Today Brocade announced plans to acquire Vyatta… and we couldn’t be more proud!
It’s been a fascinating journey to get to this next level. They say you can always tell the pioneers by the number of arrows in their back, but for the record will clearly show these three forces that drove us:
1 million downloads. It all started with our pioneering belief that software networking could go viral. It did, and the Vyatta community grew in the way self-organizing communities do. Today Vyatta has the largest software networking footprint on the planet.
Virtualization. This was the fuel that powered our strongest commercial adoption. It changes what network infrastructure needs to do, and software is the clear answer to a rapidly-growing problem. Now Vyatta is in live production datacenters, and in test and dev around the world.
SDN. A cool concept – software networking – got even cooler by becoming software defined networking. Central controllers and distributed forwarding planes, northbound APIs… in all, a huge new wave of innovation crashes up on the shore.
All of this excitement has been in pursuit of the next frontier of IP networking. No longer is networking something that happens only outside the server; now it extends into the server itself, creating a new world of virtual topologies that complement the physical ones surrounding them. And the world is rapidly waking up to this exciting new frontier.
So why choose Brocade as the place for our next act? Because our products and strategies are incredibly synergistic, we have a shared vision for networking’s role in the agile datacenter and a common commitment to openness, they’re healthy, and they have a global reach that we can leverage.
As Brocade’s Software Networking business unit, we get the best of both worlds: The solidity of a multi-billion-dollar network infrastructure player with the agility of an innovative software group.
More importantly, our customers and partners get an even more aggressive partner for their SDN strategies – one that truly understands both the technology and the business of IP networking, and one that isn’t the least bit afraid of wielding an aggressive software strategy.
This is an exciting new phase and we will hit the ground running. We cherish our heritage and look forward to continuing to make our mark on the industry as Vyatta, a Brocade company.
“That’s how change happens: Slowly first, then all at once.”
– Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Virtualization is driving a very interesting dichotomy in adoption of software-based networking.
On the one hand there’s the adoption of discrete networking components within virtualized servers. It started with virtual switches, and moved up to virtual routers/firewalls/VPNs. That adoption pattern has taken off like a scalded cat; vSwitches are everywhere these days, and Vyatta has gone from selling our first virtual router 18 months ago to now closing in on 10,000 virtual routers under contract with large customers around the world.
Then there’s Software-Defined Networking (SDN). This movement is much earlier in the adoption cycle, but because of the broad architectural implications it’s producing an overwhelming noise level in the industry. One thing is clear, however: The adoption of SDN technologies is following a pattern similar to the former trend in that it’s starting at Layer 2, the lowest level of IP networking.
What’s interesting is how these two movements are so highly complementary to each other. SDN controllers typically control virtual switches, and virtual routers are a natural extension to enable connectivity between the new virtualized L2 segments.
We often get asked if Vyatta competes with other SDN players. The fact is Vyatta is a key and growing element of SDN environments because Vyatta VMs pick up where SDN network segments naturally leave off.
This is why this week we launched our “Empowering SDN” initiative. By leveraging Vyatta’s highly stable networking platform customers can build out their network connectivity using trusted, mature protocols for routing and security with the flexibility and agility of software. This can be confidently deployed today while the SDN underpinnings are being architected at Layer 2, which takes time.
It’s a bit like building a new home. Roofs are quickly put up so the builders can continue the work inside, protected from changing weather.
This is undoubtedly the most exciting time the networking industry has seen in ages. Vyatta was founded on the premise that networking software and hardware would decouple as it did in computing. And when systems decouple, brand new architectures are envisioned and enabled. With Virtualization and SDN now firmly in play, Vyatta is right in the middle of it.
“The times, they are a-changin’…”
- Bob Dylan
Today, VMware announced the price they’re willing to pay to get into the rapidly-growing Software Defined Networking space: $1.2 billion to acquire Nicira.
This underscores just how phenomenal the surge is that’s powering interest in SDN. The simple facts are irrefutable: Virtualization and Cloud have fundamentally altered compute and storage architectures, and networking now must adapt.
And it’s early. Recent research from Information Week highlighted many important points about the adoption of cloud. As it relates to networking, here are some key takeaways:
- 20% of customers surveyed have a cloud, and 30% more are planning theirs now
- Of that 30%, only 1/5th have designed their network architecture
- 80% are building clouds from individual components vs vendor bundles
I often get asked how I think the hardware networking vendors will weather this storm. While I have my thoughts, the fact is that question is laden with rear-view-mirror history… and I think the more interesting question is what looms out the front windshield. What I see:
1. Virtualization is driving massive change. Over 50% of the x86 installed base is now virtualized and this is causing major ripple effects.
