Welcome!

Big Data Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict, Andreas Grabner, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, .NET, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Virtual Apostasy

When all you have is a hypervisor, everything looks like it should be virtualized

When all you have is a hypervisor, everything looks like it should be virtualized.

Yes, I'm about to say something that's on the order of heresy in the church of virtualization. But it has to be said and I'm willing to say it because, well, as General Patton said, "If everyone is thinking the same...   someone isn't thinking."

The original NFV white paper cited in the excellent overview of the SDN and NFV relationships "NFV and SDN: What’s the Difference?" describes essentially two problems it attempts to solve: rapid provisioning and operational costs.

The reason commodity hardware is always associated with NFV and with SDN is that, even if there existed a rainbow and unicorns industry-wide standard for managing network hardware there would still exist significant time required to acquire and deploy said hardware. One does not generally have extra firewalls, routers, switches, and application network service hardware lying around idle. One might, however, have commodity (cheap) compute available on which such services could be deployed.

Software, as we've seen, has readily adapted to distribution and deployment in a digital form factor. It wasn't always so after all. We started with floppies, moved to CD-ROM, then DVD and, finally, to neat little packages served up by application stores and centralized repositories (RPM, NPM, etc...).

Virtualization arrived just as we were moving from the physical to digital methods of distribution and it afforded us the commonality (abstraction) necessary to enable using commodity hardware for systems that might not otherwise be deployable on that hardware due to a lack of support by the operating system or the application itself. With the exposure of APIs and management via centralized platforms, the issue of provisioning speed was quickly addressed. Thus, virtualization is the easy answer to data center problems up and down the network stack.

But it isn't the only answer, and as SDN has shown there are other models that provide the same agility and cost benefits as virtualization without the potential downsides (performance being the most obvious with respect to the network).

ABSTRACT the ABSTRACTION

Let's abstract the abstraction for a moment. What is it virtualization offers that a similar, software-defined solution would not? If you're going to use raw compute, what is it that virtualization provides that makes it so appealing?

Hardware agnosticism comes to mind as a significant characteristic that leads everyone to choose virtualization as nearly a deus-ex machina solution. The idea that one can start with bare metal (raw compute) and within minutes have any of a number of very different systems up and running is compelling. Because there are hardware-specific drivers and configuration required at the OS level, however, that vision isn't easily realized. Enter virtualization, which provides a consistent, targetable layer for the operating system and applications.

Sure, it's software, but is standardizing on a hypervisor platform all that different from standardizing on a hardware platform?

We've turned the hypervisor into our common platform. It is what we target, what we've used as the "base" for deployment. It has eliminated the need to be concerned about five or ten hundred different potential board-level components requiring support and provided us a simple base platform upon which to deploy. But it hasn't eliminated dependencies; you can't deploy a VM packaged for VMware on a KVM system or vice-versa. There's still some virtual diaspora in the market that requires different targeted packages. But at least we're down to half-a-dozen from the hundreds of possible combinations at the hardware level.

But is it really virtualization that enables this magical deployment paradigm or is it the ability to deploy on common hardware it offers that's important? I'd say its the latter. It's the ability to deploy on commodity hardware that makes virtualization appealing. The hardware, however, still must exist. It must be racked and ready, available for that deployment. In terms of compute, we still have traditional roadblocks around ensuring compute capacity availability. The value up the operational process stack, as it were, of virtualization suddenly becomes more about readiness; about the ability to rapidly provision X or Y or Z because it's pre-packaged for the virtualization platform. In other words, it's the readiness factor that's key to rapid deployment. If there is sufficient compute (hardware) available and if the application/service/whatever is pre-packaged for the target virtualization platform then rapid deployment ensues.

Otherwise, you're sitting the same place you were before virtualization.

So there's significant planning that goes into being able to take advantage of virtualization's commoditization of compute to enable rapid deployment. And if we abstract what it is that enables virtualization to be the goodness that it is we find that it's about pre-packaging and a very finite targeted platform upon which services and applications can be deployed.

The question is, is that the only way to enable that capability?

Obviously I don't think so or I wouldn't be writing this post.

COMPLACENCY is the GREAT INHIBITOR of INNOVATION

What if we could remove the layer of virtualization, replacing it instead with a more robust and agile operating system capable of managing a bare metal deployment with the same (or even more) alacrity than a comparable virtualized system?

It seems that eliminating yet another layer of abstraction between the network function and, well, the network would be a good thing. Network functions at layer 2-3 are I/O bound; they're heavily reliant on fast input and output and that includes traversing the hardware up through the OS up through the hypervisor up through the... The more paths (and thus internal bus and lane traversals) a packet must travel in the system the higher the latency. Eliminating as many of these paths as possible is one of the keys*** to continued performance improvements on commodity hardware such that they are nearing those of network hardware.

If one had such a system that met the requirements - pre-packaged, rapid provisioning, able to run on commodity hardware - would you really need the virtual layer?

No.

But when all you have is a hypervisor...

I'm not saying virtualization isn't good technology, or that it doesn't make sense, or that it shouldn't be used. What I am saying is that perhaps we've become too quick to reach for the hammer when confronted with the challenge of rapid provisioning or flexibility. Let's not get complacent. We're far too early in the SDN and NFV game for that.

