Cisco Live in San Diego is right around the corner. It’s the place to be to meet with people, learn and to stay current with the technology trends of the industry. What are some of the upcoming technology trends to watch out for at Cisco Live.
Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN)
There is a lot of buzz about Software Defined Networks (SDN), Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) and everything you can possibly think of and then adding software defined in front of it. Many of these technologies are not mature yet but SD-WAN is a viable technology as of now.
Cisco is realizing the SD-WAN through its technology called IWAN. IWAN is used when connecting to multiple Service Providers (SPs) and can more effectively work in such a setup than with vanilla routing. IWAN can choose the best exit, based on metrics such as latency, jitter and packet loss, which is not feasible with normal routing. It does this through a technology called Performance Routing (PfR). This technology was very complex in the past but has evolved to a much simpler configuration in its current revision. It can also help organizations save money by running DMVPN over the Internet instead of buying more costly MPLS circuits from the SP.
Provider Backbone Bridges Ethernet VPN (PBB-EVPN)
PBB-EVPN is mainly a technology for SPs or for enterprise that is running their own MPLS network. Building scalable multipoint layer two networks is always a challenge and has often been realized through Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) in the past. VPLS suffers from some drawbacks like explosion of MAC addresses, the requirement of a full mesh, the handling of multicast traffic and so on.
PBB-EVPN addresses these drawbacks of VPLS by using BGP as the control plane protocol, allowing for arbitrary topologies, implementing BGP policies for traffic engineering and the well-known stability and scalability of BGP. It is also designed to handle multi homed layer two segments which has been a challenge in traditional deployments. EVPN is also getting consideration to be used as a Data Center Interconnect (DCI) protocol to build scalable data centers.
Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC)
Data centers is one of the first Places In the Network (PIN) that is moving to a more software defined forwarding paradigm. The reason for this is that traffic patterns are fairly easy to predict where traffic is more of east-west nature compared to north-south in a normal campus area. The amount of traffic is massive and there are not many different types of devices that need to connect to the network compared to the campus.
Cisco’s solution in this space is the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) which is a software and hardware based solution available on the Nexus 9000 platform. With ACI it’s possible to define policies, which tiers can communicate, should the traffic be load balanced, how is traffic to the outside handled and a lot more. This is then programmed to the network devices that are normally in a leaf and spine topology by the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). There are already a few DC’s running ACI technology and expect more news on this front at Cisco Live as the technology becomes more mature.
Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) is the de facto standard used by almost all SPs for forwarding of traffic. Normally labels to reach the PE next-hops is assigned by the Label Distribution Protocol (LDP) or Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP). LDP is most commonly implemented but running LDP is an extra protocol that is simply assigning labels. Couldn’t this be handled by your IGP assigning the labels instead? Yes, and that’s the main idea of SR, to cut down on the number of protocols in the backbone and to allow for traffic engineering that is commonly only implemented through the use of RSVP-TE which is a complex protocol and that has scalability issues when deployed at large scale. SR is trying to solve some of these issues and software has been released to support this feature, expect it to gain more traction in the field as the software gets more mature.
Evolution of Enterprise Networks
Some people may argue that very little is happening in the enterprise networking space, which may be true to a certain extent but there are also technology trends in the enterprise as well. The main trend is to minimize the impact of layer two by building networks based on technologies such as Virtual Switching System (VSS), Virtual Port Channel (VPC), stacking and so on.
Cisco has also introduced the concept of Instant Access (IA) which is a similar technology as the Fabric Extender (FEX) available on the Nexus platform. With IA it’s possible to have access layer switches connected to the distribution and with the access layer devices acting as remote line cards. This creates fewer points to manage, gets rid of STP in the access layer and allows for technologies such as MPLS to extended to the access layer.
Network Function Virtualization (NFV)
NFV is another very hot topic right now. Routers and switches have almost always been physical devices but now we are starting to see virtual devices such as the CSR1000v, ASAv, Nexus1k, vWLC and many more. Virtual devices are a very good fit in some cases such as a Virtual Route Reflector (vRR) because it is easy to throw memory and CPU into a server compared to buying a router which may have less horse power. As this device is not in the forwarding path, all it needs is to have a powerful control plane and a device such as CSR1000v is a very good fit in this use case.
There is also an upcoming virtual IOS-XR device called XR9000v. There is already another XR platform available which is called XRv but the new XR9000v has much more of a forwarding plane and can achieve very respectable traffic levels. The XR9000v can then be deployed in samller Points of Presence (POPs) or in places in the network where it fills a specific role, such as providing a certain service to the network.
There are a lot of announcements coming up at Cisco Live both regarding new products and new technologies/features. If you can’t make it to San Diego, stay aware of new trends on Twitter, Cisco blogs and of course via the Cisco Live portal which will live stream some of the events. I look forward to meeting readers of the blog at Cisco Live. Don’t be afraid to say hi!