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Power of Open Choice in Hypervisor Virtual Switching

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


Native vSwitch

3-party or OpenSource  vSwitch


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


Native Hyper-v Switching


Linux Bridge(some distributions include OVS natively)


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


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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Open Source at The Large Hadron Collider and Data Gravity

I am delighted to announce a new Open Source cybergrant awarded to the Caltech team developing the ANSE project at the Large Hadron Collider. The project team lead by Caltech Professor Harvey Newman will be further developing the world’s fastest data forwarding network with Open Daylight. The LHC experiment is a collaboration of world’s top Universities and research institutions, the network is designed and developed by the California Institute of Technology High Energy Physics department in partnership with CERN and the scientists in search of the Higgs boson, adding new dimensions to the meaning of “big data analytics”, the same project team that basically set most if not all world records in data forwarding speeds over the last decade, and quickly approaching the remarkable 1 Tbps milestone.

Unique in its nature and remarkable in its discovery, the LHC experiment and its search for the elusive particle, the very thing that imparts mass to observable matter, is not only stretching the bleeding edge of physics, but makes the observation that data behaves as if it has gravity too. With the exponential rise in data (2 billion billion bytes per day and growing!), services and applications are drawn to “it”. Moving data around is neither cheap nor trivial. Though advances in network bandwidth are in fact observed to be exponential (Nielsen’s Law), advances in compute are even faster (Moore’s Law), and storage even more.  Thus, the impedance mismatch between them, forces us to feel and deal with the rising force of data gravity, a natural consequence of the laws of physics. Since not all data can be moved to the applications nor moved to core nor captured in the cloud, the applications will be drawn to it, a great opportunity for Fog computing, the natural evolution from cloud and into the Internet of Things.

Congratulations to the Caltech physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists working on this exciting project. We look forward to learning from them and their remarkable contribution flowing in Open Source made possible with this cybergrant so that everyone can benefit from it, not just the elusive search for gravity and dark matter. After all, there was a method to the madness of picking such elements for Open Daylight as Hydrogen and Helium. I wander what comes next…

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OpenStack Gains Momentum with Users at Recent Summit

Cisco highlighted its support for OpenStack at the recent OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, which hosted 4500+ attendees and included many more users, in addition to the developers and operators that have dominated past conferences.  A common theme among keynote presentations was the speed and flexibility of IT required to support the clouds that will soon dominate commerce and communication worldwide.  The effort underway to improve stability was also a recurring discussion topic.

OpenStack Summit, May 12-15 in Atlanta

OpenStack Summit, May 12-15 in Atlanta

From its beginning as an open source project at NASA, the OpenStack movement has grown as an open alternative to propriety cloud services and applications.  The Summit serves as a forum for those interested in hashing out the direction and adoption of the model and standards, as well as a learning opportunity for those ready to build and deploy on them.

Keynote speakers from Wells Fargo and Disney helped transition the Summit from an academic exercise to a forum for learning how innovative companies are taking control of their cloud environments.

Glenn Ferguson, Head of Private Cloud Enablement for Wells Fargo, described the compliance, auditing and governance Wells requires in its private cloud, that aren’t available in public cloud offerings.  Wells has designated OpenStack their “cloud infrastructure model” to facilitate rapid deployment of infrastructure to meet application developers’ needs and requires all IT vendors to work within the OpenStack specifications. “This is something we have to do to remain agile and competitive in this environment,” Ferguson said.  “Our infrastructure needs to keep pace with the software.”

Chris Launey, Disney’s Director of Cloud Architectures and Services, was blunt in how he described the value of speed.  “If you’re a business that deals in any kind of information, you need speed (to thrive.)  “If you give (developers) their own ‘fast’, they’ll make their own ‘cheap’ by getting their product to market quickly and responding to customer demands.  And (they’ll) make their own ‘good’ by shrinking development cycles and introducing improvements more often, until they reach a virtual continuous cycle of improvements.”

The OpenStack Foundation divides the work into individual projects focused on the various cloud components: servers, object-based storage, networking infrastructure, security, etc.  Proponents are excited about the innovation that can be unleashed when developers are freed from having to worry about the complexities associated with underlying infrastructure and can focus on the innovation of cloud services and applications.

Cisco was highly visible at the Summit, drawing standing-room-only crowds to sessions in the Networking Track,  as network stability and scalability are top-of-mind for users deploying critical applications and services to an open source cloud.

Lew Tucker, Cisco Vice President and CTO for Cloud Computing and Vice-Chair of the OpenStack Foundation, painted a picture of what is possible in his presentation “Open Stack and the Transformation of the Data Center.”  He described how the data center is becoming a large, highly automated “fabric” consisting of interconnected physical systems and virtualized services.  In this environment, OpenStack acts as a platform for building a highly efficient cloud, providing management of diverse infrastructure “below” and orchestration of a vast set of application services “above”.

