Are we ready for Open “Clouds” and “Networks” at the edge ?

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 by Antonio Manzalini

In a previous post, we’ve started elaborating about Soft Defined Networking (SDN), which is about virtualizing network equipment and decoupling them from network management and control; not only this, a key facet of SDN is introducing API for programming network services. In principle, this could mean morphing routers into commodity (low cost) programmable boxes controlled and programmed (through API) by an outside source.

In this interesting paper (Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing), they have mentioned how two-thirds of the cost of WAN bandwidth is the cost of the high-end routers, whereas only one-third is the fiber cost. So, according to them, simpler routers built from commodity components (as SDN is planning to have) deployed in WAN, may provide costs dropping more quickly than they have had historically.

Naturally, traditional Technology Providers doesn’t fully share this view, above all about commoditizing network equipment; they are proposing another view about the emerging SDN: it could be a mean for having more interfaces to network equipment and more functionality.

In this direction, recently, Cisco has elaborated about a platform, which will be called Cisco Open Programmable Environment, providing this claimed programmability and visibility at multiple levels of the network. If OpenFlow, does this at the control and data planes, it seems that Cisco plans to expand these concepts to the rest of the network, up to the orchestration layer. Apparently this a way to use the huge amount of state information held by a network.

But there is more around. OpenStack is just an example.

OpenStack is an open source cloud project and community with broad commercial and developer support. OpenStack is currently developing two interrelated technologies: OpenStack Compute and OpenStack Object Storage. OpenStack Compute is the internal fabric of the cloud creating and managing large groups of virtual private servers and OpenStack Object Storage is software for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of commodity servers to store terabytes or even petabytes of data.

Interestingly, OpenStack has a network connectivity project named Quantum (project page here). Quantum looks to provide “network connectivity as a service” between interface devices managed by other OpenStack services. Quantum itself does not talk to nodes directly: it is an application-level abstraction of networking. It requires additional software (in the form of a plug-in) and it can talk to SDN via an API.

Imagine these “paradigms” starting being exploited virally at edge of the networks…


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