When Worlds Colliding is Not Such a Bad Thing
If you’re a fan of the 90’s sitcom Seinfeld, you’re undoubtedly familiar with more than a few Seinfeld-isms – terms originated from the show that have made their way into our daily vernacular. One such term, “worlds colliding” describes a theory in which it’s best to keep your different worlds (as defined by social spheres, e.g. friends, family, colleagues, etc.) separate.
How does this relate to networking you ask?
Well let’s look at one world – Layer-2/Layer-3 networks. These are the networks that people have been building for decades. They consist of switches and routers and leverage protocols and technologies that networking gurus are familiar with such as Ethernet, VLANs, trunking, BGP, OSPF and more. These protocols govern how traffic is forwarded and are built upon the 7-layer OSI model. And because this model is (relatively) mature, there’s an inherent reliability, and a clear understanding of how these networks are built, how they work, and how they are maintained.
Then there’s the second world – the world of SDN and in this example, OpenFlow. With OpenFlow, you can do some interesting things, such as using a centralized controller to create rules and policies that dictate where traffic needs to go. In theory, this approach is more flexible and dynamic, and enables users the ability to drive business logic into the network. If you want to trigger some traffic monitoring, network tapping, or bandwidth calendar based upon users, times, or geographies, you can do that with OpenFlow.
The problem today is that these worlds remain separate. And this creates added costs and complexity for users because of the necessity to build, operate, maintain, and troubleshoot separate networks. Wouldn’t it be better if you could have the flexibility of OpenFlow for policy-based networking with the efficiency of Layer-2/Layer-3 for traffic forwarding? Enter CrossFlow Networking.
CrossFlow Networking is a unique capability delivered on PicOS 2.4. It allows these worlds to “collide” (in a good way). With CrossFlow, users can selectively integrate OpenFlow into certain parts of their network for specific applications, while maintaining the efficiency and performance of the tried and true Layer-2/Layer-3 protocols.
How does this work? OpenFlow allows users to stitch in a unique path for a specific application. We do this by allowing OpenFlow to fine tune or override the switching (FIB) or router (RIB) tables in the switch. These tables are “wired” by how Layer-2 and Layer-3 protocols converge to a best path for the traffic. In some cases, that path may not be ideal for the application (for example, you may want a specific application to access data or a network service that resides somewhere else in the network). One possible solution would be to adjust the switching and routing topology to get the desired behavior, but that takes time and is disruptive. CrossFlow Networking solves this by allowing an OpenFlow rule to trigger specific behavior, and then modifying the packet appropriately to use the existing FIB and RIB tables. This gives users granular control to allow a specific policy to change behavior, without disrupting the topology of the existing network.
Ultimately, CrossFlow Networking simplifies the process of integrating SDN into today’s networks. It bridges the operational gap between traditional networking and SDN, while also reducing CapEx for customers.
To borrow one more Seinfeld-ism, with CrossFlow, network operators can achieve a little bit more “Serenity Now”.
To learn more about CrossFlow Networking and Pica8, send us a note at email@example.com. We would love to hear your comments.