By Puni Rajah
The first of our IP EXPO Rainmakers Spotlight series shines the spotlight on Nicira, a company that claims to be the first to deliver complete network virtualisation.
Earlier this year, we pointed to the burgeoning need for network hypervisors as requirement for democracy drives the same virtualization attributes.
We see early indicators as specialist vendors introduce capabilities to very large scale production environments.
Show me an early market entrant
Nicira claims to be the first company to deliver complete network virtualization, by decoupling virtual networks from the physical components of the network, and allowing the physical network to focus on forwarding packets. The physical network is treated as a fabric, a pool of IP capacity and Nicira's software orchestrates and delivers the virtual networks and network services on top of the physical fabric. Supporting heterogeneous networks is its strength. The company's customers include AT&T, DreamHost, eBay, Fidelity Investments, NTT and Rackspace.
In April, Nicira announced that Rackspace is driving a production OpenStack network environment leveraging its Network Virtualization Platform (NVP). Rackspace uses OpenStack “Quantum” and Nicira NVP to automate network services independent of data center network hardware, significantly increasing operational simplicity and reducing costs of managing their large-scale, multi-tenant clouds as the large cloud provider addresses the enterprise market.
How does it work?
Quantum, delivers networking-as-a-service in an OpenStack environment and allows users to programmatically create and manage logically abstracted network services. In addition to performance, this set-up makes compelling economics. It is possible to deploy and configure a secure private network and fully-featured cloud in seconds, on a simple and programmable basis. The process has transitioned from manual to automatic and uses network virtualization to move from costly human intervention to efficient self-service in provisioning rich networking services. Some use the term software delivered network (SDN) which we will explore in the next Spotlight profile.
OpenStack itself enjoyed significant boost with IBM and Red Hat joining the fray. Quantum is an OpenStack project to provide "network connectivity as a service" between interface devices (e.g., vNICs) managed by other Openstack services (e.g., nova). Nicira initiated, leads and is the most active participant in the ‘Quantum’ project, with its Dan Wendlandt the Project Technical Lead (PTL).
Is this relevant for me?
For customers who are facing rapid growth in network traffic and/or budget constraints, reviewing virtualization options makes sense, and Nicira would be a logical contender. The company today has direct operations in the US and Asia, so support for European customers needs to be verified. Many customers have chosen to partner with a service provider for network availability and performance. For these customers, it is the service provider that needs to consider virtualization as a way forward.