Midokura Advances Network Virtualization with OpenStack

Software Defined Networking isn't just about OpenFlow anymore

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 15, 2012
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Japanese startup Midokura is officially launching in the U.S. today with its MidoNet network virtualization technology. The big idea behind the MidoNet approach is that it treats networking like one big distributed system.

Midokura's MidoNet is now integrated with the OpenStack Quantum networking project and has support for OpenStack Nova network drivers as well.

Ben Cherian, Chief Strategy Officer at Midokura told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet that cloud computing and virtualization are requiring enterprises to think more like service providers. He added that the cloud changes the control points in a network. The goal is to help make IT work more efficiently in this new era is to enable more scale, while providing a self service IT operation for users.

With MidoNet, the network is structured virtually as one large grid router. Virtual services like load balancing and firewall are presented as services that clients can then enable. Cherian noted that in true Software Defined Networking fashion, the underlying physical network does not need to change.

As opposed to say OpenFlow which requires OpenFlow protocol support on underlying switches, Cherian said that all MidoNet needs is IP connectivity. MidoNet does however have its own tunneling protocol, though it is agnostic as to the underlying switching hardware. He explained that the switches are not doing the encapsulation or the de-encapsulation. The MidoNet software servers handle all the encapsulation at the edge of the network.

"We handle the network topology and make it all look like a simple network," Cherian said.

In contrast, Cherian said that in his view, OpenFlow is also great technology, though he noted that it's primarily for controlling the physical switches.

"Since we do everything in the virtual space and not the physical space you can still use OpenFlow to build and configure physical devices," Cherian commented. "But it's not the type of configuration you would have in a cloud network."

That said, Cherian commented that MidoNet doesn't need OpenFlow to work.

"We speak directly to the data path," Cherian said.

In the OpenFlow model there is also a controller that is used to manage the flows on a network. With MidoNet, Cherian explained that there is an agent that is fully distributed which negates the need for a controller in the OpenStack sense.

"Our software is basically the switch and we speak to the open vSwitch kernel module so we bypass the userspace part of the OpenFlow approach," Cherian said. "As we speak to the kernel module we can set up and tear down flows."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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