Oracle Bakes SDN into Solaris 11.2 Unix

In Solaris 11.2, SDN isn't an overlay. It's directly integrated into the operating system and tied to applications.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Apr 30, 2014
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There are a lot of different companies talking about Software Defined Networking (SDN). Many of them are networking vendors that are aiming to break software out of their hardware. Then there's Oracle.

Oracle this week announced the beta availability of Solaris 11.2, the latest iteration of its Unix operating system, acquired from Sun Microsystems. Solaris has been integrating interesting networking bits into Unix for some time.

The first Solaris 11 release from Oracle included networking technology from an effort originally known as Project Crossbow. With Crossbow, Solaris 11 included a framework for virtualizing the network stack to include virtual switches and routers inside of the server to simplify connections.

Now in Solaris 11.2, SDN is getting another boost with the Elastic Virtual Switch (EVS), a technology that enables Solaris administrators to create a fully distributed virtual switch.

"Building on the network virtualization and SDN capabilities included in Oracle Solaris 11, EVS helps simplify administration by managing these virtual switches as a single virtual switch, including the management of network traffic between VMs, MAC and IP addresses, VLANs and VXLANs, and enforcing service level agreements across the network through resource control management," Oracles notes in its Solaris 11.2 documentation.

Full VXLAN support is also part of Solaris 11.2, enabling the encapsulation of Layer 2 within Layer 3 networks.

Solaris 11.1

All the virtual switching technologies in Solaris 11.2 are further complemented with new application resource management capabilities around networking as well.

"We're calling this application-driven SDN," Markus Flierl, VP of Software Development at Oracle, said. "That means that your database and your Java apps can automatically dedicate network resources."

Of course, Oracle isn't the only vendor looking at applications as the cornerstone of SDN. Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) also aims to put the focus on applications.

The Oracle approach, however, is actually directly integrated with the Solaris operating system on which the applications run, and not in a separate networking construct.

"A new socket level flow API allows applications to directly prioritize its own traffic through a series of network flows, leading to optimized application performance and reduce any adverse impact of resource contention," the Oracle Solaris 11.2 documentation states. "This application driven software defined networking, from application through to storage, along with administrative driven flows help to ensure service level agreements are maintained within a data center or cloud environment."

Flierl explained that by enabling applications to drive networking, automatic configuration can be enabled and there isn't a need for a separate network administrator.

From an SDN controller perspective, Solaris 11.2 is using OpenStack Neutron as a functional controller. Solaris 11.2 includes a full OpenStack Havana cloud distribution.

"The elastic virtual switch, which is our distributed virtual switch, has a controller with it that lets it set up all the endpoints," Flierl said. "The elastic virtual switch is also fully integrated with OpenStack."

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

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