Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Gordon Haff, Elizabeth White, John Katrick, Mehdi Daoudi

Related Topics: Microservices Expo, Java IoT, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, Apache

Microservices Expo: Blog Feed Post

Integration Topologies and SDN

The scalability issue with the SDN model today isn’t that the data plane that won’t scale …

The scalability issue with the SDN model today isn’t that the data plane that won’t scale …it’s issues with the control plane.

Reading “OpenFlow/SDN Is Not A Silver Bullet For Network Scalability” brought to light an important note that must be made regarding scalability and networks, especially when we start talking about the control plane. It isn’t that the network itself won’t scale well with SDN, the concern is – or should be – on the control side, on whether or not the integration of the control plane with the data plane will scale.

A core characteristic of SDN is not only the separation of the control and data planes, but that that the control plane is centralized. There can be only one. The third characteristic that is important to SDN is the integration of these decoupled data plane devices with the control plane via APIs (Mike Fratto does an excellent job of discussing the importance of API support as well as making the very important distinction between API and SDK in his recent blog, “Three Signs of SDN Support to Watch for from Vendors”, so I won’t belabor this point right now).


The convergence of these three characteristics results in what Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) has long known as a “hub and spoke” integration pattern. A hub – in the case of SDN, the controller – sits in the middle of a set of systems – in the case of SDN, the data plane devices – and is the center of the universe.

The problem with this pattern, and why bus topologies rose to take its place, is that it doesn’t scale well. There is always only one central node, and it must necessarily manage and communicate with every other node in the integration. While hub-and-spoke, which grows linearly, isn’t nearly as difficult to scale as its predecessor the spaghetti (mesh) pattern, which grows exponentially, in a network growing even linearly is going to be problematic for some value of n (where n is the number of edges, i.e. nodes, in the network).

At some value of n, it becomes apparent that the controller (hub) must be able to scale, too. Scaling up would require expansion of the system upon which the controller is deployed, which may require replacement. You can imagine the reluctance of operations to essentially shut down the entire network while that occurs. The other option is to scale out, vis à vis traditional methods of scaling other systems, via a load balancing service and duplicate instances. This implies a shared-something architecture, usually describes as being the database or repository for policy from which nodes are “programmed” by the controller. This appears to be the response in existing implementations, with “clusters of controllers” providing the scale and resiliency required.

So scaling out the controller, then becomes an exercise in traditional scalability methods used to scale out client-server architectures.

So the Control Plane of an SDN Can Scale. What’s the Problem then?

As pointed out by Ivan Pepelnjak in “OpenFlow/SDN Is Not A Silver Bullet For Network Scalability”, the problem with this model appears to be response time. Failure in a node cannot be addressed fast enough by a centralized software system, particularly not one that relies on a database (which has its own scalability issues, of course).

There are several questions that must be answered in order to even deal with failure that pose some interesting performance and scaling challenges.

  1. How does the controller know that an element node is “down”? Is it polling, which introduces an entirely new concern regarding the level of monitoring noise on the network interfering with business-related traffic? Is it monitoring a persistent control-channel connection between the controller and the node? Certainly this would indicate nearly instantaneously the status of the node, but introduces scaling challenges as maintaining even a one-to-one control-channel connection per element node in the network would consume large quantities of memory (and ultimately have a negative impact on performance, requiring scale out much sooner than may be otherwise necessary). Does a neighbor or upstream element  tattle on the downed node when it doesn’t respond?

    There are a variety of mechanisms that could be used to monitor the network such that the controller is informed of a failure, but each brings with it new challenges and has different responsiveness profiles. Polling is tricky, as any load balancing provider will tell you, because it’s based on a timed interval. Persistent connections, as noted earlier, bring scalability challenges back to the table. Tattle-tale methodologies are unreliable, requiring that a neighbor or upstream element have the need to “talk to” the downed down before notification can occur, leaving open the possibility of a downed node going unnoticed until it’s too late.
  2. How does the controller respond to a downed element node? Obviously the controller needs to “route around” or “detour” traffic until a replacement can be deployed (virtually or physically). This no doubt requires some calculations to determine the best route (OSPF anyone?) if done in real-time. Some have suggested alternative routes in tables be available on each node in the event of a failure, a model more closely related to today’s existing routing practices and one that would certainly respond much better to failure in the network than would a system in which the controller must discover and reconfigure the network to adjust to failures.
  3. What happens to existing flows when an element node fails? Ah, the age old stateful failure challenge. This is one that is (almost) solved with redundant architectures that mirror sessions (flows) to a secondary device. The problem is that these models work best, i.e. have the highest levels of success, for full-proxy devices, particularly when the flow supports stateful/connection-oriented protocols.