2. System architectures are opening up. Monolithic designs are giving way to modular ones.
3. Openness matters. Modular architectures are defined by multiple interoperable elements.
4. Software is eating the world. COTS hardware continues to demonstrate its ability to absorb different workloads.
Perhaps it’s ironic that on the day of this major acquisition that targets the future, Cisco announced another 2% cut to its workforce to “continue its restructuring plan.” You can’t shrink to greatness.
Which brings up a separate topic, which I’ll have to address later: How does the Nicira acquisition gum up the VMware / Cisco relationship?
In the meantime Vyatta will continue to grow our customer base of Enterprise and Cloud customers who have seen the brilliance of light shining from a network powered by software.
“The best way to sound relevant is to put ‘dot-com’ after everything you say dot com.”
– Conventional wisdom circa 1995
Last week at Interop you couldn’t swing a stick without hitting a vendor booth emblazoned with “SDN” or “Software Defined Networking.” Clearly the hype cycle is still in ascension phase and buzzword compliance is in full swing.
It’s not letting up, either. Some vendors are leapfrogging their own SDN messaging by now declaring the era of the Software-Defined Datacenter. What happened to Network? Forgive my pragmatism, but I’d like to focus on some details of the networking part, which is yet to come to fruition.
It’s obvious that we at Vyatta are big believers in software networking, as are our 1,000+ customers around the globe. And we can attest to the R&D challenges of creating a feature-rich, scalable and reliable system; it’s hard and takes time. Now add in the separation of control plane and forwarding plane (or “pitcher and catcher” as I think of it) to achieve the distributed functionality required to enable SDN concepts, and it’s no wonder there’s hype and confusion.
To that end, I offer my top 5 candidates of SDN Myths that I’ve encountered in the wild over the past few months:
1. SDN = Switching
The stated objective is “networking,” which runs up and down the OSI stack. Switching solves one type of networking issue; routing another; security and load balancing yet more. Envisioning an SDN architecture that stops at Layer 2 is like putting low-profile sport tires on a bulldozer.
2. It’s All About the Controller
A controller without a forwarding plane is like a pitcher without a catcher. Somewhere, something has to receive the distributed instructions. Critically important point: The forwarding plane needs to be architecturally linked to the remote controller. They need to sprechen.
3. Top of Rack Forwarding Is Good Enough
The root driver of SDN is compute virtualization. Over 50% of the x86 installed base is virtualized, which is atomizing the compute layer. The new Sandy Bridge Intel servers have 24 cores; you can easily assume 10-20 virtual machines per server (Gartner told me they’ve seen densities up to 70 VMs). This means the forwarding challenge goes past TOR… it needs to penetrate all the way into the server.
4. Virtual Switches Are The New Forwarding Plane
vSwitches work at Layer 2. They don’t segment or secure traffic; that happens at Layer 3 and above (See Item #1 above).
5. SDN = OpenFlow (and Vice Versa)
SDN is an architectural concept and construct. OpenFlow is a potentially enabling collection of protocols. Vyatta is pulling for OpenFlow to succeed, but we think it will take time.
I’ll give it a few months and maybe more myths will crop up. Past the myth, however, there is magic and immense benefit to come from SDN. It will evolve in waves over time. And it’s getting very interesting right now…
“The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
– Elbert Hubbard
Silicon Valley is so hip it can barely see over its own pelvis.
Take a look at two events just this week: the Open Network Summit and the OpenStack Conference. Both are very interesting, but the attendees are typically not mainstream enterprises. The discussions are all around great and promising things like cloud, OpenFlow and SDN – things that are still very early or even nonexistent in the enterprise adoption cycle.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what Vyatta announced today: vPlane technology. This is, to put it mildly, A Big And Real Deal. We believe vPlane will be a significant agent of change for virtualized networking because it solves real problems and coexists seamlessly with existing infrastructure.
You can get more specifics on vPlane here and here, but here’s the upshot: Vyatta has architecturally decoupled our system into its sum parts: controller and forwarding plane. As a distributed forwarding technology, vPlane now scales to staggering speeds — over 8 million packets per second per core, and counting — and enables some very exciting (yet rational) use cases.
Follow the logic of an existing datacenter going through server upgrade cycles. Pop the hood on those 3-year-olds that are being decommissioned: two cores, non-virtualized, a single application and 1Gb/s interfaces. Each produces a relatively small amount of simple, homogeneous traffic. Now take a look at the new ones going in: 24 cores, virtualized with anywhere from 5-50 VMs and 10Gb/s interfaces. As the networker, here’s what you’re now dealing with on a per-server basis:
1. Heterogeneous in/out traffic patterns from a single server due to the different VMs it contains
2. New side-to-side traffic patterns within the server itself as VMs communicate with each other
3. Blended I/O speed requirements of multiple 10Gb/s NICs.
Vyatta has been solving problems 1 and 2 with our virtual machine since 2010, with production customers all over the world. But add in problem 3… and enter Vyatta vPlane.
