A carrier or an enterprise could, in theory, build an entire network core out of Fitherswitches, a core that recovered from failures by switching a Fitherpipe to a new path if the old one failed. And it looks to current networks like the physical layer--in part, because it includes the physical layer.

This new layer could wind up co-opting the current gear or rendering it obsolete. All network resiliency is limited by the redundancy of physical facilities, and if our Fitherpipes exercise facility resiliency fully, then this new Fithernet is as reliable as anything that could be created at the higher layers, right? OK then, that means we don't need recovery at those layers any more. We've just taken a big bite out of the differentiation at the Ethernet and IP level. By collapsing the layers underneath, you reduce operations costs at Level 3; instead, you’re handling failures at Level 2--the new virtual network’s control layer..

OK, now suppose that we have a Fitheredge. This Fitheredge has the ability to take a mesh of Fitherpipes and make them look like a standard Ethernet or IP service. It communicates with other Fitheredges to tell them what IP subnets or Ethernet addresses are attached to it, but through a central software process, a kind of service registry. To the users attached to our Fitheredge, their services look the same as always, or maybe better. Why? Because we could use our Fitheredge and application awareness to shunt critical applications onto faster, better, Fitherpipes than the routine traffic. In fact, if we made Fitheredges application- and user-aware, we could create any number of parallel networks with different capabilities, and they'd be completely independent except at the Fitheredges where they touched their real users.

What happened to bridging protocols, to IP discovery, to IP traffic engineering, in our Fithernet? In this example--which I admit is extreme--these things all go away. So while virtual networks as overlays don't pose any threat to the network vendors, virtual networking applied low on the OSI stack could completely transform networking.

And of course we can assume that if we could make our Fithernet elements aware of current protocols, and if we could make our current network devices aware of Fithernet features and able to use that central software process that mediates connectivity in Fithernet, we could create hybrid services that would be richer than our current ones but more compatible with our current equipment investments.

This is the hidden truth of network virtualization. Overlay virtual networks mean nothing absent some means of pushing the capabilities of virtualization downward to create a virtual underlay or inlay rather than an overlay. If network virtualization creates those "central software processes" that can mediate connectivity without discovery and that can stitch new routes when old ones fail, then the virtualization is a step to change. Otherwise it's a tunnel retread, a new label on an old concept.

For vendors it’s the option of creating a "Fithernet-friendly" evolution of equipment that creates the opportunity and the risk. Yes, Fithernet will change things and will threaten the current order in networking. But you can't push a gusher back into the ground. The OpenFlow protocol disconnects forwarding from current protocols, and that means it can connect anything to Fithernet. Any current optical device can be a Fitherswitch, any current IP or Ethernet edge device can be a Fitheredge, and any overlay network virtualization player can provide that central software. So someone will, it's only a question of when...and who.





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.