Continuing The Transformational Journey Toward Peak Network Agility


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Network virtualization helps data centers boost operational efficiency and scale quickly to meet dynamic workload demands. Dell and Intel support automated, flexible networking with network overlays using the Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) protocol.

By Brian Johnson and Rich Hernandez

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Continuing The Transformational Journey Toward Peak Network Agility

  1. 1. Features Continuing the transformational journey toward peak network agility By Brian Johnson and Rich Hernandez V irtualization and cloud computing have spurred the evolution of the modern data center, as enterprises seek to capitalize on revolutionary gains in productivity and cost savings enabled by these technologies. The move to a virtualized infrastructure has led many IT decision makers to rethink their enterprise networking strategies. For instance, server and storage resource pools created through virtualization support on-demand scalable performance Network virtualization helps data centers boost operational efficiency and scale quickly to meet dynamic workload demands. Dell and Intel support automated, flexible networking with network overlays using the Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) protocol. for specific applications, but many organizations require the ability to scale the overall data center to meet dynamic business needs. This type of scalability calls for networking resources to be virtualized so that they can be provisioned and managed independently of the underlying hardware. Network virtualization is particularly vital in cloud environments in which multiple tenants share system resources. Network security and traffic segmentation is required to provide each tenant with network isolation. However, to meet tenant demands, operators must be able to quickly move workloads to servers with available resources. To enable workload mobility, the networking architecture should not tie workloads to the physical network. The need for logical networks In a virtualized data center, organizations can quickly provision virtual machines (VMs) to support additional workloads. However, it can take two to three weeks to configure a traditional network so that the new VMs can communicate across the data center. One reason is that traditional networks are pre-provisioned and difficult to change on the fly. The network infrastructure may have a rigid hierarchical design that is dictated by physical switch capacity. Compute resources are tied to the layer 2 network boundary, with the Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. | 2013 Issue 04 51
  2. 2. Features VXLAN VXLAN overlays over existing networks, enabling compute resources to be pooled. Disjoint layer 2 network makes for isolated pockets of compute resources. Abstracting data center boundaries using VXLAN result that workloads cannot make use boundaries — and as such, are designed IDs, effectively extending beyond the of resources available in different racks to be more efficient, scalable, resilient limitations of the VLAN address space. because they are in separate layer 2 and manageable. Since logical networks domains. Also, administrators cannot are abstracted, they can be scaled provision a large number of isolated layer 2 without reconfiguring the underlying Technologies supporting an evolving architecture networks, because the virtual LAN (VLAN) physical hardware. This capability To help drive the transformation of the specification imposes a limit of 4,094 IDs helps avoid the time-consuming network architecture, Intel and Dell have in a network. Network virtualization offers cycles needed for provisioning and enhanced their respective technologies to a way to surmount these challenges and managing VLANs. support NVOs based on VXLAN. Use of provision required network services as easily and as quickly as VMs. NVOs are logical layer 2 networks VXLAN introduces an additional layer that float on top of existing physical of packet processing at the hypervisor layer 2 and layer 3 technologies (see figure). level. For each packet on the VXLAN Network virtualization using overlays This abstraction allows VMs on different network, the hypervisor needs to add, To create an automated, flexible network, networks to communicate as if they were in or encapsulate, protocol headers on the data centers can adopt a software- the same layer 2 subnet. NVOs are enabled sender side and remove, or decapsulate, defined networking (SDN) approach, by the Virtual Extensible LAN (VXLAN) these headers on the receiver side. This which decouples the logical network protocol, which specifies a format for how processing adds to the host server’s CPU from the physical network. One method layer 2 logical networks are encapsulated in load. Some network interface card (NIC) of implementing SDN is through Network standard layer 3 IP packets. offload capabilities can be used with Virtualization Overlays (NVOs). NVOs A 24-bit segment ID in every VXLAN VXLAN, but they depend on the physical allow compute resources to be pooled frame