Monday, August 26, 2013

NSX network gateway services

Figure 1: VMware NSX network gateway services partners
VMware recently released the list of Network Gateway Services (top of rack switch) partners. All but one of these vendors supports the sFlow standard for network visibility across their full range of data center switches (Arista Networks, Brocade Networks, Dell Systems, HP and Juniper Networks). The remaining vendor, Cumulus Networks, has developed a version of Linux that runs on merchant silicon based hardware platforms. Merchant silicon switch ASICs include hardware support for sFlow and it is likely that future versions of Cumulus Linux will expose this capability.
Figure 2: Network gateway services / VxLAN tunnel endpoint (VTEP)
Figure 2 from Network Virtualization Gets Physical shows the role that top of rack switches play in virtualizing physical workloads (e.g. servers, load balancers, firewalls, etc.). Essentially, the physical top of rack switch provides the same services for the physical devices as Open vSwitch in the hypervisor provides for virtual machines. The OVSDB protocol, described in the Internet Draft (ID) The Open vSwitch Database Management Protocol, allows the NSX controller to configure physical and virtual switches to set up the VxLAN tunnels used to overlay the virtual networks over the underlying physical network.

The Open vSwitch also supports the sFlow standard, providing a common monitoring solution for virtual switches and top of rack switches. In addition, core switches and routers from the listed partner vendors (and many other switch vendors) also implement sFlow, offering complete end to end visibility into traffic flowing on the virtualized and physical networks.

The packet header export mechanism in sFlow is uniquely suited to monitoring tunneled traffic, see Tunnels, exposing inner and outer addresses and allowing monitoring tools to trace virtualized traffic as it flows over the physical fabric, see Down the rabbit hole.

In addition, F5 networks is listed as a partner in the Application Delivery category. F5 supports sFlow on their BIG IP platform, see F5 BIG-IP LTM and TMOS 11.4.0, providing visibility into application performance (including response times, URLs, status etc.) and linking the front-end performance seen by clients accessing virtual IP addresses (VIPS) with the performance of individual back-end servers.

Embedding visibility in all the elements of the data center provides comprehensive, cost effective, visibility into data center resources. Visibility is critical in reducing operational complexity, improving performance, decreasing the time to identify the root cause of performance problems, and isolating performance between virtual networks, see Multi-tenant performance isolation.

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