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vmWare: VxLAN and Ciscos Nexus 1000v : the SDN

Updated on February 25, 2015

vmWare is making a "HUGE" announcement this February

Data Centers are imploding. And I can speculate on what, exactly that "announcement" may entail or affect. But I am positive it will be part of the current trend. It may be some "new" initiative in the convergence of all this hardware and software we've been working with and watching blossom into a whole new "stage" of data center evolution. It COULD be that a new version of ESXi is going to come out. It may be the announcement of a merger of larger companies (forming ONE). But the long and short of it is...

SDDC is IMPLODING- yet touching us all, everywhere around the globe.

In the old days you could make around 4000 VLAN's on a switch.

That may not be enough~

What is Virtual Extensible Local Area Network (VxLAN) ?

Just because our modern network is referred to in "cloudy" terms, do not be fooled. Each and every bit of information still requires the same or MORE hardware than before. So how is all this hardware corralled, herded and controlled? Enter VxLAN and the Nexus 1000v.

Clouds are wonderful places to be, but... for those of us who have to map elastic customer demands, represented by new and changing "virtual" workloads...

We have to impress those virtual workloads ONTO ACTUAL HARDWARE. Real physical servers, running specialty software. Or servers running servers under vmWare, (or some other hypervisor). And it is all connected by "Real" networks, running on fiber-optics or copper. And now, as soon as you begin to look closely at THAT strata of "The Cloud" architecture, you begin hearing about "Layer-2", or "Layer-3 and IP-subnets".

Technology converging all just to forward YOUR email packets

In this evolving scenario, all the classic networking technology, from infrastructure, to operating systems and high-level software... is all "converging" - evolving - it is meshing together in an ever-finer movement to emerge as...

Everything -

Everything, all together in extreme proximity, All the vendors are tripping over one-anothers toes in the data center, so (rather than fight it) they've decided to ALL HAVE A LOVE-IN and produce offspring. Kinda makes you wonder what those love-children will look like when all those billions of dollars of research and development get pushed out eh?

STAY CALM.... "I'm a Scientist"

But MORE importantly...

Are "Real" Data-Center-Admins red-meat eaters or vegetarian?

vmWare has been running on the Cisco Infrastructure

But now vmWare is actually re-defining infrastructure right along with CISCO
But now vmWare is actually re-defining infrastructure right along with CISCO

vmWare created their own extensible virtual switch~

And not to be out-done.  Cisco created their own vSwitch- the Nexus 1000v or N1k
And not to be out-done. Cisco created their own vSwitch- the Nexus 1000v or N1k

Customers need and demand flexibility of tech support

And while in production- and without a single server going "down"- infrastructure managers are expected to supply technology solutions that allow servers to be upgraded, moved, CHANGED...

...without the service EVER going offline. This is what Nexus and vmWare do.

Customers often ask, "Can I grow a SECOND "Layer-2 domain" but still be able to copy my virtual machines from one domain to another? And as you do this, will my current physical LAN be well-utilized while you do these things? And how quickly can you do this?"

This is the genesis of VxLAN.

This is the networking problem that Service-Providers and even the "Private-Clouders" are running into all over the world. All are facing the same problems requiring solution.

HOW do you make sure you have a network that will scale to the "cloud" with an increasing number of tennants, AND be able to grow my physical infrastructure along the way to allow me to do all this?

VxLAN is an (evolving) robust networking service capable of doing things like; firewall or Data-Center-Interconnect... and more.

How does Nexus 1000v figure into this scenario?

It's central to the infrastructure, actually. Yes, central. NOT the Nexus 7000... The Nexus 1000v and the Nexus 1010. They are "Central". Why?

They are the sentinels BETWEEN all things software or hardware. (NOT the N7k) The Nexus 7000 series is central to the Data Center itself. But Nexus 1000v is where all the software, all the hardware... all the customers, and all the system administrators...

...get together and interact, almost directly in many cases, if NOT "directly".

It IS where rubber meets the road.

The MOST interesting thing in all this? Is that usually when customers purchase the N1k, they are buying Nexus-1000 through vmWare with a vmWare sku. Yet it is Cisco technology. Yes, it is possible to purchase it directly from Cisco... but... this is what I am saying.

"Dogs and Cats, living together. - Mass Hysteria." [Ghostbusters]

(Or, perhaps it's just a big Geek-fest?)

The Nexus 1000v started as a Layer-2 virtual switch

And today it is a switching "platform" capable of supporting a variety of virtualized network services including things like: virtual security gateway (VSG), ASA-1000v, the N1k's own supervisor modules, vWAAS, vPATH, and VxLAN... and much much more.

Plus, it provides classic, BASIC, Cisco-IOS functionality.