differentiates the logical networks across noncontiguous clusters or pods. from each other without the need for Administrators can then segment this pool VLAN tags, allowing large numbers of Tunnel End Points (VTEPs), provide into logical networks attached to specific isolated layer 2 networks to coexist encapsulation and decapsulation services workloads and applications. on a common layer 3 infrastructure. to allow nonvirtualized network traffic to Because VXLAN uses a 24-bit ID, a single communicate with VXLAN virtualized network can support up to 16 million LAN network traffic. VTEPs can be virtual Unlike VLANs, the logical networks span virtual resource pools and physical 52 2013 Issue 04 | NIC and the driver. VXLAN gateways, also called VXLAN Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. software bridges in the hypervisor or VXLAN- By delivering networking as part of a pooled, capable switching hardware. The Dell automated infrastructure, network virtualization Networking S6000 switch supports VXLAN can revolutionize multi-tenant VMware vCloud® and acts as a layer 2 gateway for the VMware® deployments. Network virtualization enables NSX™ flexible VM placement without reconfiguration, network virtualization platform.1 To address the performance impact of helping reduce operational complexity. encapsulation, Intel tuned its 10 Gigabit Ethernet A virtualized network can be designed to (10GbE) Intel® Ethernet Controllers to support ensure multi-tenant isolation, scalability and receive-side scaling (RSS) technology. RSS performance. Also, network virtualization accelerates VXLAN traffic by distributing the enables workloads to be seamlessly migrated traffic among various queues and CPU cores. to the cloud while preserving policies, This capability is enabled in a VMware ESX® VM settings and IP addresses. asynchronous driver from Dell, and is supported by the 10GbE Intel® Ethernet Converged Network Authors Hosting service providers can offer a VMware vCloud environment in which Adapter X520 family or Intel Ethernet Converged a tenant brings its own IP address and Network Adapter X540 family in a VMware network topology to create its own vSphere® sandbox environment — without the provider Brian Johnson is a solutions architect in the networking division at Intel for networking and virtualization technologies. 5.1 or later environment. For the additional performance requirements needing to coordinate between multiple of VXLAN traffic over 40 Gigabit Ethernet (40GbE), tenants. A VMware vCloud deployment Intel has demonstrated hardware-assist offloads with VXLAN also enables an organization to that it expects to build into the next-generation extend its data center into a hybrid cloud 40GbE Intel Ethernet Controller, code-named by simply placing its infrastructure into the Fortville. The combination of RSS for User virtual, abstracted environment without any Datagram Protocol (UDP) traffic and stateless other changes. Rich Hernandez is a networking technologist at Dell working on server products, including GbE and 10GbE for rack, tower and modular servers. Learn more Advanced Ethernet connectivity from Intel and Dell: offloads for overlay traffic is designed to enable near-native line rates for VXLAN in Linux® Virtualization’s next frontier OS- and VMware-based environments.2 Extensive virtualization of servers and storage In addition, Dell PowerEdge R720 servers powered by the Intel® Xeon® processor E5-2600 in many data centers leaves the network as the next great frontier for virtualization. In today’s v2 product family help deliver the performance competitive business environment, IT decision required for virtualizing networks using NVOs. makers continue to look for technologies and tools that help enterprises quickly bring Powerful capabilities for multi-tenant clouds services to market, grow their revenues and Cloud deployments can benefit from the agility, leaders are actively evaluating the current state efficiency and security that network virtualization of their infrastructure to see how network offers. Because VXLAN abstracts data center virtualization and SDN fit into their plans. boundaries, VMs are virtually layer 2 adjacent, The logical abstraction enabled by network regardless of physical location within the data virtualization drives agility and streamlines center. The overlay on top of existing layer 3 network management, delivering the flexibility, boundaries enables all compute resources to be control and automation required for today’s pooled together as a cloud resource. data centers. reduce costs. These goals are why many 1 Dell expects to release software support to enable the VXLAN capability in the Dell Networking S6000 switch in early 2014. For more information about the Dell Networking S6000 switch, see “Bridging physical and virtual networks with ease and efficiency,” by Kamesh Kothuri and James Wynia, in Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4, 2 Demonstrated at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, California, in September 2013. Dell and PowerEdge are trademarks of Dell Inc. Reprinted from Dell Power Solutions, 2013 Issue 4. Copyright © 2013 Dell Inc. All rights reserved. | 2013 Issue 04 53