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Power of Open Choice in Hypervisor Virtual Switching

July 28, 2014 at 5:00 am PST

Customers gain great value from server virtualization in the form of virtual machines (VM) and more recently Linux Containers /Dockers in data centers, clouds and branches.  By some estimates, more than 60 % of the workloads are virtualized although less than 16% of the physical servers (IDC) are virtualized (running a hypervisor).  From a networking perspective, the hypervisor virtual switch on these virtualized servers plays a critical component in all current and future data center, cloud, and branch designs and solutions

As we count down to the annual VMworld conference and reflect on the introduction of the Cisco Nexus 1000V in vSphere 4.0 six years ago, we can feel proud of what we have achieved. We have to congratulate VMware for their partnership and success in opening vSphere networking to third party vendors. It was beneficial for our joint customers, and for both companies. VMware and Cisco could be considered visionaries in this sense. Recognizing this success, the industry has followed.

Similarly we praise Microsoft as well, for having also provided an open environment for third-party virtual switches within Hyper-V, which has continued gaining market share recently.  Cisco and Microsoft (along with other industry players) are leading the industry with the latest collaboration on submitting the OpFlex control protocol to the IETF. Microsoft’s intention to enable OpFlex support in their native Hyper-V virtual switch enables standards-based interaction with the virtual switches.  Another win for customers and the industry.

In KVM and Xen environments, many organizations have looked at Open vSwitch (OVS) as an open source alternative. There is an interest in having richer networking than the standard Linux Bridge provides, or using OVS as a component for implementing SDN-based solutions like network virtualization. We think that there is an appetite for OVS on other hypervisors as well.  Cisco is also committed to contributing and improving these open source efforts.  We are active contributors in the Open Virtual Switch project and diligently working to open source our OpFlex control protocol implementation for OVS in the OpenDaylight consortium.

To recap on the thoughts from above, Table 1 provides a quick glance at the options for virtual networking from multiple vendors as of today:

Table 1:  Hypervisors and Choices in Virtual Switches

Hypervisor

Native vSwitch

3-party or OpenSource  vSwitch

vSphere

•Standard vSwitch
•Distributed Virtual Switch
•Cisco Application Virtual Switch
•IBM DVS 5000V
•HP Virtual Switch 5900V

Hyper-V

Native Hyper-v Switching
•NEC
•Broadcom

KVM

Linux Bridge(some distributions include OVS natively)
•OVS

XEN

OVS -- open source project with multiple contributions from different vendors and individuals
•OVS

 

As an IT Professional, whether you are running workloads on Red Hat KVM, Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware vSphere, it is difficult to imagine not having a choice of virtual networking. For many customers, this choice still means using the hypervisor’s native vSwitch.  For others, it is about having an open source alternative, like OVS. And in many other cases, having the option of selecting an Enterprise-grade virtual switch has been key to increasing deployments of virtualization, since it enables consistent policies and network operations between virtual machines and bare metal workloads.

As can be seen in the table above, Cisco Nexus 1000V continues to be the industry’s only multi-hypervisor virtual switching solution that delivers enterprise class functionality and features across vSphere, Hyper-V and KVM. Currently, over 10,000 customers have selected this option with Cisco Nexus 1000V in either vSphere, Hyper-V, or KVM (or a combination of them).

Cisco is fully committed to the Nexus 1000V for vSphere, Hyper-V and KVM and also the Application Virtual Switch (AVS) for Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), in addition to our open source contributions to OVS.  Cisco has a large R&D investment in virtual switching, with a lot of talented engineers dedicated to this area, inclusive of those working on open-source contributions.

Nexus 1000V 3.0 release for vSphere is slated for August 2014 (general availability). This release addresses scale requirements of our increasing customer base, as well as an easy installation tool in the form of Cisco Virtual Switch Update Manager.   The Cisco AVS for vSphere will bring the ACI policy framework to virtual servers.  With ACI, customers will for the first time benefit from a true end-to-end virtual + physical infrastructure being managed holistically to provide visibility and optimal performance for heterogeneous hypervisors and workloads (virtual or physical).  These innovations and choices are enabled by the availability of open choices in virtual switching within hypervisors.

As we look forward to VMworld next month, we are excited to continue the collaborative work with platform vendors VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat, Canonical, and the open source community to maintain and continue development of openness and choice for our customers.  We are fully committed to this vision at Cisco.

Acknowledgement:  Juan Lage (@juanlage) contributed to this blog.

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Introducing Cisco Application Virtual Switch – Extending Virtual Networking to Applications

November 7, 2013 at 7:00 am PST

Cisco has been the leader in virtual networking since the introduction of Nexus 1000V virtual switch more than 5 years ago.  Now it is time to make the virtual network more application aware.  With the introduction of the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), we are pleased to introduce the Application Virtual Switch (AVS), the virtual network edge of the Cisco ACI -enabled network that includes the Nexus 9000 series of switches.

In the ACI architecture, applications drive networking behavior, not the other way around. Pre-defined application requirements and descriptions (“policy templates”) automate the provisioning of the network – virtual and physical, application services, security policies, tenant subnets and workload placement. Automating the provisioning of the complete application network reduces IT costs, reduces errors, accelerates deployment and makes the business more agile.

Application Virtual Switches are the purpose-built, hypervisor-resident virtual network edge switches designed for the ACI fabric. They provide consistent virtual networking across multiple hypervisors to simplify network operations and provide consistency with the physical infrastructure.

