In our previous blog post (Applications & Networks: Reunited Through SDN Innovations), we focused on latest innovations in software-defined networking – or SDN 2.0 – to bring networks to modernity. This is music to IT organizations because with SDN 2.0 networks they can deploy apps rapidly, significantly reduce OpEx and dramatically reduce CapEx. In parallel, the open-source initiative for orchestrating cloud infrastructures – OpenStack – is on a fast-track to automate application deployment on vendor-agnostic cloud infrastructures (across compute, network and storage components). The premise of near-instantaneous applications deployment on white-box clouds is creating tremendous excitement with enterprises and cloud providers because they can now build private or public clouds similar to Amazon EC2 – in automation and commodity economics – without requiring a large team of hard-to-hire software engineers.

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Unfortunately, even with OpenStack clouds, traditional box-by-box networking approach remains a major bottleneck to app deployment and cost containment because traditional networks are inherently application unaware, highly complex to operate, and proprietary. By marrying SDN 2.0 innovations for cloud fabrics with OpenStack cloud automation, we truly have a historic opportunity to build application-aware, simplified, vendor-neutral and commodity cloud networks, and break-away from the shackles of legacy & proprietary network architectures.

To drill-down further, let’s look at cloud fabric requirements for a typical 3-tier application shown at left. Clearly, various types of networking resources are required to deploy an application including: virtual networks (e.g. web and app tiers), physical leaf/spine networks (e.g. DB tier) and Layers 2 – 3 forwarding & isolation (network segments, routers). Also, Layers 4 – 7 network services (firewall, load balancing) are necessary, either as virtual or physical appliances. 

Now let’s consider IT’s requirements for deploying and managing an application throughout its lifecycle, and how SDN 2.0 based physical + virtual (P+V) cloud fabric and OpenStack cloud automation together help meet these requirements. 


How does one build an SDN 2.0 based cloud fabric based on SDN 2.0 and OpenStack? An example is Big Switch’s SDN (Unified P+V) Cloud Fabric beta solution, depicted in Figure 2. It is integrated with OpenStack to provide application-aware networking on a per tenant basis, while the SDN controller provides network administrators a single pane of control & management for 3-tier application’s network across the virtual and physical (leaf/spine) fabric. This SDN Cloud Fabric is built on principles of SDN 2.0, with a thin SDN OS – called Switch Light – for both virtual switches on KVM hypervisor and for physical bare-metal/white-box switches. Physical leaf/spine fabric fully respects HW/SW network disaggregation, and is built with commodity white-box switches.

Blog Graphic 3With application-aware SDN (Unified P+V) Cloud Fabrics integrated with OpenStack automation, application deployment is no longer an expensive and lengthy process. IT teams across applications, networking and security disciplines can simply create application templates and apply them to SDN Cloud Fabric via OpenStack. The network is no longer the bottleneck – thanks to SDN 2.0; applications can be placed & moved anywhere on the SDN 2.0 fabric – thanks to OpenStack. And operational complexity is completely eliminated – no more back-and-forth trouble tickets across teams, no complex box-by-box provisioning to worry about, no need to deal with legacy & expensive HW equipment and no more vendor lock-in. While several legacy networking vendors continue to define proprietary solutions in hope of further extending vendor lock-in (in addition to proprietary HW/ASIC lock-in), open and vendor-agnostic cloud architectures based on SDN 2.0 fabrics and OpenStack automation are a natural choice for an increasingly broader set of enterprises and cloud providers.

Welcome to the next era of networking: application-aware, OpenStack-automated SDN Cloud Fabrics!

--Prashant Gandhi, Big Switch VP of Product Management