While Dell isn’t exactly the biggest player in networking, it’s still relevant to note how important their announcement of a bare metal switch is to Software Defined Networking (SDN). I believe people inside of the virtualization community get the advantages of SDN. At least the virtualization community gets the advantages for the virtualized infrastructure.
The Dell announcement helps bring to reality some of the advantages from a physical network perspective. I’ve long struggled with the idea of using VXLAN to extend a software based overlay to individual ports on a physical switch. My typical use case is an application that has virtual servers that work in conjunction with physical hosts. These hosts can be physical servers, firewalls or load balancers. The hosts could also be logical devices on a physical switch (NFV).
What if you wanted to manage the entire application environment as a single virtual network? First, why. The application can become self contained. It takes the notion of VMware vApp to another level. You can take an application along with the associated networking and move it to another physical environment.
In an ideal world, the solution would allow you extend the port of a logical device to a port on the network underlay. For example, you create a virtual switch and you want to add a subset of physical ports on the underlay to be managed as ports on your virtual switch. Today, we’d use VXLAN to give the basic functionality. However, the ability to run let’s say NSX code directly on a bare metal switch just extends your virtual network directly to the underlay.
This hurts my head in a completely different way. Now my simple use case becomes a no brainer. You think one level deeper about the management capability you receive by blurring the lines between the underlay and the overlay. This is the promise of the Cisco ACI solution. At least, it’s the promise if you have an all Cisco environment.
I’m just starting to digest the impact of a bare metal switch in the enterprise. I’m sure as I read more and give this some thought I’ll have something more concrete or substantial to discuss.