Containers have had an immense impact on the way we build, deploy, and manage applications and networks. They provide a standardized environment containing all of the dependencies needed to run an application, including runtime, libraries, and tools. Containers also solve one of the key challenges with virtual machines: They are easy to create and can be destroyed without any long-term commitment or overhead.
Containers are a popular way of packaging applications to ensure data practitioners can quickly move them between different environments, such as development and production. However, for containers to work, they need to be able to communicate with other containers and the hosts they’re running on.
This is where container networking comes in. Container networking software provides basic virtual networks for containers, which allows them to communicate with each other on the host machine or across multiple hosts.
- What is Container Networking Software?
- Best Container Networking Software
- HashiCorp Consul
- Weave Net
- Project Calico
- Converged Cloud Fabric
- Cumulus Linux
- NSX Container Networking
- F5 NGINX
- Open vSwitch
- Key Features of Container Networking Software
- How to Choose the Best Container Networking Software
What is Container Networking Software?
Container networking software lets you connect your containerized applications to the network and each other, much like virtual machines do with virtual networks and virtual machines, respectively.
Container networking software can build highly available multi-container applications that scale quickly and increase data accessibility. This enables container-to-container connectivity across different hosts and clusters, allowing more container management flexibility.
Top Container Networking Software
Container networking software enables containerized applications to communicate with each other on a single host or across multiple hosts. As containers are designed to be small, modular, and lightweight, the need for a separate operating system (OS) layer becomes obsolete. With this in mind, the container networking layer should be as simple as possible to maximize portability.
HashiCorp Consul enables teams to manage secure network connectivity between services across multicloud environments. Additionally, it helps with runtime process discovery by providing a single point of truth for service-to-service communication.
It can also scale applications that use containers because the software provides automatic load balancing and service discovery. HashiCorp Consul can make managing container networks easier by providing a single point of truth for service-to-service communication and automating load balancing and service discovery.
- The core elements of the Consul software are discovered services, secure networking, automated networking, and access services.
- The discovered services capabilities establish a centralized registry for real-time monitoring services, changes, and health states.
- The Consul software enables users to automate networking.
- HashiCorp Consul ensures every communication between services is authenticated, authorized, and encrypted.
- Consul allows service identity-based L4/L7 traffic management and progressive delivery strategies like canary deployments and A/B testing.
- Users find this tool easy to use.
- The Consul agent provides services such as a key/value store, Domain Name System (DNS) server, or HTTP server.
|Free||Development: Starting at $0.027/hr||Contact sales for price|
|Standard: Starting at $0.069/hr|
|Plus: Starting at $0.104/hr|
Weave Net by Weaveworks is a cloud-native container networking software that provides an overlay network for containers. Data professionals can use it in any environment with Docker, where they want containers to communicate across multiple hosts, even on different platforms or clouds.
It automates the provisioning of virtual networks, meaning containers are automatically configured, and users don’t have to write codes to do so. In addition, Weave Net has valuable add-ons such as DNS, Internet Protocol address management (IPAM), and distributed firewall management.
- It integrates well with other open-source projects, such as Docker Swarm and Mesos/Marathon.
- Weave Net works well in on-premises, cloud, or hybrid environments.
- This tool encrypts traffic between nodes.
- Weave Net uses fast “micro DNS” servers at each node for service discovery.
- Although many public cloud providers don’t support User Datagram Protocol (UDP) multicast, Weave Net does.
- It doesn’t require code or configuration.
- Weave Net is easy to set up.
This tool has a free version. However, quotes for the basic, team, and enterprise plans are available on request.
Project Calico is an open-source project that provides a container networking stack to deliver performance, security, and visibility for containers, virtual machines, and native host-based workloads. Unlike some network solutions designed specifically for Docker, it supports a broad range of platforms, including Kubernetes, OpenShift, Docker EE, OpenStack, and bare-metal services.
- Users can enhance their networks on any platform using its Linux eBPF or the Windows data plane.
- This tool currently powers more than 2 million nodes daily across 166 countries.
- Project Calico supports non-Kubernetes workloads.
- This tool leverages a zero-trust network security model.
- Application Layer (L7) observability is available.
- Active community with over 200 contributors.
- Multi and hybrid cloud support.
- Encrypts data in traffic.
This solution is available in three editions. They include Open Source (free), Calico Cloud (14-day free trial available, then pay-as-you-go), and Calico Enterprise (quotes available on request).
Converged Cloud Fabric
Converged Cloud Fabric (CCF) is a container networking software solution that provides scaling, security, and automation for enterprise networks. CCF reduces complexity by supporting physical and virtual topologies to form a single converged fabric. Its ability to scale from small to large deployments and its support for physical and virtual topologies allow organizations to deploy CCF in any environment.