* Notice I did not say Sisyphean. It's doable, so it's on the order of Herculean. Unfortunately that also implies it's a long, arduous journey.

** That may be a tad hyperbolic, admittedly.

*** The operating system has a lot - a lot - to do with this equation, but that's a treatise for another day

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

Cloud Expo Breaking News
Simply defined the SDDC promises that you’ll be able to treat “all” of your IT infrastructure as if it’s completely malleable. That there are no restrictions to how you can use and assign everything from border controls to VM size as long as you stay within the technical capabilities of the devices. The promise is great, but the reality is still a dream for the majority of enterprises. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, EVP, Data Center Tech, at SUPERNAP, will cover where and how a business might benefit from SDDC and also why they should or shouldn’t attempt to adopt today.
MapDB is an Apache-licensed open source database specifically designed for Java developers. The library uses the standard Java Collections API, making it totally natural for Java developers to use and adopt, while scaling database size from GBs to TBs. MapDB is very fast and supports an agile approach to data, allowing developers to construct flexible schemas to exactly match application needs and tune performance, durability and caching for specific requirements.
APIs came about to help companies create and manage their digital ecosystem, enabling them not only to reach more customers through more devices, but also create a large supporting ecosystem of developers and partners. While Facebook, Twitter and Netflix were the early adopters of APIs, large enterprises have been quick to embrace the concept of APIs and have been leveraging APIs as a connective tissue that powers all interactions between their customers, partners and employees. As enterprises embrace APIs, some very specific Enterprise API Adoption patterns and best practices have started emerging. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will talk about the most common enterprise API patterns and will discuss how enterprises can successfully launch an API program.
The social media expansion has shown just how people are eager to share their experiences with the rest of the world. Cloud technology is the perfect platform to satisfy this need given its great flexibility and readiness. At Cynny, we aim to revolutionize how people share and organize their digital life through a brand new cloud service, starting from infrastructure to the users’ interface. A revolution that began from inventing and designing our very own infrastructure: we have created the first server network powered solely by ARM CPU. The microservers have “organism-like” features, differentiating them from any of the current technologies. Benefits include low consumption of energy, making Cynny the ecologically friendly alternative for storage as well as cheaper infrastructure, lower running costs, etc.
Next-Gen Cloud. Whatever you call it, there’s a higher calling for cloud computing that requires providers to change their spots and move from a commodity mindset to a premium one. Businesses can no longer maintain the status quo that today’s service providers offer. Yes, the continuity, speed, mobility, data access and connectivity are staples of the cloud and always will be. But cloud providers that plan to not only exist tomorrow – but to lead – know that security must be the top priority for the cloud and are delivering it now. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Kurt Hagerman, Chief Information Security Officer at FireHost, will detail why and how you can have both infrastructure performance and enterprise-grade security – and what tomorrow's cloud provider will look like.
Today, developers and business units are leading the charge to cloud computing. The primary driver: faster access to computing resources by using the cloud's automated infrastructure provisioning. However, fast access to infrastructure exposes the next friction point: creating, delivering, and operating applications much faster. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Bernard Golden, VP of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss why solving the next friction point is critical for true cloud computing success and how developers and business units can leverage service catalogs, frameworks, and DevOps to achieve the true goal of IT: delivering increased business value through applications.
Web conferencing in a public cloud has the same risks as any other cloud service. If you have ever had concerns over the types of data being shared in your employees’ web conferences, such as IP, financials or customer data, then it’s time to look at web conferencing in a private cloud. In her session at 14th Cloud Expo, Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, will discuss how issues that had previously been out of your control, like performance, advanced administration and compliance, can now be put back behind your firewall.
More and more enterprises today are doing business by opening up their data and applications through APIs. Though forward-thinking and strategic, exposing APIs also increases the surface area for potential attack by hackers. To benefit from APIs while staying secure, enterprises and security architects need to continue to develop a deep understanding about API security and how it differs from traditional web application security or mobile application security. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will walk you through the various aspects of how an API could be potentially exploited. He will discuss the necessary best practices to secure your data and enterprise applications while continue continuing to support your business’s digital initiatives.
The revolution that happened in the server universe over the past 15 years has resulted in an eco-system that is more open, more democratically innovative and produced better results in technically challenging dimensions like scale. The underpinnings of the revolution were common hardware, standards based APIs (ex. POSIX) and a strict adherence to layering and isolation between applications, daemons and kernel drivers/modules which allowed multiple types of development happen in parallel without hindering others. Put simply, today's server model is built on a consistent x86 platform with few surprises in its core components. A kernel abstracts away the platform, so that applications and daemons are decoupled from the hardware. In contrast, networking equipment is still stuck in the mainframe era. Today, networking equipment is a single appliance, including hardware, OS, applications and user interface come as a monolithic entity from a single vendor. Switching between different vendor'...
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BUMI, a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Manhattan-based BUMI (Backup My Info!) is a premium managed service provider specializing in data backup and recovery. Founded in 2002, the company’s Here, There and Everywhere data backup and recovery solutions are utilized by more than 500 businesses. BUMI clients include professional service organizations such as banking, financial, insurance, accounting, hedge funds and law firms. The company is known for its relentless passion for customer service and support, and has won numerous awards, including Customer Service Provider of the Year and 10 Best Companies to Work For.