SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, TJ Randall, Hollis Tibbetts, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo, @BigDataExpo, SDN Journal, @DevOpsSummit

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Edge Virtualization and the MicroCloud

Benefits and Difference from Private and Public Clouds

The benefits of public and private clouds based on virtualization are varied and well known. In 2013, more than 40 percent of enterprises have or are adopting virtualized private clouds in the data center, and another 40 percent are evaluating virtualization solutions. Nevertheless, less than 10 years ago, the number of enterprises doing any kind of private cloud virtualization was almost nonexistent.

Some of the benefits driving this rapid adoption in the enterprise, apply equally well for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and the edge. These benefits include:

  • Application compartmentalization - containment within the application's own O/S processor and I/O space (prevents single applications from consuming a platform's resources or affecting other applications due to problems)
  • Simplified security and quality of service (QoS) policies - administration across sites, applications, and networks
  • Automated application integration and orchestration - simplification of installation, upgrades, and migrations without platform reboots or network downtime
  • Better scaling and platform optimization - scale is simple addition
  • Improved survivability and performance - treat multiple platforms as one system

For the purposes of this article, "edge virtualization" is described as the MicroCloud - to distinguish it from "public" and "private" clouds typically associated with the data center. The following are distinctive attributes of the edge MicroCloud (versus private and public clouds).

  • It is located at the WAN interface of an SMB (typically the Internet) or a remote site in a larger enterprise (typically MPLS)
  • Network bandwidth is typically constrained
  • The south side of the edge (facing the LAN) is typically less than 200 devices/users
  • Policy (security, QoS, NAC/Network Access Control) is typically required
  • Firewall, NAT and subnet functionality are required
  • The "edge" is typically price and operationally constrained
  • The edge typically applies not only to network functionality but to edge applications as well (e.g., session border control, Wi-Fi controller management, etc.)

It is expected that edge virtualization and software defined networks (SDNs) will completely replace purpose-built appliances and integrated applications at the edge. These are all compelling reasons behind the move to virtualization in the data center, and these same attributes apply equally to the SMB and enterprise edge. When considering a transition to edge virtualization and SDN, you need to look for a solution that provides both powerful networking and orchestration capabilities.

The table below illustrates some of the benefits of virtualization at the edge and is followed by a brief description of each.

Edge Virtualization Feature Example: "Application Compartmentalization"

Virtualization Feature Overview:
One of the advantages of running on a virtual platform, versus adding an application on top of an existing O/S, is the fact that the application can run on the O/S it is optimized for, with resources dedicated for its use. This becomes especially important when the applications are deep and complete, such as with a session border controller or a voice IP key system, particularly when these might need to run on the same platform together or with another complex-type network application.

Example Description:
The following diagram illustrates one of the primary benefits of virtualization: the ability to allow an application to run in its own optimized O/S space with efficiently apportioned resources.

In this diagram, the "Orchestration and Network Manager VM" manages the configuration of the SBC VM as it relates to the disk, network, processor, and RAM. Any additional applications are then appropriately plumbed with proper resource management. This resource allocation is very difficult to do in the absence of virtualization, inasmuch as applications tend to compete with one another in the "user space" of the O/S.

Virtualization allows for quick integration of applications within the same platform. With proper orchestration it is possible to balance application resource needs with platform capabilities. It is not necessary to fine-tune applications to a host O/S, as is done with traditional edge devices.

Edge Virtualization Feature Example: "Simplified Policy Management"

Virtualization Feature Overview:
Policy management is one of the most complex components of any networking application. It becomes particularly complex at the edge when policy needs to be applied across platforms and geographies. Examples include "guest" and "corporate" policies-particularly for wireless access. Policy is typically used to define/limit/grant access to particular resources, such as bandwidth or data for users or devices. The complexity of policy is usually prohibitive in terms of use. Virtualization with proper orchestration greatly simplifies this required but very complex component.

Example Description:
The following diagram illustrates the simplification of policy management across sites. Superimposed upon a real site/policy map are guide blocks that emphasize sites (in columns) and policy (rows). The blue guide block emphasizes where policy (and routing) is set.

Policy management for security and QoS is typically complex and prone to error. Virtualization with proper orchestration greatly simplifies this critical component while improving upon the specific attributes of security and QoS.

Edge Virtualization Feature Example: "Automatic App Integration & Orchestration"

Virtualization Feature Overview:
Virtualization orchestration creates several important benefits. One of the most important of these is the ability to perform automatic integration of applications with respect to the network (automatic wiring) and its associated QoS and security policies. In a traditional implementation without the benefit of virtualization orchestration, integration tends to be fraught with errors, particularly when applied across geographies and between applications. Additionally, updates and changes in a virtual environment can usually be orchestrated as a simple switch from a running VM to the upgraded VM, whereas a traditional environment will typically require a platform reboot-thus causing all applications to lose connectivity for a period of time.

Example Description:
The following diagram illustrates the edge architecture that yields automatic app integration with virtual wiring.

Each of the colored lines represents a virtual wire (circled in red). Orchestration automatically connects these lines to the appropriate virtual switch, interface, or application.

Applications are, in turn, instantiated, configured, and plumbed by the same orchestration software. Each VM will run in its own operating system and be allocated appropriate resources. Additionally, the host hypervisor O/S and each of the VMs are isolated from each other and the WAN and LAN networks by the "network flow manager." This isolation provides both a level of security and an improvement of application upgrades/configurations.

