Click here to close now.

Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Lori MacVittie, Liz McMillan, Juha Holkkola, Roger Strukhoff, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, .NET, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Scaling Stateful Network Devices

One of the premises of SDN and cloud scalability is that it's easy to simply replicate services

One of the premises of SDN and cloud scalability is that it's easy to simply replicate services - whether they be application or network focused - and distribute traffic across them to scale infinitely.

In theory, this is absolutely the case. In theory, one can continue to add capacity to any layer of the data center and simply distribute requests across the layer to scale out as necessary.

Where reality puts a big old roadblock in the way is when services are stateful. This is the case with many applications - much to the chagrin of cloud and REST purists, by the way - and it is also true with a significant number of network devices. Unfortunately, it is often these devices that proponents of network virtualization target without offering a clear path to addressing the challenges inherent in scaling stateful network devices.

SDN's claims to supporting load balancing, at least at layer 4, are almost certainly based on traditional, dumb layer 4 load balancing. We use the term "dumb" to simply mean that it doesn't care about the payload or the application or anything else other than its destination port and service and does not participate in the flow. In most layer 4 load balancing scenarios for which this is the case, the only time the load balancer examines the traffic is when processing a new connection. The load balancer may buffer enough packets to determine some basic networking details - source and destination IP and TCP ports - and then it establishes a connection between the client and the server. From this point on, generally speaking, the load balancer assumes the role of a simple forwarder. Subsequent packets with the same pattern are simply forwarded on to the destination.

If you think about it, this is so close to the behavior described by an SDN-enabled network as to be virtually the same. In an SDN-enabled network, a new flow (session if you will, in the load balancing vernacular) would be directed to the SDN controller for processing. The SDN controller would determine its destination and inform the appropriate network components of that decision. Subsequent packets with the same pattern would be forwarded on to the destination according to the information in the FIB (Forwarding Information Base). As the load balancing service was scaled out, inevitably packets would be distributed to components lacking an entry in the FIB. Said components would query the controller, which would simply return the appropriate entry to the device.

In such a way, simple layer 4 load balancing can be achieved via SDN*.

However, the behavior of the layer 4 load balancing service described is stateless. It does not actively manage the flow. Aside from the initial inspection and routing decision, the load balancing service is actually just a bump in the wire, forwarding packets much in the same manner as any other switch in the network.

But what happens when the load balancing service is actively participating in the flow, i.e. it is stateful.

Scaling Stateful Devices

Stateful devices are those that actively manage a flow. That is, they may inspect, manipulate, or otherwise interact with flows in real-time. These devices are often used for security - both ingress and egress - as well as acceleration and optimization of application exchanges. They are also use for content transformation purposes, such as XML or SOA gateways, API management, and other application-focused scenarios. The most common use of stateful devices is persistent load balancing, aka sticky sessions, aka server affinity. Persistent load balancing requires the load balancing service (or device) maintain a mapping of user to application instance (or server, in traditional, non-virtualized environments). This mapping is unique to the device, and without it a wide variety of applications break when scaled - VDI being the most recent example of an application relying on persistence of sessions .

In all these cases, however, one thing is true: the device providing the service is an active participant. The device maintains service-specific information regarding a variety of variables including the user, the device, the traffic, the application, the data. The entire context of the session is often maintained by one or more devices along the traffic chain.

What that means is that, like stateful, shared-nothing applications, it matters to which device a specific request is directed. While certainly the same model used at layer 4 and below in which a central controller (or really bank of controllers) maintains this information and doles it on on-demand, the result is that depending on the distribution algorithm used, every stateful device would end up with the same flows installed. In the interim, the network is frantically applying optimization and acceleration policies to traffic that may be offset by the latency introduced by the need to query the controller for session state information, resulting in a net loss of performance experienced by the end-user.

And we're not even considering the impact of secured traffic on such a model, where any device needing to make decisions on such traffic must have access to the certificates and keys used to encrypt the traffic in order to decrypt, examine, and usually re-encrypt the traffic. Stateful network devices - application delivery controllers, intrusion prevention and detection systems, secure gateways, etc... - are often required to manage secured content, which means distributing and managing certificates and keys across what may be an ever-expanding set of network devices.

The reality is that stateful network devices are a necessary and integral component of not just networks but applications today. While modern network architectures like SDN bring much needed improvements to provisioning and management of large scale networks, their scaling models are based on the premise of stateless, relatively simple devices not actively participating in flows. For those devices that rely upon deep participation in the flow, this model introduces a variety of challenges that may not find a solution that fits well with SDN without compromising on performance outside new protocols capable of carrying that state persistently throughout the lifetime of a session.

