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 | January 05, 2015 |

 
   

Making Real Networks From Virtual Things

Making Real Networks From Virtual Things Virtual switches and routers, when combined with user- and service-specific tunneling, could boost network agility.

Virtual switches and routers, when combined with user- and service-specific tunneling, could boost network agility.

Talk about virtualization is so pervasive these days that you have to wonder if anything is real anymore. Network architects in particular must be asking this question, because at the root of every network strategy is the reality that you have to sell services and carry traffic.

To justify virtualization of routing, switching and other functions, we not only have to support those two goals but do so in a way that's better than the real boxes of today could. The questions are "Can that be done?" and "How?" and the path to answers may start by recognizing that no single technology shift will do it all.

The basic idea of virtualization is to create the behavior or features of a physical device by taking a software-based abstraction of those features and hosting it on a pool of resources. The principles are the same as those already being adopted in cloud computing -- a virtual server is created by hosting a virtual machine on a real resource pool. The key point here is that the abstraction of network functionality can take two basic forms -- a single virtual element can provide all the features of a real device, or a system of interworking elements can combine to create those features. We can see examples of both these approaches developing today.

Virtual switches (when used in the WAN not the data center) and virtual routers (offered now by most network vendors) are essentially switch/router software designed to run in a server instead of a custom hardware platform. This shift takes advantage of the low cost of x86 servers that results from their wide use, but sacrifices custom hardware features that can accelerate packet handling or improve availability. As a result, they are best used where there isn't a lot of traffic and where multiple users aren't sharing the devices and increasing the consequences of failure.

Putting the 'Private' in VPN
Aggregating traffic is a fundamental principle of economical networking -- higher utilization of trunks means lower cost per bit carried. If we make virtual routers and switches user- or service-specific, then we have to do the aggregation somewhere else, meaning lower on the OSI stack. Dedicating optical connections to every user or service is hardly cost-effective, so some electrical grooming is needed. That's where software-defined networking (SDN) could come in.

SDN can build tunnels efficiently by simply chaining forwarding rules across multiple devices. These can then share optical trunks to increase transport efficiency. If we use low-cost white-box OpenFlow switching, we could build this electrical grooming layer cheaply compared with Ethernet/IP networks. Our virtual switches and routers could then combine with user- and service-specific tunnels to create agile networks.

That agility angle is the big benefit to be gained. If we envision our tunnel-SDN network as a kind of universal connection fabric, we could see cloud data centers as a hosting fabric connected to it. We could then use this hosting fabric to place virtual switching/routing features at the places where traffic patterns make them most useful in controlling network cost and performance. If something broke, the tunnel fabric and hosting fabric could combine to reposition connections around the failure.

One potentially enormous benefit this could create is a truly "private" form of VPN. If tunnels keep user traffic separated from that of other users and the Internet, and if every VPN has its own dedicated virtual router instances, there's far less chance that one VPN (or the Internet) could in any way interact with another. You could even separate applications within a company, keeping users and traffic not authorized completely out of the network of applications that demand a lot of security. It could also create different networks for content, different mobile subnetworks for mobile virtual network operators, and increase cloud security by separating cloud traffic from other traffic. If the user had a virtual on ramp hosted on client systems or at the service edge, you could extend this separation of traffic all the way to the user.

Agile Integration
The SDN tunnel approach generates a "how low can you go?" question, meaning integrating this with agile optics. The ideal situation would have the electrical grooming and optical underlayment working together to provide a seamless "tunnel layer." The Open Networking Foundation at least has assumed this means controlling everything with OpenFlow, and has pushed optical extensions to that protocol. That seems to me to be a waste of time; we don't need a single protocol here, just cooperative control. With the two-layer model I've described, the tunnel layer only really has to react to major changes in traffic or failures.

It's also fair to ask how this impacts SDN at the top, meaning whether SDN's ability to replace switching/routing is important given the increased use of virtual routers/switches. I think SDN's best mission is in grooming, but there may be an advantage to using it to set up the virtual routers and switches. It's just a bit too early to say how much of a benefit that would bring.

Getting enough experience with this model to answer questions like the value of SDN at the IP level could be tricky. There's a symbiosis between SDN and virtual routers, between optical networks and SDN, that plays differently than we've been expecting. Only a few vendors have a broad product footprint in this new structure, and without a chance to make money everywhere, vendors may hold back. Whether that holds back the new virtual model, or just the slow-moving vendors, is a question for 2015.

Follow Tom Nolle on Google+!

Tom Nolle on Google+





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!

December 13, 2017

The two major vendors in the Unified Communications space, Cisco and Microsoft, are both strongly promoting their cloud UC deployments. If cloud UC is on your enterprises roadmap, but you dont want

November 29, 2017

As video conferencing use rises in the enterprise, businesses are looking for ways to bring this technology out of traditional conference room and make it more broadly accessible. That's made the h

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
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.