NEC introduced an OpenFlow virtual switch that allows its software-defined networking technology to apply Quality of Service and access control list policies to virtual machines on Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors. NEC has not yet announced plans for the vswitch to support VMware or other hypervisors.
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"As opposed to plain vanilla OpenFlow controllers where you're controlling traffic between the switches and the controllers, this [OpenFlow vswitch] allows them to go up one notch above the control layer and think about how they will integrate the network infrastructure within the broader IT environment," said Rohit Mehra, vice president for network infrastructure research at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "As data centers get larger and handle more traffic, the value of virtual centers cannot be underemphasized. Being able to control virtual switches [vswitchs] with OpenFlow is important."
NEC's ProgrammableFlow 1000 (PF1000) vswitch has an OpenFlow 1.0 agent to support Microsoft's Hyper-V application programming interface (API) for Windows Server 2012. The PF1000 provides 256 vswitches per server and 1,280 ports per vswitch for a total of 260,000 twelve-tuple flows.
"Enterprises need visibility all the way into where the network ends and today that is at the hypervisor level," said Don Clark, general manager of new business development for NEC Corp. of America. "It's possible to have that visibility with proprietary implementations, but without OpenFlow you don't have an abstraction layer that allows you to map the virtual from the physical. And it's not open."
OpenFlow vswitch improves server utilization, QoS and ACL implementation
Before introducing the PF1000, NEC managed the virtualized edge of a network by mapping virtual local area networks (VLANs) to host servers, much like non-OpenFlow networks do, Clark said. That allowed server admins to move virtual machines (VMs) from one host to another, as long as they don't cross a VLAN boundary.
NEC customer Edgenet took that approach with its virtualized infrastructure prior to deploying NEC's vswitch recently. Edgenet, an Atlanta-based enterprise software and data services provider to the retail industry, has virtualized its development, quality assessment (QA) and production network environments with Microsoft Hyper-V and its NEC OpenFlow network. But it needed vswitches in order to maximize its use of resources, according to Mike Steineke, Edgenet's vice president of information technology.
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"Prior to [the PF1000], we had those Hyper-V hosts dedicated for each environment [development, QA and production], so we had them physically separated. But that wasn't the best utilization of the hardware. As we have been upgrading the hosts and have boxes that can support a lot more VMs on them, we realized that the networking could be an issue."
In order to virtualize development, quality assurance and production, the team looked for ways to best utilize all the hypervisor host resources available. "For host processor and memory resources, there are lots of ways to make sure the priority for the right lifecycle is given. We needed to find something that did the same thing for the virtual network layer."
Steineke said the PF1000s in his software-defined network allow him to apply the top Quality of Service (QoS) queue to his production traffic via his NEC OpenFlow controller.
NEC adds OpenStack and IPv6 support to controller
The company also released new REST-based northbound APIs that allow network managers to create advanced access control list (ACL) and QoS policies on their software-defined networks (SDNs). A customer can now apply QoS, for instance, to the virtual routers, virtual bridges or virtual networks he creates within an OpenFlow network, Clark said.
More and more SDN vendors are offering RESTful APIs for northbound interfaces on their controllers.
"RESTful APIs have become really popular in the last year or so and most vendors will have no choice other than to conform to them to talk to multiple vendors across the industry," IDC's Mehra said.
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