Why Networking Technology used in Cloud Platforms Matters
When NephoScale first embarked on developing the technology surrounding "Elastic Networking" in early 2010, the development team already had decades of experience building large scale hosting environments and clearly understood the limits of existing network architectures as they applied to cloud datacenter environments. They were static, inflexible, brittle, and difficult to scale. We envisioned a network that was controlled by software, was fully automated, and could function in ways traditional networks simply couldn’t. In hindsight, there were plenty of similarities between the Elastic Networking technology we were developing in-house with what is currently called SDN (software defined networking). With all of the recent industry and market attention being paid to emerging SDN companies, it is apparent our foresight surrounding what we felt was an obvious need in the area of data center networking was spot on.
- We wanted to create a network that is truly dynamic. One that could adapt as cloud servers and dedicated servers were added/removed and had their workloads migrated from one end-point to another.
- We wanted a network that was flexible. One that could provide a layer 2 broadcast domain (isolated network) to all services for a single customer. One that would give our customers the ability to design and build as many isolated virtual networks as they desired.
- We wanted a network that was scalable. One that wasn't limited to the 802.1Q VLAN specification of 4096 identifiers. One that could provide virtually unlimited broadcast domains and sub-domains to tens of thousands of customers in multiple POPs around the world.
- We wanted a network that was robust. One that could provide redundancy including multiple traffic paths with intelligent self-healing routing. One that would keep traffic secure and isolated in a multi-tenant environment. One that could rebuild itself from a single source of “truth” in the event of unexpected corruption or failure.
- We wanted a network that was independent and abstracted from the underlying hardware. One that wasn't beholden to network vendors like Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, etc. We wanted to be able to use best of breed networking gear for routing and switching performance but leverage our internally developed software for all of the other networking capabilities.
Our mantra from day one for our entire cloud platform has been "intelligent software running on commodity hardware" and this also applied to the philosophy to developing NephoScale's Elastic Networking technology.
NephoScale's Elastic Networking architecture consists of powerful 64-bit multi-core servers that run NephoScale's unique L2 tunneling and multiple dynamic networking protocol stack. These devices, internally dubbed "DLRs", are operated in a redundant pair configuration per POD zone, and are the heart of NephoScale's network. Everything else, the 10GE circuits, the border routers, the top of rack switches, are simply seen as speeds and feeds.
So what value does "Elastic Networking" deliver to NephoScale's customers?
By default, every NephoScale account is given two broadcast domains, a public front-end network and a private backend network. All Cloudlet virtual servers and BareMetal dedicated servers can communicate across either isolated network. The public network is typically intended for Internet facing traffic. The private network is typically reserved for private inter-server traffic such as communication between web server and application servers, or between application servers and database servers. What makes NephoScale's offering unique is that we don't cobble together intermediary devices like metro-Ethernet switches to tie disparate VLANs together with the goal of making them appear as if they are on the same broadcast domains. With NephoScale, all of your servers uniformly exist on the same L2 broadcast domain, regardless if they are on different POD zones or even on different floors of our datacenter.
One of the main benefits of NephoScale's Elastic Networking is that because each customer has their own Layer 2 broadcast domain so it is easy for them to run applications that require broadcast and multicast support. This level of flexibility cannot be achieved with most cloud service platforms. Examples of broadcast traffic use cases are: running a Windows Directory Server environment, a DHCP environment, or other environments that rely heavily on broadcast traffic. Examples of multicast traffic use cases are: running IP telephony applications, IPTV applications, infrastructure software like Gigaspaces, or other environments that rely heavily on multi-cast traffic.
NephoScale also allows customers to create complex networked environments supporting popular features like tagged VLANs and multiple isolated virtual networks (sub-broadcast domains). For instance, if you're interested in building out a private cloud environment using BareMetal dedicated servers but your existing virtualization configuration is already leveraging tagged VLANs, NephoScale supports running tagged VLANs encapsulated using our Elastic Networking tunneling technology.
If you're a reseller of hosting or infrastructure services and would like to manage multiple customers, each having isolated virtual networks, under a single account, NephoScale supports this as well.
In the near future, NephoScale will be building out POPs in other regions like the East Coast, Europe, Asia, etc. The advanced capabilities of Elastic Networking that have been discussed here will be extended to all of these regions, and most importantly the advantages of extending Layer 2 broadcast domains will apply across geographic boundaries between the networks in each region. For example, if you have a DHCP server in Europe and want to lease out IP addresses to NephoScale servers in the US, Elastic Networking will enable you to do that. Also, if you need to migrate a virtual server workload in your NephoScale private cloud located in the East Coast to an environment located in the West Coast and maintain your internally tagged VLAN scheme, you'll be able to do that.
Ultimately, our goal at NephoScale has been to deliver an infinitely scalable unified resource pool in the cloud that allows our customers the flexibility to seamlessly provision, migrate, and connect all servers in any configuration that they could possibly require. NephoScale’s Elastic Networking is designed to allow customers to take their vision for maximum network connectedness in the cloud and make it reality by providing a a cloud based network that is dynamic, scalable, flexible, robust, independent, and abstracted.
Cofounder & CTO