Lew Tucker, Cisco VP and CTO of Cloud Computing

Lew Tucker, Cisco VP and CTO of Cloud Computing

Cisco’s key contribution to OpenStack has been participation in the development of Neutron, the OpenStack Networking Service.  There is clearly a need to have the same level of visibility and management flexibility that Cisco has been offering its customers in an open source cloud model.  In addition to driving connectivity generally, Cisco has received approval on blueprints for plugins to integrate VPN- and Firewall-as-a-Service as part of OpenStack networking.  (Referred to as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) plugins.)  Cisco is also working on the integration of OpenStack Neutron with OpenDaylight, a separate project started to focus specifically on network programmability.  Cisco’s extensive work in the open source community will bring even greater value to its existing customers by extending the ecosystem of solutions integrated with Cisco products.

In the Expo Hall, Cisco highlighted the integration of its networking, compute and management products with OpenStack APIs, demonstrating:

If you missed the Summit, check out the Session Videos and Slides to deep-dive presentations by Cisco contributors, presented at the Atlanta Summit 2014:

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Openstack Expectations for Summit

Openstack SummitAs I was flying to Atlanta for Openstack Summit, I was thinking about the difference in my expectations for this summit from the summit last year in Portland.

In Portland, Havana was just released and was starting to become interesting to service providers as the project was maturing and gaining interest with some enterprises. The Havana release was not ready for enterprises but Icehouse, the next release was bringing features that are of great interest. I was interested in getting involved in Icehouse so I attended with my R&D team and networked. There was not much excitement at the event and the attendance was not that great. Walking into the exhibit hall was depressing as there were only a small number of exhibits and mostly tables with brochures.

One year later, and the excitement around Openstack and Icehouse is high. Openstack has finally hit the feature capability and scale requirements needed to be accepted by the enterprise. Over the last year, numerous enterprises performed Proof of Concepts (PoCs) on Havana and 2014 is quickly becoming the year of Openstack coming out! The Icehouse features that are of greatest interest are:

  • Ceilometer support in Horizon for administrators to view daily usage reports per project across services.
  • Keystone now enables federated authentication via Shibboleth for multiple Identity Providers, and mapping federated attributes into OpenStack group-based role assignments 
  • Keystone assignment backed is completely separate from the identity backend. This allows much greater flexibility in which data comes from where. This allows an enterprise back your deployment’s identity data to LDAP, and your authorization data to RSA for instance.
  • Token KVS driver is now capable of writing to persistent Key-Value stores such as Redis, Cassandra, or MongoDB. In combination with above, this means we can use Redis or Cassandra for tokens and LDAP for user/pass/domain/etc.
  • Notifications  are now emitted in response to create, update and delete events on roles, groups, and trusts.
  • LDAP driver for the assignment backend now supports group-based role assignment operations.
  • Ceilometer API now gives direct access to samples decoupled from a specific meter events API, in the style of StackTach 
  • New Metric sources, including Neutron north-bound API on SDN controller, VMware vCenter Server API, SNMP daemons on bare metal hosts and OpenDaylight REST APIs    [ Check also Mike Cohen’s blog  Delivering Policy in the Age of OpenSource  ]

For the full set of features, please refer to:

I’m really looking forward to the Summit in Atlanta and will be spending most of my time in the Juno Design Summit contributing to Heat, Ceilometer, and Solum.

You can also follow me on Twitter @kenowens12


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The Napkin Dialogues: “Open”-ing up to SDN

I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent individual. Well, perhaps “reasonably” is a debatable term; just ask my friends. Or my wife. (Then again, don’t ask my wife.)

Reasonable or not, though, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what all this “software defined” stuff is supposed to mean, and I have to confess it’s been a bit circular: it’s almost as if you have to already know the information you’re trying to learn.

So where are the Napkin Dialogues written for people like me? Is everyone a super-genius programmer-cum-networker-cum-programmer and I just missed the boat? People are throwing around these “Open” terms left and right (e.g., OpenStack, OpenFlow, OpenDaylight, etc.) as if it’s an “open” and shut case.

Well shut. The. Front. Door. I’m going to have to be on the receiving end of my own napkin then. For me, it’s been feeling like I’ve been dropped into the middle of a maze with the lights turned off.

[Screenshot of "Dark Maze" game by Zomg Games Studio]

[Screenshot of “Dark Maze” game by Zomg Games Studio]

Yeah, kinda like that.

If you already ‘get’ this stuff, feel free to help a poor storage networking guy along in his journey, because I already know this iceberg goes all the way down.

To someone who is familiar with tried-and-true Data Center designs, I’m just having a hard time getting my head wrapped around 1) getting from here to there, and 2) just where there is! Read More »

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