These questions are nothing new to experienced EAI practitioners who’ve had to suffer through a hub-and-spoke based integration effort. Failure in a node or of the controller give rise to painful fire-drill exercises, the likes of which no one really enjoys because they are highly disruptive. They’re also not really new questions for those with a long history in load balancing and high availability architectures.

Still, these are questions which need to be answered in the context of the network, which has somewhat different uptime and performance requirements than even applications.

Ultimately the answer is going to lie in architecture, and it’s unlikely that what results will be a single, centrally controlled one.

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.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
We call it DevOps but much of the time there’s a lot more discussion about the needs and concerns of developers than there is about other groups. There’s a focus on improved and less isolated developer workflows. There are many discussions around collaboration, continuous integration and delivery, issue tracking, source code control, code review, IDEs, and xPaaS – and all the tools that enable those things. Changes in developer practices may come up – such as developers taking ownership of code ...
The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based infrastructure. Delivering modern applications to end users, therefore, is a constantly shifting challenge. Delivery automation helps IT Ops teams ensure that apps are providing an optimal end user experience over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments, no matter what the current state of the infrastructure is. To employ a delivery automation strategy that reflects your business rules, making r...
"We started a Master of Science in business analytics - that's the hot topic. We serve the business community around San Francisco so we educate the working professionals and this is where they all want to be," explained Judy Lee, Associate Professor and Department Chair at Golden Gate University, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Cloud Governance means many things to many people. Heck, just the word cloud means different things depending on who you are talking to. While definitions can vary, controlling access to cloud resources is invariably a central piece of any governance program. Enterprise cloud computing has transformed IT. Cloud computing decreases time-to-market, improves agility by allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing market demands, and, ultimately, drives down costs.
For over a decade, Application Programming Interface or APIs have been used to exchange data between multiple platforms. From social media to news and media sites, most websites depend on APIs to provide a dynamic and real-time digital experience. APIs have made its way into almost every device and service available today and it continues to spur innovations in every field of technology. There are multiple programming languages used to build and run applications in the online world. And just li...
The general concepts of DevOps have played a central role advancing the modern software delivery industry. With the library of DevOps best practices, tips and guides expanding quickly, it can be difficult to track down the best and most accurate resources and information. In order to help the software development community, and to further our own learning, we reached out to leading industry analysts and asked them about an increasingly popular tenet of a DevOps transformation: collaboration.
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
How is DevOps going within your organization? If you need some help measuring just how well it is going, we have prepared a list of some key DevOps metrics to track. These metrics can help you understand how your team is doing over time. The word DevOps means different things to different people. Some say it a culture and every vendor in the industry claims that their tools help with DevOps. Depending on how you define DevOps, some of these metrics may matter more or less to you and your team.
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We are an integrator of carrier ethernet and bandwidth to get people to connect to the cloud, to the SaaS providers, and the IaaS providers all on ethernet," explained Paul Mako, CEO & CTO of Massive Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Grape Up leverages Cloud Native technologies and helps companies build software using microservices, and work the DevOps agile way. We've been doing digital innovation for the last 12 years," explained Daniel Heckman, of Grape Up in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I focus on what we are calling CAST Highlight, which is our SaaS application portfolio analysis tool. It is an extremely lightweight tool that can integrate with pretty much any build process right now," explained Andrew Siegmund, Application Migration Specialist for CAST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
The enterprise data storage marketplace is poised to become a battlefield. No longer the quiet backwater of cloud computing services, the focus of this global transition is now going from compute to storage. An overview of recent storage market history is needed to understand why this transition is important. Before 2007 and the birth of the cloud computing market we are witnessing today, the on-premise model hosted in large local data centers dominated enterprise storage. Key marketplace play...
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
With continuous delivery (CD) almost always in the spotlight, continuous integration (CI) is often left out in the cold. Indeed, it's been in use for so long and so widely, we often take the model for granted. So what is CI and how can you make the most of it? This blog is intended to answer those questions. Before we step into examining CI, we need to look back. Software developers often work in small teams and modularity, and need to integrate their changes with the rest of the project code b...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...