This is an exciting time in the history of datacenter infrastructure. We are witnessing the collision of two major trends: the maturation of open source software and the redefinition of infrastructure policy.
The trend towards open source is self-evident. Platforms such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight are gaining huge developer mindshare as well as support and investment from major vendors. Even some newer technologies like Docker, which employs linux kernel containers, and Ceph, a software-based storage solution, offer promising paths in open source. Given the fundamental requirements of interoperability in architecturally diverse infrastructure environments, its no surprise that open source is gaining momentum.
The second trend around policy is a bit earlier in its evolution but equally disruptive. Today, there is a huge disconnect between how application developers think about their requirements and the languages and tools through which they are communicated to the infrastructure itself. For example, just to handle networking, a simple three tier app must be deconstructed into an array of VLANs, ACLs, and routes spread across a number of devices. Storage and compute present similar challenges as well. To simplify this interaction and create more scalable systems, we need to actually rethink how resources are requested and distributed between different components. This really boils down to shifting the abstraction model away from configuring individual devices to focus on separately capturing user intent, operational, infrastructure, and compliance requirements.
At Cisco, we’ve really embraced both of these trends. We are active contributors to over 100 open source projects and were founding members of OpenStack Neutron and OpenDaylight. We’ve also made open source a successful business practice by incorporating and integrating popular projects with our products. In parallel, Cisco has accumulated a lot of experience in describing policy through the work we’ve done with Cisco Unified Computing (UCS) and most recently with Cisco Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI).
Building on this foundation, we see a unique opportunity to collaborate with the open source community to deliver a vision for policy-driven infrastructure. This will enhance the usability, scale, and interoperability of open source software and benefit the entire infrastructure ecosystem.
This vision includes two initiatives in the open source community:
- Group-Based Policy: An information model designed to express applications’ resource requirements from the network through a hardware-independent, declarative language and leave a simple control and dataplane in place. This approach replaces traditional networking constructs like VLANs with new primitives such as “groups”, which model tiers or components of an application, and “contracts” describing relationships between them. Group-Based Policy will be available in the context of OpenStack Neutron as well as OpenDaylight through a plug in model that can support any software or hardware infrastructure.
- OpFlex: A distributed framework of intelligent agents within each networking device designed to resolve policies. These agents would translate an abstract, hardware-independent policy taken from a logically central repository into device-specific features and capabilities.
Let’s look a bit more closely at each of these initiatives.