Virtualization and orchestration eliminate many of the problems associated with traditional all-in-one appliances that attempt to run applications that must interact with each other and the network. Configuration mistakes are avoided, and upgrades happen with no downtime.

Edge Virtualization Feature Example: "Scalability and Optimization"

Virtualization Feature Overview:
Traditional methods of application integration usually require platform replacements in order to increase in scale. Additionally, platform optimization tends to be dependent upon the most computing-intensive application, making it difficult to balance between size and number of applications. On the other hand, virtualization has demonstrated excellent scalability and optimization value through simple addition. In fact, the trend is to reduce the size and cost of the platform, allowing more linear growth and optimization.

Example Description:
The following diagram illustrates the evolution of a typical edge configuration towards smaller and less costly virtual platforms that can provide scalable and optimized application and network support.

In order to scale, once a single platform has maximized the number of applications that it runs, it is only necessary to add a second (or third, etc.) platform. This will hold true for most full-size applications, such as web services, databases, file systems, etc., that can inherently take advantage of multiple instances. Furthermore, it is possible to move VMs from one platform to the next in order to optimize the resources of a particular application on a particular platform.

Virtualization in the data center has demonstrated real-world scalability and optimization for applications much more effectively than traditional dedicated platforms. These same attributes will also hold true for edge virtualization.

Edge Virtualization Feature Example: "Survivability and Performance"

Virtualization Feature Overview:
Virtualization not only yields a performance benefit, but also greatly simplifies and improves survivability and distribution (yielding further performance benefits). Survivability in a virtual environment means that even if any application(s) fail(s), the

hypervisor operating system, virtual machines, or other applications do not fail. Applications can be "spun" up in sub-second times when events cause an application, platform, or site failure. Additionally, because of network virtualization, these applications can be distributed across geographies both from a survivability and performance perspective.

Example Description:
From a performance perspective, traditional edge solutions have relied on proprietary and purpose-built hardware, resulting in high costs and underperformance. On the very low end of traditional edge solutions, most hardware is ARM-based, with minimal memory and storage. These solutions typically are purpose-built and rely on open-source applications with a small amount of software integration. Consequently, they are almost never capable of supporting the required performance of commercial or high-end applications. Additionally, because of their singular focus, they tend to be stand-alone devices incapable of surviving any type of failure. Two concrete examples running on the same platform are SDN-based networking and elastic cloud backup. The following figure represents these examples:

In the diagram, there are several points of survivability: 1) loss of connectivity to the data center, 2) platform loss, and 3) primary network loss. In each case the survivability components allow operations to continue, albeit at a reduced level (e.g., LTE speeds vs. Ethernet, routing with no updates, etc.).

Virtualization (platform and network) yields multiple levels of survivability and performance that are difficult to attain with traditional dedicated platforms.

Edge virtualization or MicroClouds can provide enterprises and SMBs with efficiencies that legacy, purpose-built appliances cannot even begin to achieve. The better management of application resources, simpler policy administration, automated application integration and orchestration, and improved scalability, survivability, and performance all lead to significant and measurable cost savings.

Managed service providers and distributed enterprises would both benefit from deploying an edge virtualization strategy. In an example use case scenario of 50 sites where MicroClouds were deployed, there was a 3:1 up-front CAPEX savings and a 5:1 average OPEX savings over 3 years.

Edge virtualization and SDN solutions are here today and ready for production deployments. Integrating them into today's enterprise data centers and SMB environments will establish a foundation for a more efficient, optimized and manageable network over the long term.

More Stories By Richard Platt

Richard Platt is CTO and vice president of engineering at Netsocket, where he is responsible for establishing the company’s technical vision and leading all aspects of its technology development. He has over 25 years experience defining, developing, and commercializing emerging technologies in both start-up and Fortune 100 environments.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Masters Technologies, a leader in Network Visibility and Uptime Solutions, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Masters Technologies is a leading vendor in the network monitoring and high speed networking markets. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley, Interface Masters' expertise lies in Gigabit, 10 Gigabit and 40 Gigabit Eth...
As the world moves toward more DevOps and Microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The Microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. Serverless computing is revolutionizing computing. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Raghav...
Fact: storage performance problems have only gotten more complicated, as applications not only have become largely virtualized, but also have moved to cloud-based infrastructures. Storage performance in virtualized environments isn’t just about IOPS anymore. Instead, you need to guarantee performance for individual VMs, helping applications maintain performance as the number of VMs continues to go up in real time. In his session at Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, Product and Marketing at Tintri, wil...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
As software becomes more and more complex, we, as software developers, have been splitting up our code into smaller and smaller components. This is also true for the environment in which we run our code: going from bare metal, to VMs to the modern-day Cloud Native world of containers, schedulers and microservices. While we have figured out how to run containerized applications in the cloud using schedulers, we've yet to come up with a good solution to bridge the gap between getting your conta...
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
So you think you are a DevOps warrior, huh? Put your money (not really, it’s free) where your metrics are and prove it by taking The Ultimate DevOps Geek Quiz Challenge, sponsored by DevOps Summit. Battle through the set of tough questions created by industry thought leaders to earn your bragging rights and win some cool prizes.