For sign 7 of DC Network Transformation, we are picking a popular public cloud construct whose impact can be monumental when broadly deployed in mainstream data centers: Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) On-Prem. VPC, despite its compute-centric name, is actually a new unit of networking in AWS and Google public clouds; in Azure, it is called VNet. VPCs/VNets are logical networks and enable cloud users to rapidly deploy applications in public clouds.
Why traditional box-based networks are the slowest link in application deployment?
VMs and containers can be instantiated in minutes but the traditional box-by-box network takes much longer to deploy. The reason is very obvious. For a given application, the network needs to configure across multiple switches and routers. The traditional means of manually configuring each switch via CLI has been very error prone, and hence demands great care, which results in long lead times for application deployment. Additionally, network configurations are hardware-defined, based on ports, VLANs, VRFs, etc., which makes configurations hard-wired to the physical network infrastructure.
How have Cloud Giants innovated?
In public clouds, the underlying network hardware is not accessible by the cloud user. Hence Cloud Giants focused on logical networking workflows and invented VPCs/VNets as a collection of such workflows managed by the user (see: What is AWS VPC?).
As shown in the above diagram, a VPC consists of logical networking constructs such as subnets, route tables, gateways and security policies. Also, VPCs are by definition multi-tenant and have delegated administration. A VPC can be created/deleted in less than a minute with few clicks. Cross-VPC communication is explicitly declared via VPC peering configurations. With VPCs, networking is delivered as a service which is fundamentally different – simpler, faster – than the way it has been traditionally delivered in on-prem data centers.
What is an On-Prem VPC?
Why not bring this popular Cloud Giant innovation to on-prem data center, in the form of on-prem VPC? A quick Google Trends comparison of VPC vs VLAN terms over the last 5 years is a clear indication of the VPC popularity over traditional networking (see diagram below).
Key to enabling VPCs on-prem is that the physical network be built with SW controls, leveraging an external controller. Here, instead of a network admin manually configuring a set of physical switches, the controller would programmatically provision the physical network based on logical constructs. VPCs are expressed through the controller by any user consuming the network as a service (network admin, or network-as-a-service available to cloud/devops teams). The diagram below illustrates that perhaps on-prem VPC is the missing link for enabling mass adoption of private (enterprise) clouds.
What is Big Switch doing with VPCs on-prem?
Big Switch’s Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) – a controller-based data center switching fabric – has adopted the Cloud-First design philosophy, i.e. leverage cloud principles as first principles for network design. Thousand+ BCF pods have been deployed with built-in logical networking to rapidly on-board applications. Recently, BCF adopted VPC-style logical networking called Enterprise VPC (E-VPC) to deliver on-prem VPC. With E-VPC, IT organizations can implement “VPC everywhere” (on-prem and multiple public clouds) for a true hybrid cloud experience. BCF’s E-VPC also integrates into SDDC/private cloud orchestrators, such as VMware vSphere/NSX/vSAN, Nutanix HCI, Kubernetes and Red Hat OpenStack to further automate E-VPC logical networking and provide compute/storage visibility to network admin.
To show the power of E-VPC’s multi-tenancy and delegated administration, we allowed Network Field Day delegates access to the live company network to provision their own E-VPCs.
Each of the 7 Signs of DC Network Transformation are real and here to stay. It is deployed in hundreds of large, mainstream IT organizations. Data center networking is finally shedding its box-by-box legacy and ushering into the modern edge of cloud and edge computing.
Welcome to the world of cloud-first networking!
VP & Chief Product Officer
Prashant is responsible for Big Switch's Cloud-First Networking portfolio and strategy, including: product management, product marketing, technology partnerships/solutions and technical marketing. Prashant has been instrumental in the product strategy and development of Big Cloud Fabric and Big Monitoring Fabric products. Additionally, Prashant is responsible for Big Switch led open-source initiative, Open Network Linux (ONL), to accelerate adoption of open networking and HW vendor choice. You can connect with Prashant on LinkedIn.