All posts by Amir Sheffer

Open MLAG: The Road to the Open Ethernet Switch System

Making another step towards enabling a world of truly open Ethernet switches, Mellanox recently became the first vendor to release as open source,  implementation of Multi Chassis Link Aggregation Group, or as it is more commonly known – MLAG.

Mellanox is involved and contributes to other open source projects, such as OpenStack, ONIE, Puppet and others, and already contributed certain adaptor applications to the open source community. Mellanox is the first and only vendor to open-source its switch SDK API. Mellanox is also a leading member and contributor of the Open Compute Project, where it provides NICs, switches and software.

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Automate the Fabric

If you search the internet for data center automation tools, you will come up with many options. You can easily find software tools that automate server provisioning, network equipment configuration or monitor the different elements. But you cannot find tools for automatic fabric configuration.

Fabrics become more popular these days. If traditional aggregation switching in data centers of Cloud providers, Web 2.0 providers, and large-scale enterprises has been based on modular switches, we now see them being replaced by fabrics – arrays of fixed, 1U switches. These fabrics increase the flexibility and efficiency in data center aggregation – lower cost of equipment, power reduction, better scalability and high resiliency.

Mellanox Virtual Modular Switch™ (VMS) is such a fabric, comprised of Mellanox 10, 40, and 56GbE fixed switches. It provides an optimized approach for aggregating racks. The VMS excels in its flexibility, power savings and performance.  Based on Mellanox switches, the VMS leverages the unique advantages of the SwitchX-2, the highest performing 36-port 40GbE switching IC.

The Need for Automation

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The scalability that the fabrics bring drives a change in the way they are configured. The legacy way to configure switches and routers is scripting – each device has its management interface, typically CLI, and when the right configuration script is applied to each switch, they interwork as a single fabric. However, this approach does not scale and one cannot configure big fabrics in mega data centers this way, since creating and maintaining scripts for many fixed switches can become a nightmare. So, fabric creation automation is required – a tool that can do it both automatically and fast, to allow short setup time.

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Mellanox Boosts SDN and Open Source with New Switch Software

Authored by:  Amir Sheffer, Sr. Product Manager

This week we reinforced our commitment to Open Ethernet, open source and Software Defined Networking (SDN). With the latest software package for our Ethernet switches. Mellanox has added support for two widely used tools—OpenFlow and Puppet, among other important features.

The introduction of the new functionality allows users to move towards using more SDN and automation in their data centers. Compared to custom CLI scripts, OpenFlow and Puppet enable customers to control and monitor switches in a unified, centralized manner, thus simplifying the overall network management effort, with less time and cost. Forwarding rules, policies and configurations can be set once then applied to many switches across the network, automatically.

 

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Flexible OpenFlow Support

Mellanox Ethernet switches can now operate in OpenFlow hybrid switch mode, and expose both an OpenFlow forwarding pipeline and a locally-managed switching and routing pipeline. The OpenFlow forwarding pipeline utilizes thousands of processing rules (or flows), the highest number in the industry.

Switches interface with an OpenFlow controller using an integrated OpenFlow agent that allows direct access to the SwitchX®-2-based switch forwarding and routing planes.  The hybrid switch model provides the most robust, easy-to-use and efficient implementation, as it can forward a packet according to the OpenFlow configuration, when such a match is found, or can handle it by its forwarding/routing pipeline, according to the locally-managed switch control applications.

 

 

OpenFlow and Puppet 011014 - Diagram2

 

This allows customers to implement OpenFlow rules where they provide the most benefit without needing to move every switch completely to OpenFlow-only management. By processing non-OpenFlow data through its local management plane and leveraging the local forwarding pipeline, the hybrid switch increases network performance and efficiency, through faster processing of new flows as well as lower load on the controllers.

This is much more flexible than another OpenFlow switch mode called OpenFlow-only. This mode does not allow the switch to have a local control plane, so each and every flow must be configured by the OpenFlow controller, which in turn creates high load on the controllers, resulting in high latency and low efficiency.

Open-Source Automation via Puppet

Further enhancing the openness of our switches and the standardization of configuration, Mellanox switches now integrate the Puppet™ automation software agent. Puppet provides an open-source-based standard interface for device configuration and management. Tasks, such as software downloads, port configurations, and VLAN management can be managed automatically according to defined policies.  Mellanox’s implementation of the Puppet agent is Netdev, which is a vendor-neutral network abstraction framework. Mellanox Netdev has been submitted to the DevOps community and can be downloaded for free.

Customers have the choice to manage our switches using a CLI, Web GUI, SNMP, XML, and now Puppet and OpenFlow. This allows the flexibility to design the easiest and most scalable management solution for each environment, and expands Mellanox’s commitment to open source.

 OpenFlow and Puppet 011014 - Diagram3 revised

Mellanox is involved and contributes to other open source projects, such as OpenStackONIE, Quagga and others, and already contributed certain adaptor applications to the open source community. Mellanox is also a leading member and contributor of the Open Compute Project, where it provides NICs, switches and software.

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