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What is a “Controller”? And how many do we need?

June 26, 2013 at 6:10 am PST

Thanks to SDN, the “Controller” word pops up in many network architecture discussions these days. In networking alone, we’re already surrounded by many “controllers” and we’re busy introducing more as we speak:  For example, Session Border Controllers or Wireless LAN Controllers have been around for quite some time, and have recently announced the OpenDaylight Controller, the Cisco XNC, or the Cloupia Unified Infrastructure Controller. So what is a “Controller” in networking terms, and how many do we need in emerging network architectures?

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VIRL Saves the Day!

One of the themes of my posts is that the overall ONE strategy, including virtualisation, would create an environment for network systems development that would meet the expectations of systems developers accustomed to the “enterprise” style of software development.

An enterprise systems developer expects the required systems resources for software development to be readily available for development and test purposes. When those resources constitute web application servers and databases, this is trivial with virtualisation, and generally unremarkable in today’s enterprise environments.

When those resources constitute expensive, high-end, routing and switching platforms, though, life is not that straightforward. A major part of a network engineer’s time is spent on obtaining, connecting and configuring network equipment for demonstration and test purposes. You can’t just try an idea out when it occurs to you, as the required network platforms often can’t be available when, and in the configuration, you want.

But imagine what you could do if those network resources were available at a click of a button. What if network engineers had the same capabilities as software engineers to create virtual environments of near perfect fidelity? Well, with the technology of the Virtual Internet Routing Laboratory (VIRL), that we are demonstrating at Cisco Live in Florida, that possibility is getting closer. Read More »

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Simplifying Multi-Provider WAN Designs

This week, at Cisco Live Orlando, we are introducing a brand new EIGRP feature called Over-the-Top (OTP). EIGRP OTP is focused on simplifying the deployment of branch networks utilizing an EIGRP end-to-end solution over public and private networks. This simplicity is further enhanced with EIGRP use of Over-the-Top (OTP) to support multiple service provider IP networks.

Connecting sites over a WAN cloud can be complex, especially when supporting thousands of branch locations, multiple service providers, and feature requirements like encryption. Aside from the configuration challenges, operationally, customers need to filter routes while avoiding routing loops during redistribution, which makes it harder to troubleshoot the network.

The EIGRP Over-the-Top (OTP) solution simplifies multi-provider IP WAN network designs. It simplifies the interface with the WAN providers and facilitates an end-to-end EIGRP network, which is easier to troubleshoot.

How simple is EIGRP OTP to deploy? Read More »

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The “Business” of Software Defined Networking

I admit it. I’ve grown weary of the debate about whether SDN includes network programmability or whether or not SDN can only be accomplished through NfV, or the relative merits of control plane / dataplane separation. I will leave those debates to others more focused on the technology itself.  Personally, I have been more fascinated with what I see as the new business opportunities emerging around SDN.

Certainly there is a raft of opportunities for start-up companies in the controller space or in the virtualization of various networking functions. Many innovative new companies are re-examining existing network functions within the SDN paradigm; that will lead to some potentially new and useful approaches that may be cheaper/easier/faster than current designs. No doubt many customers will see value in these new ways of doing things, and everybody will benefit.

But that’s not what I find fascinating about SDN. What I am starting to see are ideas that are completely out of the box, and would likely not be thought of by typical network technologists working alone. Let me discuss a few categories of things I have seen possible with the emerging technologies.

The Network as a Compute Resource
It turns out Read More »

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Blogging Journey from Cisco Live from Cisco ONE: Intelligent Programmable Network

Cisco Live is here! It’s a great opportunity for you to discover some really exciting technology solutions at our Cisco ONE: Cisco Intelligent Programmable Network booth featuring a few of our latest innovations.

Onsite you will be able to see and ask your questions at live demos featuring applications and services developed with One Programmable Kit (onePK), Openflow and the eXtensible Network Controller. In addition, we have demos devoted to IPv6, routing, service discovery and network design simulation -- all things meant to make your network simpler and smarter.

There are also some great partner demos including our friends from SAP, Citrix, Glue Networks, Pramacom, Radware, and Starview who are showing some really cool apps that use the Cisco ONE APIs. Read More »

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