SocketPlane Aims to Bring SDN to Docker

Startup aims to build open-source technology to advance state of networking and SDN for Docker container virtualization.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 15, 2014
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In the world of server virtualization, the open-source Docker container technology has emerged in the last year to become one of the hottest new advances in the market. But how does Docker relate to networking? That's the challenge new startup SocketPlane aims to solve.

SocketPlane officially emerged from stealth today, announcing its intentions and direction on Docker-enabled Software Defined Networking (SDN) technology, which will be based in open source. SocketPlane is backed by venture capital firm LightSpeed Ventures, though John Willis, VP of Customer Enablement at SocketPlane, told Enterprise Networking Planet that the funding amount is not being publicly disclosed.

While SocketPlane is new to the SDN space, its founders are not.

"Our technical team have been working on OpenFlow and specifically OpenDaylight for almost three years," Willis said. "Madhu Venugopal was one of the original authors of OpenDaylight while he was at Cisco, and his Red Hat team of Brent Salisbury and Dave Tucker have been doing a lot of heavy lifting on OpenDaylight."

OpenDaylight is an open-source Linux Foundation collaboration project that is building an open SDN platform. The OpenDaylight Helium release debuted at the end of September, providing new features and security for users.

In terms of what SocketPlane is aiming to build, Willis described the platform as SDN that focuses on the data plane, with some post-SDN lessons learned on the control plane.

Given that Docker is a container format, and theoretically, any application, including existing SDN virtual switches can be "Dockerized," SocketPlane has some unique challenges that it needs to solve to differentiate itself.

"First off, we believe that the key to Docker networking at scale and general containers is to get native container networking working with a virtual switching fabric," Willis said. "In our case, our background is coming from OpenDaylight, and we are focusing on Open vSwitch."

By focusing on Open vSwitch, Willis said that SocketPlane will be providing true SDN data plane policy-driven services.

"Also with that kind of implementation, we will be able to not only be able to provide container-to-container overlays (e.g., VXLAN), we can also provide container to physical switch and/or legacy networks via a gateway," Willis said.

When it comes to Docker container virtualization orchestration, there are multiple tools available today, including Apache Mezos, Kubernetes and CoreOS fleet. Willis said that the focus at SocketPlane is to do networking at scale correctly.

"We have immediate plans to integrate with Mezos and Kubernetes, with, hopefully, community participation that will drive integration with other orchestration solutions in the Docker ecosystem," Willis said.

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

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