But it is NX-OS.

It is referred to as a "distributed modular switch", with it's own High-Availability "supervisor" module (VSMs), it's own line-cards are referred to as "Virtual Ethernet Modules" (VEMs).

the N1k, has been designed precisely to support this increasing need for virtualized service. Which needs to be instantiated while 'in production' and with no down-time.

-That's what the engineers are shooting for anyway. -Pretty good record so far.

Though the Nexus 1000v is the LOWEST NUMBER of the Nexus-series family, it has the MOST modules supported -of all those members.

Current Cloud Architecture models require-

The cloud requires a network to instantly instantiate lots and lots of "segments" of network and be able to support increasing numbers of tenants, and increasing numbers of apps on those tenants. In fact vCloud defines many differing networking models: isolated networks, fenced networks, directly-connected networks, then- differing TIERS of networking from a v-Application perspective, from an Enterprise perspective, from a Service-Provider perspective.

All of these constructs requires specific support from the networking infrastructure to make this successful.

And it gets even MORE complicated...

vApps and Virtual Machine networks

Each vApp might be a 3-tier application with a web "front-end", a logical "middle" (processing vm-network) and a database "back-end".

And they may all require differing network segments. (And all that that entails)

The vCloud architecture allows for on-demand service instantiation.

This FORCES you to create individual network segments for each instance of these applications. So, From a "real" standpoint- HOW IN THE WORLD, are we going to create so many logical segments? In a world that has been dominated by (classic networking) 802.1q networking with a limit of about 4000 VLANs for roughly the last 20 years. And now?

4000 VLANs may not be scalable enough for our current requirements.

This is what the "Cloud" is demanding.

Others have suggested that this may be accomplished at Layer-2. Suggesting that this can be accomplished by merely "extending" a MAC-based networking topology. But then you'd be constrained by Layer-2 limitations. It limits the communications you are allowed. You cannot setup a decent "port-channel" without getting OUT of the whole MAC-paradigm, and enter the IP-based Layer-3.

So "MAC" (or Layer-2) is not the final solution (all by itself).

Emerging Standards / VxLAN

There has been a joining of forces that includes even the open source community. Cisco, vmWare, RedHat... and more. Are all part of the (now) on-going effort to create a new kind of topology that does not (out of hand) throw out all the classic architecture. I have heard many industry-insiders allude to some of the politics and financial jockeying that is going on.

But at the end of the day, functionality is DEMANDED.

the Virtual Extensible Local Area Network encompasses:

  • an Ethernet in IP overlay network (L2 frames encapsulated in UDP)
  • it Includes 24 bit VxLAN id's (providing 16 million bridged logical-networks)
  • VxLAN can cross Layer-3 (utilizing our IP-based "magic")
  • it Will allow "tunneling" between VEMs (transparency for VMs)
  • offers IP-multicast (used for L2 broadcast/multicast & unknown-unicast)
  • all Submitted to IETF - standardization (Internet Engineering Task Force)
  • VMware, Cisco, Red-Hat, Broadcom, Arista and OTHERS (in on this)

VxLAN, "encapsulates", the original Ethernet data-frame.

So it allows the "backwards compatibility".

I will end this little article, merely "truncating" it HERE

By saying, that all of this converging technology, is where the rubber meets the road. At the Nexus 1000v. This is NOT a sales-pitch, it's the statement, freely made, by one technophile of many.

(And, it's as GOOD a point as any to say it's where the tires smoke.)

And, like any self-respecting infrastructure geek. I DO Love My Hardware.

So... do not let all this "Cloud" talk fool ya. It don't run without 1's and 0's flowing over a piece of copper wire somewhere. And those bits and bytes don't MOVE, without being processed. And they don't get processed without some good people running around with screwdrivers and CD's in their hands, and thumb-drives in their pockets (and keyboard-face from SLEEPING on their keyboards). And bit's and bytes, don't get processed without a power-breaker getting warm from all the juice being sucked down...

By a big huge awesome data center near you- Running a ... "Cloud"


Now, the real question I pose to you is THIS one. Are "real" data center administrators Red-Meat eaters, or are they vegetarian?

THAT's what I wanna know.


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    • stvrich profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from East Rockaway - Long Island - Planet: Earth ~

      I personally do not believe that IPv6 is going to last as long as people think. ... I have reasons for saying this. And I hope to expound on it later. But, "networking" is only PART of it. It will be a reflection of evolution of Science / Engineering overall. And it's application in our lives. ... IPv6 won't be here for long. (it merely sets the stage for the "Next" phase)-

    • stvrich profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from East Rockaway - Long Island - Planet: Earth ~

      Makes me wonder what "virtual" data center admins "eat"


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