Multi-Vendor Network Provisioning and OpenStack

Doing multi-vendor network provisioning is intrinsically hard. The wide variety of technologies and protocols, and data models exposed across network equipment vendors, their product lines and product versions can be quite overwhelming.

If Cloud operations stand on three legs then the networking leg certainly is the weakest with the risk of toppling the whole thing on its side.

The most commonly referred example in the industry is that support for robust multi-vendor network provisioning in OpenStack has been extremely limited so far. For some background, it can be useful to go back and re-read Ivan Pepelnjak’s (hotly debated) blog-post “OPENSTACK QUANTUM (NEUTRON) PLUG-IN: THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE.

The Havanna release of OpenStack is an important step towards a solution with its introduction of the Modular Layer 2 (ML2) plugin architecture. ML2 allows OpenStack Networking to simultaneously utilize a variety of layer 2 networking technologies to fulfill the canonical network model that’s at the core of OpenStack.

This has allowed us to contribute an ML2 mechanism driver for NCS that is now shipping with the Havanna release. It was actually the first ML2 driver to pass review. We did this because connecting Tail-f NCS into OpenStack goes right to the heart of most of the well-known shortcomings. The main role of NCS in any network is to decompose network service configuration requests into a set of device specific changes that are pushed to the participating multi-vendor network protected by transactions.

For OpenStack, NCS implements and exposes the canonical network model through a REST interface and transforms instances of that model to real network topologies. This is done as a single and complete chain protected by a transaction. No more inconsistent state in the network and significantly less tricky network configuration error analysis activities.

We will be demonstrating OpenStack in combination with NCS using the ML2 driver at the upcoming 2013 OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong. If you are interested in what a multi-vendor system with transactions can do for your (or anyone’s) network, email us to schedule a meeting.

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