  • AVS is robustly integrated into the ACI architecture and supports Application Network Profile (ANP) enforcement at the virtual host layer consistent with the Nexus 9000 series physical switches.
  • AVS is managed centrally along with rest of the ACI fabric components through the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) and provides advanced telemetry features to allow end-to-end visibility and troubleshooting capabilities across both virtual and physical devices, .
  • AVS enables optimal traffic steering between virtual and physical layers of the fabric to maximize performance and resource utilization. For example, if the web and app tier are located on the same host, AVS can route traffic or apply security policies between these end point groups within the hypervisor itself.  On the other hand, if the database is a bare metal workload that is attached to the physical Nexus 9000, the application policy is consistently applied at the physical Nexus 9000 top of rack switches instead.
Application Centric Infrastructure with Application Virtual Switch

Application Centric Infrastructure with Application Virtual Switch

ACI eliminates the operational complexity of differences in managing virtualized environments vs. bare metal or legacy environments. It provides a consistent operational model across both AVS and Nexus 9000 respectively.  ACI also allows for flexibility of placement of application workloads based on application requirements. Watch this short video.

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Cisco vPath Technology Enabling Best-In-Class Cloud Network Services

vPath, a Cisco innovative technology developed within Cisco Nexus 1000V, has been shipping for more than 2 years, enabling customers to seamlessly create policy-based multi-tenant / multi-container Data Centers across multiple hypervisor environment. Increasingly, customers are implementing network services into their virtualization and cloud networks in order to meet regulatory, security and service levels. To this end we are seeing increased deployments of virtual firewalls, load balancing, routing, WAN optimization & monitoring tools. Cisco’s vPath technology allows customers to deploy these best-in-class network services seamlessly in their Data Center and Cloud deployments. So, what makes vPath so unique in this industry?

#1 -- vPath Powered Service Chaining at a tenant level: For customers to create multi-tenancy architecture today, they have to configure the different network services and manually “stitch” them together for every unique combination. While this method provides the goals for regulatory compliance, security and service levels it often increases application provision time, and does not easily support application mobility. Additionally most applications have to follow the same manually stitched network services.

With Cisco Nexus 1000V vPath technology, the customer’s Data Center becomes very agile by enabling policy based services chaining at the application or tenant level. Customers can create policies and select the L3-7 virtual services appropriate for the application at the time of VM or Tenant creation. These policies are then dynamically instantiated and fulfilled in the Nexus 1000V distributed virtual switch.  If the particular application VM moves, the Nexus 1000V network policy moves with it and hence the service chain remains intact.

Figure 1: Policy based dynamic service chaining through vPath

service_Chain

 #2 -- vPath enables Distributed Cloud Network Services: As noted in the picture above, vPath controls the packet flow through all Services that are chained for that particular policy. Once the first few packets of the flow is inspected by each Service node, vPath offers the capability to off load flow decisions of the particular Service to the local host such that the subsequent packets of the same flow are locally inspected at the host. Through this mechanism, vPath improves the performance of the particular service since the subsequent packets of the flow are no longer required to be inspected by the individual Service node and hence enabling distributed behavior of the particular service.

Figure 2: Distributed Cloud Network Services through vPath Fast Path Offload

 fast_path_offload

 

#3 -- vPath offers Best-In-Class Cloud Network Services across multiple hypervisors: vPath enables the customers to use the best-in-class Cloud Network Services from Cisco such as Virtual Security Gateway, ASA 1000V & virtual WAAS, and best-in-class ecosystem partners such as Citrix NetScaler 1000V & Imperva Secure Sphere Web Application Firewall.  This vPath enabled architecture will be supported across all major hypervisors such as VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM and Xen. 

#4 -- vPath to become a standard based Network Services Header: In traditional fashion, Cisco creates innovative solutions to help solve our customer’s IT challenges. Once proven, we offer these technologies such as VXLAN through standards bodies to allow greater interoperability and choice. Recently, vPath header format has been submitted to the IETF as a Network Service Header draft.  In the future customers will be able to leverage dynamic policy based services chaining including both virtual and hardware based solutions that support Network Services Header! 

To learn more about Cisco Nexus 1000V and Cloud Network Services, please visit our community site. Create a Cloud Lab account and checkout out the vPath in action today!

Lastly, if you are at VMworld, make a point to attend our sessions PHC6409 and NET6380, or stop by at the Cisco booth.

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Celebrating 5 Year Anniversary of Cisco Nexus 1000V Launch

August 16, 2013 at 5:00 am PST

Today marks an important milestone for one of our most strategic data center products and the foundation of virtual networking portfolio. Five years ago, the Nexus 1000V virtual switch was the pioneer in the virtual networking market with its launch at VMworld in 2008. Since then it has been adopted by over 8000 customers and continues to grow on other platforms, such as Microsoft Hyper-V, and soon Linux/KVM. Today, Nexus 1000V represents the largest software controller-based networking solution (aka, Software Defined Networking or SDN) in the industry.

We continue to add hundreds of paying customers every quarter, in spite of offering a fully featured no-cost essential edition.   The interest in the virtual networking space also continues to increase ever since the SDN trend started.  There are also plenty of FUD or rumors being spread about the Cisco’s virtual networking solution.  On this 5th year anniversary, let’s do some myth busting focused on Nexus 1000V based solutions. Read More »

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