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Category Archives: Networking Field Day 8

Server, meet switch: a brief introduction to Pluribus Networks

When I think of what Pluribus Networks is doing, I get this image of a high performance server and switch wrapped together, with the bow on top being this extremely clever hypervisor, called Netvisor, talking directly down to the chips in the switches. These server-switches allow Pluribus to do some pretty nifty things when it comes to networking.

This slide from Alessandro Barbieri’s presentation at Networking Field Day 8 helps me visualize what they are doing in comparison to traditional switch architecture:

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Network design-wise you will find that Pluribus is using the spine/leaf architecture that we are all coming to know and love. While there is no single recommended pod size, 12 to 24 racks were mentioned throughout their Network Field Day 8 presentations as the most commonly seen deployments.

These server-switches all make up a cluster – each with the same view of the network, talking to the others over TCP connections in a peer to peer fashion.  There is no centralized controller in this architecture, and each node in the cluster uses a three phase commit process to keep information synchronized with its peers. This means that either all the nodes are on board with a change, or the change just doesn’t happen. Much better than trying to rollback a change that wasn’t 100% successful across all nodes. The cluster is managed and appears as one big fabric, again a common theme that SDN is delivering on.

One of the cool things that Pluribus has focused their technology on is real time and stored analytics, the ability to “record” the network traffic and, in Pluribus’ case, this doesn’t require a separate fabric or taps. This is a pretty huge distinction considering the cost of monitoring alternatives and the time/effort that could be spent to maintain a separate monitoring fabric.

Pluribus’ technology does allow you to slice up your network into tenants and there is a strong emphasis on programmability, automation, and integration with OpenStack. Your basic “cloud in a box” – a box you will have plenty of resources to run advanced L4-7 services on.

This video from Networking Field Day 8 demonstrates just some of the analytics possible, but I’d also recommend checking out the demos from Networking Field Day 7 to see a bit more product-in-action videos.  I also really like this write up by @mrtugs – he does an excellent job further explaining the architecture and exploring the possibilities that stem from this server-switch goodness.

 

Published: 10/7/2014

 

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

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Posted by on 2014/10/07 in Pluribus

 

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Runt Post: Quality troubleshooting, what it looks like

In my previous post, I shared some of the cool stuff ThousandEyes is doing with VoIP.  I also wanted to draw attention to this cool video of Mohit Lad, co-founder and CTO of ThousandEyes, using his own product to troubleshoot an outage event on the fly: http://vimeo.com/105805525

There are very few ways to show off your product better than this type of demonstration. Mohit troubleshoots with expertise, clearly in his element. The tools cater well to his methodical troubleshooting process and both are quite impressive. Plus the routing loop he finds is just darn cool.

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Watch it, you’ll love watching a master at work, I know I did.

Published: 9/26/2014

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

 

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All Eyes on voice…

ThousandEyes announced something they called “new and shiny” at Networking Field Day 8 and it definitely caught my attention – not just because the word shiny was used* – but also because voice was the target of the announcement. I am quite used to being the literal and figurative red headed stepchild at networking events due to my involvement in that oh-so-unsavory world of voice** – but this Networking Field Day, voice got some well deserved attention.

ThousandEyes makes a product that via the use of Enterprise and Cloud Agents – those are active probes set out and about in your network, SaaS networks, and around the globe, you can gather some extremely detailed information regarding network performance, even when you don’t own all the pieces of the infrastructure along the path.

ThousandEyes is now leveraging that capability to ease the pain that is voice troubleshooting.  Using probes that emulate RTP traffic, you can gather data that can be used for capacity and voice quality planning purposes, as well as for troubleshooting voice performance issues.

Say you are planning to bring a new site online and route voice to and from this new branch.  Now you can collect detailed information that shows you how much this will suck (or perhaps not suck) *before* you go and purchase all the equipment for your design.

Say you are having trouble with voice between already established sites. This solution can help you identify capacity issues, jitter issues, and even DSCP remarking issues.  That last one really makes me smile.  How often is voice wrecked just because consistent QoS isn’t applied across all devices in the network?  No need to answer that out loud, we all know…

So here’s an idea of what a voice test creation would look like.  You can see there is a codec selection option, DSCP setting, and even a de-jitter buffer option that can be tweaked for the testing.

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Below is an idea of what kind of data is being presented back. I really like that you can jump to the BGP path visualization and other layer tools just as usual with the product. Feel free to watch the short video here for the full show and tell.

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Now it’s important to remember that this isn’t actually running tests on “real” calls being made in your network. While ThousandEyes makes a point of crafting probes to look and feel as much like actual application traffic as possible, it’s still not a live call.  I did ask about workflow integration with some tool like Wireshark or something similar and got a to-be-continued type answer.  In my vision, you would set alerts when thresholds were met that would kick off capture processes of live calls. Then you would correlate the .pcap files with this data to get a complete picture of the network. That way when the Director’s call to his beloved Aunt Erna drops and he wants to blame your really expensive phone system, you will have plenty of evidence to suggest that Aunt Erna just hasn’t mastered the art of speaker phone on her cell. Talk about a happy world.

Published 9/22/2014

*using the word shiny is a pretty good way to get my attention.  Using actual things that are shiny, even better.

**hating on voice is a well-known pastime for those engineers too afraid to touch it. 😉

Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.

 

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