ONS: Why Paypal Loves SDN - but Doesn't Use It in Production

Jigar Desai, VP of cloud and platforms at PayPal, explains what's right and what's wrong with SDN today.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Mar 17, 2016
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Paypal has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, embracing the open-source OpenStack platform as the core foundation for its operations. Yet when it comes to Software Defined Networking (SDN), Paypal's direction is not as concrete.

"SDN is a great technology to have, but we don't use technology because it's cool," Jigar Desai, VP of cloud and platforms at PayPal, said during a keynote at the Open Networking Summit (ONS) 2016 event. "We use it because we need it."

Paypal is a large, distributed organization with multiple needs. One use-case for SDN deployment at Paypal is in support of security isolation zones across different business units and domains. Another SDN use-case is to logically isolate cloud resources.

"We want to keep our resources on shared infrastructure, rather than create islands of capacity," Desai said. "We want to have one pool of capacity and flex up and flex down, based on business needs."

Additionally, Desai said that since Paypal is already using OpenStack, they want to enable SDN though the OpenStack Neutron networking project. Desai said that Paypal's SDN architecture is all about OpenStack, with an SDN plugin that works with Neutron APIs. He added that Paypal uses an SDN controller that is horizontally scaling, with security policies and rules pushed down to virtualization hypervisors and OpenSwitch through the Openflow protocol. Paypal also leverages the Load Balancing as a Service (LBaaS) API in Neutron, working with the company's load balancing hardware devices.

Paypal has found multiple challenges with SDN technologies over the three years it has been looking at SDN. For one, Desai said that many off-the-shelf SDN technologies are not battle-tested and able to scale for the production needs that Paypal has. There are also security concerns for running SDN at scale.

"SDN is still early in maturity curve," Desai said. "Scale is something we are still struggling with."

The challenges of SDN at scale are why Paypal isn't actually using SDN for production critical workloads today.

"Despite all the challenges, we still love SDN and we operate SDN," Desai said. "We are operating SDN for multiple zones, but we're not running it today for production critical workloads."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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