|By Lori MacVittie||
|July 8, 2014 11:45 AM EDT||
One of the benefits of SDN is centralized control. That is, there is a single repository containing the known current state of the entire network. It is this centralization that enables intelligent application of new policies to govern and control the network - from new routes to user experience services like QoS. Because there is a single entity which has visibility into the state of the network as a whole, it can examine the topology at any given point and make determinations as to where this packet and that should be routed, how it is prioritized and even whether or not it is allowed to traverse the network.
It's a pretty powerful concept for networks, which traditionally distribute network state as individual configuration files across the data path.
Most of the focus of SDN is on the replacement of manual and scripted configuration methods with an API-driven mechanism. Whether that's OpenFlow or OpFlex or some other protocol is not really important as the benefit of operationalization is to provide a consistent interface from the perspective of the operator, not the device.
This is a real benefit; operationalization across operations and dev has proven to produce tangible benefits in the form of improved time to market and a reduction in errors. By centralizing network state in a controller, this model provides a comprehensive view of the network at any given moment. Because the controller is not just a repository but an active participant in the flow of data across the network, this visibility enables the controller to understand how to (ostensibly) non-disruptively change routes or apply new policies in real-time.
The benefit itself is not in question. What is in question is what happens when the controller of this new software-defined architecture becomes overwhelmed, and how to preserve that benefit when the centralized model must decentralize in order to scale.
The Eventually Consistent Problem Comes to the Network
Eventual consistency is nothing new. It has always been an issue when scaling applications, particularly those that rely on shared data. Consider Amazon, if you will. If you and I are both shopping for the same thing, and I order before you, it may take seconds or more before the database is updated. If you were in the middle of ordering at the same time, you and I may be contending for the same item. Because my order takes a moment or two to propagate through the system, your view of the database (the availability of the item) is inconsistent with mine.
It is assumed that eventually our views will be consistent, and that this age old unsolved problem of distributed computing simply must be accepted as unsolvable for now, Thus systems are designed with this principle in mind. Which means we end up back with Brewer's CAP Theorem staring us in the face and reminding us we can't be perfectly consistent in a distributed system, so we must deal with systems in such a way as to achieve eventually consistency.
At issue is the ability of a software controller to scale. The controller is, by design and necessity, part of the data path. That is both a blessing and a curse. It is from this fact that the real-time adaption of network behavior can be achieved, but it is also this fact which forces issues of scale and introduces the need for a distributed system from which the problem of eventual consistency derives. That's because more than one system will be the "master" repository for a given portion of network state. Even if one controller is designated as master of the network universe and thus maintains the "official" state of the network, there are those moments when the secondary (or tertiary) controller has modified the "official" state and introduces inconsistency. In the moments between when the two network states merge, there is the possibility that the first (master) controller will also try to make a decision based on information that relies on network state that is no longer valid. If Controller B, for example, removes a port from a VLAN, and before that state can propagate to the master, a packet arrives in the fabric, destined for that port, Controller A will have no way to know that it is no longer participating in the VLAN and will, as expected, tell the switch to route to that port.
The issue will be shortly resolved, assuming timely synchronization of network state across the cluster, but in the meantime performance (or availability) may be negatively impacted.
The problem with eventual consistency in the network is one of magnitude. Eventually consistent views of books in stock at Amazon has a very different impact than an eventually consistent view of the network underpinning today's applications and ultimately the business. We're not talking about losing out on a book, we're talking about potentially disrupting hundreds or thousands of applications that translates into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Ponemon's 2013 Cost of Data Center Outages proves this case out: "The average reported outage incident length was 86 minutes, resulting in average cost per incident of about $690,200."
Eventual consistency of the network may turn out to be quite costly.
Common Themes: Reliability and Control
This is not a new problem. This issue of stateful failover as applied to scalability of both infrastructure and applications is one that application delivery has been dealing with, well, for over a decade now. The issue when dealing with distributed state is always one of replication and synchronization between those devices providing for reliability. That doesn't change just because we move from one form factor to another, or from on-premise to cloud. The issue remains: how do we maintain an authoritative view of the state of an <application or network> while still enabling the scale necessary to meet demand?
