Thursday, January 2, 2014

Drivers for growth

This article examines the factors that are continuing to accelerate adoption of the sFlow measurement standard as the universal source of analytics in the data center, including: rising popularity of merchant silicon based switches, open switch operating systems and platforms, virtual switching, network virtualization, and integration of real-time sFlow analytics in orchestration stacks to create automated self-optimizing data centers.
Two years ago the article Merchant silicon described the broad adoption of the Broadcom Trident ASIC by switch vendors. This trend is picking up pace with the rapid adoption of the new Trident II ASIC (announced last year, but only available in volume this Fall). Vendors don't typically disclose when they use merchant silicon, however, based on news reports, similarities in specifications and rumors, the following switches appear to use Broadcom Trident II chipsets: Extreme Summit X770, HP 5930, Dell S6000, Cumulus HCL partners (Agema, Edge-Core, Penguin Computing and Quanta), Arista 7250X and 7500E series, Cisco Nexus 3100 and 9000 series, Juniper QFX 3500 series and Nuage 7850 VSG.
Note: While most of the Broadcom based switches listed already support sFlow, a few vendors have yet to enable the feature in their firmware. If you have, or are considering, Broadcom based switches in your data center, ask your vendor when they plan to enable sFlow. A list of switches with sFlow support is maintained on
Merchant silicon lowers the barriers to entering the networking market in much the same way as standardizing on x86 compute platforms commoditized hardware and made it possible for a large number of PC manufacturers to emerge. The second component driving this trend is the availability of switch operating systems (Broadcom FASTPATHCumulus Linux, Big Switch's Switch Light Linux, Pluribus OpenNetvisor, Pica8 PicOS, etc.) that further reduce the barrier to entry. Another project to watch is the Open Compute Project's efforts to define an open switch hardware platform - if successful, it will create high volume standard hardware platform and competition between hardware vendors that will drive down hardware costs and increase the market for switch operating systems and the ecosystem of software running on those platforms - analogous to Windows and Linux running on x86 and their respective application ecosystems.
The slide from Bruce Davie's keynote address at Open Server Summit 2013, Network Virtualization: What it is, Why it Matters, shows the rapid transition from a physical edge in which physical servers are attached to physical switch ports, to a virtual edge in which virtual machines are attached to virtual switches. Second generation virtual switches are starting to enter the market, delivering increased performance and integrating support for overlays and network virtualization. In SDN market predictions for New Year: NFV, OpenFlow, Open vSwitch boom, Eric Hanselman, chief analyst at 451 Research states, "The improved scalability of Open vSwitch 2.0 will affect the numerous SDN vendors who use it as an OpenFlow agent on switches or as an endpoint in overlay technologies. These vendors include high-profile players such as VMware Inc. and startups such as Midokura and Pica8."

Accelerating adoption of virtual switching is helping to drive sFlow growth since support for the standard is integrated in virtual switches:
The article Visibility and the software defined data center describes how the sFlow standard has been extended to include not just the network, but server and application resources as well. For example, growing support for sFlow in web servers (Apache, NGINX, Tomcat) and load balancers (F5 BIG IP, HAproxy) extends visibility to include application response time, URLs, response codes etc. Best of Velocity 2012: The sFlow Standard describes how sFlow analytics integrate into the DevOps tool stack to provide scaleable, real-time monitoring of application resources.
So far this article has described the widespread support for the sFlow measurement standard within the data center infrastructure. The remainder of the article explores the rise in automation and the vital role that real-time analytics is poised to play in orchestration stacks.

As SDN solutions move from pilot to large scale deployments, attention is shifting from using SDN merely to configure networking, to optimizing performance and increasing efficiency. There is also a clear move to an integrated view of orchestration that includes networking, servers, storage and applications, going beyond SDN to create what VMware calls the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), Cisco terms the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and Microsoft refers to as the Cloud OS.

The following articles demonstrate the growing awareness among industry leaders about the importance of analytics as they develop their cloud orchestration controllers:
  1. Of Mice and Elephants by Martin Casado and Justin Pettit with input from Bruce Davie, Teemu Koponen, Brad Hedlund, Scott Lowe, and T. Sridhar - VMware
  2. Software Defined Networking on VMWare with Scott Lowe on RunAs Radio - VMware
  3. How Software-defined Networking is rewriting the rules of application delivery by Senior Vice President and General Manager, HP Networking - Hewlett-Packard
  4. Networking Without Limits: SDN by Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Windows Server & System Center - Microsoft
  5. Where the puck is going: analytics by Mike Bushong - Plexxi
  6. Wandl and Cariden: Is There a Real Value? by Tom Nolle - CIMI Corp.
The article Workload placement describes this author's take on the strategic value of analytics and orchestration as a way to transform the economics of cloud computing by more densely packing workloads in the data center.
Recent breakthroughs in real-time sFlow analysis incorporated in the sFlow-RT analytics engine delivers timely, comprehensive, and actionable metrics through a programmatic interface. Expect to see this technology incorporated in next generation self optimizing orchestration solutions in 2014.
Performance Aware SDN describes the theory behind analytics driven orchestration. The talk describes how fast controller response, programmatic configuration interfaces such as OpenFlow, and consistent instrumentation of all the elements being orchestrated are pre-requisites for feedback control.
The requirement for complete measurement coverage by next generation orchestration systems will create a strong demand for sFlow instrumented infrastructure since sFlow is the only widely supported multi-vendor standard that spans network, server and application resources and delivers the low latency and scaleability required for adaptive control.

No comments:

Post a Comment