* This does not address the issue of resources required to maintain said forwarding tables in a given device, which given current capacity of commoditized switches supported for such a role seems unlikely to be realistically achieved.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@CloudExpo Stories
WHOA.com has announced the newest addition to its data center footprint with the expansion into Equinix's newest state-of-the-art facility: DC-11 Washington, DC IBX+. Located in Ashburn, VA, this data center expands Whoa.com's presence to meet rapidly expanding customer demand for secure cloud solutions. Equinix, Inc. operates International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers in 32 markets across 15 countries in the Americas, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific. Equinix is committed to operating faciliti...
SYS-CON Events announced today that FierceDevOps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. FierceDevOps keeps software developers and IT operations personnel updated on the latest news and trends around the rapidly evolving role of the traditional IT worker.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Creative Business Solutions will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Creative Business Solutions is the top stocking authorized HP Renew Distributor in the U.S. Based out of Long Island, NY, Creative Business Solutions offers a one-stop shop for a diverse range of products including Proliant, Blade and Industry Standard Servers, Networking, Server Options and...
SYS-CON Events announced today that robomq.io will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. robomq.io is an interoperable and composable platform that connects any device to any application. It helps systems integrators and the solution providers build new and innovative products and service for industries requiring monitoring or intelligence from devices and sensors.
The 17th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. 17th International Cloud Expo, to be held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, APM, APIs, Microservices, Security, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding bu...
Today, IT is not just a cost center. IT is an enabler and driver of business. With the emergence of the hybrid cloud paradigm, IT now has increasingly more capabilities to create new strategic opportunities for a business. Hybrid cloud allows an organization to utilize multi-tenant public clouds, dedicated private clouds, bare metal hosting, and the associated support and services for the right use cases through an on-demand, XaaS model. This model of IT creates tremendous opportunities for busi...
Business as usual for IT is evolving into a “Make or Buy” decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud busi...
Businesses are looking to empower employees and departments to do more, go faster, and streamline their processes. For all workers – but mobile workers especially – utilizing the cloud to reconnect documents and improve processes without destructing existing workflows can have a dramatic impact on productivity. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Mark Grilli, vice president of Acrobat Solutions marketing at Adobe Systems Incorporated, will outline new ways that the cloud is changing the way peo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Litmus Automation will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Litmus Automation’s vision is to provide a solution for companies that are in a rush to embrace the disruptive Internet of Things technology and leverage it for real business challenges. Litmus Automation simplifies the complexity of connected devices applications with Loop, a secure and scalable clou...
As Marc Andreessen says software is eating the world. Everything is rapidly moving toward being software-defined – from our phones and cars through our washing machines to the datacenter. However, there are larger challenges when implementing software defined on a larger scale - when building software defined infrastructure. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Boyan Ivanov, CEO of StorPool, will provide some practical insights on what, how and why when implementing "software-defined" in the dat...
With the arrival of the Big Data revolution, a data professional is expected to master a broad spectrum of complex domains including data processing, mathematics, programming languages, machine learning techniques, and business knowledge. While this mastery is undoubtedly important, this narrow focus on tool usage has divorced many from the imagination required to solve real-world problems. As the demand for analysis increases, the data science community must transform from tool experts to "data...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgenia will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgenia is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional S...
WSM International has launched a DevOps services division that offers assessment, consulting and implementation to large enterprises and organizations with complex infrastructures. The concept of DevOps is to blend information technology (IT) software development with operations to optimize the computing infrastructure according to the specific needs of the organization. According to a recent press release from Gartner, "By 2016, DevOps will evolve from a niche strategy employed by large cloud ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that QTS Realty Trust, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing providers of data center facilities and cloud services and a leader in security and compliance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. QTS Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: QTS) is a leading national provider of data center solutions and fully managed services, and a leader in security and compliance...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WSM International (WSM), the world’s leading cloud and server migration services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. WSM is a solutions integrator with a core focus on cloud and server migration, transformation and DevOps services.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY., and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MangoApps provides private all-in-one social intranets allowing workers to securely collaborate from anywhere in the world and from any device. Social, mobile, and eas...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Emcien will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Emcien’s vision is to let anyone use data to know the future. Emcien has built an automated, predictive analysis product that improves the lives of real people. Emcien allows people to automate their data analysis so they can build a better future.
The speed of software changes in growing and large scale rapid-paced DevOps environments presents a challenge for continuous testing. Many organizations struggle to get this right. Practices that work for small scale continuous testing may not be sufficient as the requirements grow. In his session at DevOps Summit, Marc Hornbeek, Sr. Solutions Architect of DevOps continuous test solutions at Spirent Communications, will explain the best practices of continuous testing at high scale, which is r...
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, will discuss how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at...
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.