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OpenStack networking: Why should we care?

Rivka Gewirtz Little, Executive Editor

This month we've seen a flurry of networking-meets-OpenStack news. OpenStack is an open source cloud orchestration platform that enables automated provisioning and management of large groups of virtual machines or compute resources. So why should network managers be concerned?

Two words: Network virtualization. Now that Cisco, VMware Inc. and a host of others are promising flexible network virtualization and network overlays, engineers will eventually be able to manage and provision these virtual network resources along with compute resources to create tightly knit automated private and public clouds.

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According to many, OpenStack code is difficult to work with, and doesn't yet make it any easier to manage compute resources. That means it's even more difficult to apply to new virtual network resources. Yet network vendors see a future in adding usability by integrating network services into the OpenStack cloud environment.

This month Cisco announced its own edition of the OpenStack cloud management platform that engineers will be able to use to automate network virtualization in cloud environments. OpenStack's Folsom version Quantum plug-in allows for integration with the company's Unified Compute System (UCS) and works with its Nexus 1000V virtual switch. The goal is to enable the on-demand creation of many distinct networks on top of one underlying physical infrastructure in the cloud environment. The plug-in will also allow for the integration of network services, including extensive monitoring in the cloud.

Meanwhile, network virtualization startup Midokura introduced its cloud networking solution this month, which will integrate into the OpenStack cloud orchestration framework. Midokura's network virtualization technology sits on server hosts at the edge of a data center network and creates virtual networks on top of any physical network that provides IP connectivity. Midokura plans to integrate these features with the Nova network plug-in on the Essex release of OpenStack, extending its granular network programming and management into the OpenStack environment.

Late this summer, VMware became a board member in the OpenStack Foundation. At one time, OpenStack and VMware were seen as competitive cloud architectures. But VMware acquired network virtualization innovator Nicira, which played a role in developing OpenStack's Folsom release. Nicira is said to have influenced the heavy inclusion of network virtualization and management features in Folsom.

There's still a long way to go for OpenStack as a cloud architecture -- especially as it addresses virtual network resources. But as companies look to implement network virtualization in the private cloud environment, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on how networking vendors integrate management of these resources into OpenStack.


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Is OpenStack ready to address networking?

Rivka Gewirtz Little, Executive Editor
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