While we (as in the industry "we") recognize that true stateful reliability - and thus perfect consistency - is currently unachievable due to the constraints of distributed system design, we also recognize that we can get pretty darn close. From an application perspective, the intelligence embedded in a service fabric is more than able to deal with the problem with minimal introduction of latency. That is, there will be a slight pause and some disruption when failure or disruption occurs in the network but if the service fabric is smart enough, the disruption is experienced by the end user as no more than a slight hiccup - likely unnoticeable.
But the further down the stack you go, toward core network function, the more disruptive such a hiccup is going to be.
That's one of the reasons a "centralized control, decentralized execution" architecture makes more sense from a network perspective. Such a model maintains authoritative control over the state of the network, but empowers individual components in the various fabrics (stateless L2-4 and stateful L4-7) that make up "the network" to maintain its own prescriptive configuration and take action when necessary based on the abstracted policies of the network as a whole.
Everyone likes to posit an answer to what will be the "killer app" for SDN. But before we can worry about that, we might want to consider what may be the "showstopper" obstacles for SDN. Eventual consistency when scaling controllers is one of those issues.
Because without a reliable and consistent network world, there is no application world. Or at least not one that users will be excited to rely on.
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, discussed 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 th...
Jun. 29, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,746
"We provide a web application framework for building really sophisticated web applications that run on a browser without any installation need so we get used for biotech, defense, and banking applications," noted Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit (http://DevOpsSummit.SYS-CON.com), held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York
Jun. 29, 2015 04:16 PM EDT Reads: 613
"Plutora provides release and testing environment capabilities to the enterprise," explained Dalibor Siroky, Director and Co-founder of Plutora, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 03:34 PM EDT Reads: 576
The time is ripe for high speed resilient software defined storage solutions with unlimited scalability. ISS has been working with the leading open source projects and developed a commercial high performance solution that is able to grow forever without performance limitations. In his session at Cloud Expo, Alex Gorbachev, President of Intelligent Systems Services Inc., shared foundation principles of Ceph architecture, as well as the design to deliver this storage to traditional SAN storage co...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,804
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,246
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect t...
Jun. 29, 2015 01:19 PM EDT Reads: 804
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of pro...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:19 PM EDT Reads: 654
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC 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. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,548
Even as cloud and managed services grow increasingly central to business strategy and performance, challenges remain. The biggest sticking point for companies seeking to capitalize on the cloud is data security. Keeping data safe is an issue in any computing environment, and it has been a focus since the earliest days of the cloud revolution. Understandably so: a lot can go wrong when you allow valuable information to live outside the firewall. Recent revelations about government snooping, along...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,125
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,265
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,876
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not ...
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,107
"We got started as search consultants. On the services side of the business we have help organizations save time and save money when they hit issues that everyone more or less hits when their data grows," noted Otis Gospodnetić, Founder of Sematext, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:46 AM EDT Reads: 563
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,025
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.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,906
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,981
Malicious agents are moving faster than the speed of business. Even more worrisome, most companies are relying on legacy approaches to security that are no longer capable of meeting current threats. In the modern cloud, threat diversity is rapidly expanding, necessitating more sophisticated security protocols than those used in the past or in desktop environments. Yet companies are falling for cloud security myths that were truths at one time but have evolved out of existence.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,951
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue o...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,429
SYS-CON Events announced today that JFrog, maker of Artifactory, the popular Binary Repository Manager, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in California, Israel and France, founded by longtime field-experts, JFrog, creator of Artifactory and Bintray, has provided the market with the first Binary Repository solution and a software distribution social platform.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:20 AM EDT Reads: 632
In the midst of the widespread popularity and adoption of cloud computing, it seems like everything is being offered “as a Service” these days: Infrastructure? Check. Platform? You bet. Software? Absolutely. Toaster? It’s only a matter of time. With service providers positioning vastly differing offerings under a generic “cloud” umbrella, it’s all too easy to get confused about what’s actually being offered. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Kevin Hazard, Director of Digital Content for SoftL...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,948