Last fall, I attended the Tech Field Day NFD8 event, and one of the presenting companies was Nuage Networks. This was actually the second time I’d seen Nuage present at an NFD event, the first one being NFD6 a year earlier. Upon my return from NFD8, I did a short write-up of each presenting sponsor for my coworkers at H.A. Storage Systems to keep them informed. The following is my recap of Nuage Networks after their presentation in which I explain why I think Nuage is really on-target with their SDN solution and is definitely a solution to keep an eye on.
Nuage Networks is definitely an SDN company to watch. They are a subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent (sort of like Cisco’s Insieme but apparently there are no current plans to spin them back in), so they have good financial backing — better than many startups. They have a very mature vision of complete end-to-end SDN with automated deployment tools and fabric-wide management, but they’ve gone beyond what several of the competitors have to look at massive, massive scaling as a core requirement.
Rather than using VXLAN or some other new protocol for things like federation between fabrics, they simply use multi-protocol BGP (MBGP) as the control plane protocol. The VSP solution carries fabric forwarding info, tenant info, and security tag info using extended BGP communities and through automatically built IP-VPNs. In fact, Nuage’s solution pretty much uses BGP and IP-VPN to solve most of the problems that other SDN companies are solving with newer (e.g., less tried-and-true) control protocols. Within each fabric, common SDN protocols such as VXLAN and OVSDB are still used, but I think there’s some elegance in recognizing that a protocol like BGP can be used for many of these purposes, and that protocol has decades of deployment behind it. Nuage’s use of BGP lets them scale their solution very much like the Internet. They also have one of the most mature SDN solutions for fabric management and automation/orchestration. Most other vendors, even the incumbent networking companies, are really just starting to see production deployment of their solutions, while Nuage has been GA and shipping for nearly 2 years, and recently dropped their 3.0 release. That kind of head start can be a big difference in this industry. Also, unlike most other solutions besides Cisco (and probably Arista) that tend to rely on something like Quagga for their fabric-edge routing, Nuage uses the ALU routing software that’s got 20-some years of deployment history.
They have extensive integration with OpenStack, and at NFD8 showed off integration with Docker. We watched as they used a single script, running in AWS of all places, to provision, launch, and assign 20,000 Docker containers in just a couple of minutes, with integrated networking support (security zones and the like) for the containers. That’s a big leap forward considering that Docker and LXC really hit the mainstream attention in about the last 9-12 months.
And while Nuage is owned by Alcatel-Lucent, they are independent in that they do not require ALU’s networking hardware to operate. You can use their VSP (virtual services platform) SDN solution with soft switches in hypervisors, their own software VTEP, branded 3rd party switches like HP, whitebox switches with VTEP functions (like many based on Trident II), and with their own “VSG 7850” Top of Rack hardware VTEP VXLAN gateway (with terabit fabric).
They rate surprisingly poorly on the 2014 Gartner MQ for Data Center Networking (if you put any stock in Gartner…. I usually don’t), but yet they have a number of production, large scale deployments including, according to company executives, one topping 300,000 VMs, another another case where someone building a virtual private cloud service (OpenStack as a Service) is using Nuage as their network orchestration/SDN tool. I thought that was rather telling as most companies trying to build something as ambitious and large-scale as a public cloud tend to DIY everything for cost reasons and to avoid getting hamstrung by licensing costs down the road. Choosing a commercial product like Nuage that is so integral to their offering suggests to me that Nuage is driving a lot of value for them.
The enthusiasm of their executives including CEO Sunil Khandekar, CTO Dimitri Stiliadis, and product manager Florin Balus is fun to watch. They are all very knowledgable, and absolutely sure that their approach to SDN is the right one. After watching the presentation, you may just agree with them.
You should also be sure to check out the Nuage scalability demo with Docker integration. Very cool.
Nuage Networks was a sponsor of Networking Field Day 8. In addition to a presentation, Nuage provided me a jacket, a hat (which I gave away), and an insulated reusable grocery bag. They also provided us some killer hors d’oeuvres and tasty cocktails after the presentation. However, at no time did they ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review. The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.
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