The increased VM density and resulting multi-tenancy are driving a need for dramatically more scalable software-based networking. With vPlane, Vyatta deployments will easily scale to multiple 10Gb/s line rate speeds for traffic at Layer 3 and above.
Large organizations need to adapt networks to the increasing pace of virtualization deployments. They simply cannot walk away from the network and security controls they’ve relied on for years and accept a simple flat network — it’s a blatant violation of a wide range of compliance issues and an unmanageable scenario for the CIO and team.
The traffic explosion is on the immediate horizon. Intel’s Sandy Bridge servers are now shipping: 24 very fast cores and 10Gb/s NICs. The virtualization team will not let this go unutilized.
It’s time for Vyatta vPlane.
“Software’s eating the world.”
– Steve Mullaney, Nicira CEO
It’s clear by now there’s a revolution occurring in datacenter networking and software-based solutions are at the forefront of this charge.
Networking is a vast technology area and virtualization creates multiple problems that need to be solved. However, regardless of what part of the problem it’s solving software-based networking has many fundamentals in common. This is true for implementation models…
- Extend: Pick up where the physical network leaves off
- Enable: Deliver additional network services inside the servers themselves
… as well as business benefits:
- Flexibility: Operational speed, granular control
- Economics: Higher server utilization, near-zero hardware cost
While this newly awakened market is becoming huge and there are common themes behind different software-based networking solutions, there are also differences / segments among customers.
Some (like the web monsters) are in “land grab” mode. If server racks were skyscrapers, they are in a race to build entire cities. Their first networking need? Enable basic connectivity for each “building” (i.e., server rack) on the fly. If those new “buildings” aren’t on a network, they’re not ready to be occupied … and time is money.
By contrast, most enterprises are not in land-grab mode with their datacenters. They are focused on safe evolution — successfully migrating to virtualized architectures so IT can be more cost-effective and responsive. Their primary network need is to get to that modern architecture without losing the critical, rich network functions they rely on in the process.
Though the needs of two customers may differ from a “top priority” standpoint, what’s exciting is how well the hot new software-based solutions complement each other. Take Nicira and Vyatta as examples: Nicira enables rapid scale-out of Layer2; Vyatta picks up where that leaves off and enables network services at Layer3 and above.
Both are highly advantageous and easily co-resident since both leverage the server virtualization layer.
Networking is a broad discipline and virtualization is pulling new solutions in at an amazing pace. Problems are being solved quickly and servers are getting stuffed full of VMs faster than ever. (Which, of course, means additional bottlenecks will eventually loom. More on that later.)
The software-networking-palooza is just getting its legs now…
“To prophesy is hard, especially with respect to the future.”
– Mark Twain
Network Virtualization, Phase I: VM Adoption
The “virtualization tipping point” occurred at the end of 2011. Gartner recently reported that now 50% of the installed base of x86 server workload is virtualized. They also report that only 5% of network security is virtualized. Uh-oh.
This has created a measurable and immediate driver behind my first prediction: 2012 will witness the explosive adoption of network/security virtual machines. This is Phase I of network virtualization, because a) the need is immediate and b) solutions are available. It’s so inevitable I feel a little guilty about calling it a prediction, but since Vyatta pioneered this dynamic I hope you’ll give me a pass on the easy one.
Network Virtualization, Phase 2: SDN
2011 had more noise on the wire about SDN-ish topics than ever before. OpenFlow! Controllers! Flat networks or not?! Well, get ready … it’s going to keep building steam.
As the discussion continues, however, it will begin turning to a critical but heretofore almost-undiscussed topic. Until now it’s been, “A new kind of controller…” [from emerging vendors] “… communicates over a new kind of protocol … [OpenFlow or others] “…to some forwarding plane that will support that protocol.” [Empty space. Who?] It’s that last part that now must begin to take center stage of the discussion.
The SDN concept is stillborn until the forwarding plane component is resolved. If you think the big incumbent switch vendors are going to concede power and let someone else control their kit, I have a bridge I’ll sell you. This is behind my second prediction for 2012: Discussion of open forwarding planes will begin to take center stage in the SDN movement. Otherwise the whole concept has legs but no wings.
Network Virtualization Made Real: The New IT Pro
As networking becomes software-based, the skillset needed to design, deploy and manage networks needs to change. The networking team needs to learn about software (hypervisors and operating systems), and the compute team needs to learn about networking. APIs, SDKs and the like are going to cross IT organizational boundaries.
I predict that 2012 will demonstrate the skillset evolution of networking pros becoming software pros as well. Training and coursework in this area will explode. Articles will begin publishing on specific topics. Heroes will be identified by their best-in-class virtualized network designs, with their faces and stories splashed all over the media and onstage.
So that’s it: It’s all about network virtualization for 2012, and it’s going to be a wild ride…