Click here to close now.


SDN Journal Authors: Stefan Dietrich, Elizabeth White, Peter Silva, Pat Romanski, Don 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
"eFolder does a lot of different things but we protect data and we are focused on protecting data no matter where it resides," explained Carlo Tapia, Product Marketing Manager at eFolder, in this interview at Cloud Expo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Cloud computing is unquestionably one of the driving forces of DevOps, as the automation of operations transforms enterprise software development. DevOps, however, is more than a technology trend, as it represents a move toward silo-busting, self-organizing horizontal teams that drive business velocity. At the same time, enterprise Digital Transformation represents an upheaval across the enterprise, as customer preferences and behavior drive enterprise technology decisions. This transformation ...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment proces...
In demand-intensive mobile and web applications, an emerging pattern is to host the Systems of Engagement in the cloud (for maximum responsiveness) but keep the Systems of Record with the other important business systems in the company datacenter, often on a tightly secured mainframe. But what about the space in between? In this IBM Redpaper publication, we show that the IBM Bluemix cloud platform offers technologies that make it easy for cloud-based SoEs to securely connect to on-premises IBM...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Su...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a global leader in monitoring, and testing the performance of online applications, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of DevOps Summit New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016 at the Javits Center in New York City. Catchpoint radically transforms the way businesses manage, monitor, and test the performance of online applications. Truly understand and improve user experience with clear visibility into complex, distributed online systems.Founde...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
In recent years, at least 40% of companies using cloud applications have experienced data loss. One of the best prevention against cloud data loss is backing up your cloud data. In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sam McIntyre, Partner Enablement Specialist at eFolder, presented how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He also demonstrated how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and t...
Actifio is powering new application development and testing services from Net3 Technologies (N3T), a managed cloud services provider. N3T's new Symmetry DevOps™ service builds on its existing Palmetto Virtual Data Center (PvDC) Cloud services for data backup and disaster recovery (DR) based on the Actifio Copy Data Virtualization platform. Previously, N3T's data protection and DR services were challenged by overlapping and inefficient legacy hardware and software platforms from multiple vendo...
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them ...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.