It was 2004 when I saw vMotion for the first time. I was in a room with a bunch of very excited server administrators cheering at the amazing feat they just witnessed. The discussion quickly turned to how this will enable a level of flexibility only dreamed of before. I, as the lone network engineer in the room, was thinking to my self ‘uh oh, networking is going to have to change’. Fast-forward eight years, four of which I spent developing and evangelizing a virtualization specific network platform (the Cisco Nexus 1000V), and networks have not changed at all. Let’s face it; networking is the last major roadblock to enabling elastic workloads in the data center.
Three months ago I joined a small start-up in Palo Alto, California called Big Switch Networks. These last three months have convinced me that networking is going to change in some pretty exciting ways. I now know what those server administrators felt like when they saw vMotion for the first time.
Recently I gave a sneak peak at Big Switch Networks’ network virtualization platform. During a webinar on software defined networking (SDN) hosted by the Greg Ferro from Packet Pushers I demonstrated the ability to deploy highly elastic virtual networks. The fact that our platform can scale out layer 2 domains dynamically, without splashing broadcasts all over the network is very cool. The fact our platform can do this without the need for VLANs, STP, TRILL, Fabric Path, OTV, VXLAN, Q-Fabric, overlay networks, or any of the other solutions the industry is trying to sell today is very exciting. But I believe we are on the verge of something far more interesting.
What if we could blend the concepts of layer 2 and layer 3 and deploy a single /8 subnet from the core all the way down to operating system? We could bring the number of subnets and default gateways within a data center down to single digits. Unicast and broadcast isolation could be enforced SDN (as I demonstrated) but in a simple L3 like network design. In essence we can flatten layer 2 and layer 3 and at the same time creating very simple, highly flexible network.
Sound impossible? Three months ago I would have agreed. Now, I’m confident the technology to achieve this is here and it is finally time to be excited about networking again.