With CCF, customers can eliminate the need for multiple applications or devices to manage containers; one programmatic interface does it all. In addition, CCF integrates with private cloud platforms such as VMware vSphere/NSX/vSAN, DellEMC VxRail HCI, Nutanix HCI, Microsoft Hyper-V, Kubernetes containers, and OpenStack.
- Built-in analytics.
- Supports physical and virtual workloads.
- VMware vSphere, NSX underlay, and vSAN network automation.
- Facilitate collaboration between NetOps and CloudOps/DevOps teams.
- Easy to implement and use.
Quotes are available on request.
NVIDIA’s Cumulus Linux is an open network operating system (NOS) that enables enterprises to bring the cloud’s agility, economics, security, and efficiency to their data center network infrastructures.
Built on top of a standard Linux kernel, Cumulus empowers users with unprecedented flexibility in creating multi-tenant networks across the physical or virtual infrastructure. The OS also provides an intuitive command-line interface for managing containers, routing tables, switching configurations, and other aspects of the network.
- Monitoring and analytics.
- End-to-end automation for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) workflows.
- Virtual routing and forwarding.
- Supports digital twins via Nvidia Air.
- Reduced operating expenses.
- Easy to use.
- Intuitive interface.
Prospective buyers can contact the NVIDIA sales team for quotes.
Contiv is an open-source networking fabric that unifies containers, virtual machines, and bare metal across clouds. Contiv can operate in Layer 2, Layer 3, overlay, or Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) modes to provide the proper connectivity for your application.
In addition, cloud architects and IT admin teams can use Contiv to build, govern, and reliably enforce operational rules, including multi-tenant traffic isolation, microsegmentation, bandwidth prioritization, latency requirements, and L4–L7 network service regulations.
- Supports identity and access management for access control.
- Supports Kubernetes container network interface.
- Offers IPv6 and SRv6 support.
- Offers multi-platform support.
- Simplifies Kubernetes setup.
- Ability to set priorities for network admins.
Interested buyers can contact sales for personalized quotes.
NSX Container Networking
VMware NSX is an enterprise-grade container networking solution that delivers full-stack networking and security for containerized applications and microservices. VMware NSX enables enterprises to build modern, agile software-defined networks (SDNs) without needing costly hardware upgrades or rip-and-replace cycles.
VMware NSX delivers a new level of control that allows users to build, connect, configure, monitor, and troubleshoot application environments. In addition, they can apply policies at any point in the network stack, including access controls, quality of service (QoS), load balancing, firewalling, and encryption.
- NSX secures and monitors connections across multiple cloud-native application environments for microservices-based programs, data, and users.
- NSX provides full-stack networking and security for VMware vSphere 7 with Kubernetes, Tanzu, OpenShift, and upstream Kubernetes.
- This tool integrates with Antrea and Tanzu Service Mesh.
- Cost savings.
- VMware environment integration.
Pricing is available on request.
F5 NGINX acts as a reverse proxy, load balancer, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) terminator, cache server, content delivery network (CDN), application firewall, and web server. In addition, F5 NGINX provides high availability for web servers by acting as a load balancer or Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) health monitor. If an instance goes down, it will automatically fail to another available instance.
The service also supports cloud infrastructure providers like AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Private Cloud, and Diamanti, which means new instances can be provisioned in the cloud on demand.
- Allows role-based access control (RBAC) and self-service.
- Provides mTLS authentication.
- Offers Load balancing.
- NGINX open source web server powers more than 400 million websites.
- Multicloud support is available.
- F5 NGINX is easy to use.
- Users consider the web server and load balancer fast.
NGINX open source can be downloaded for free. However, prospective customers should contact the NGINX sales team for quotes.
Istio is an open-source service mesh that helps manage the complexity of microservices environments by providing a layer of control across the various components. Istio provides functionality to manage traffic flow between services, monitors service usage and quality of experience, enforces access policies, and provides telemetry data for debugging. Istio also ties in with other systems like Prometheus for monitoring and Grafana for dashboards to create an end-to-end solution.
- Provides role-based access and authentication across services.
- Provides features such as inter-service routing, failure recovery, and load balancing.
- Offers authentication, authorization, and audit tools for service and data protection.
- Offers automatic load balancing for HTTP, gRPC, WebSocket, and TCP traffic.
- Istio is easy to use.
- Users find its load balancing and health monitoring features useful.
- The tool offers traffic management.
Pricing details aren’t provided on the vendor’s website. However, the sample application is available for download.
Open vSwitch (OVS) is an open-source virtual switch licensed under Apache 2.0. OVS enables extensive network automation through programmatic extension while supporting standard management interfaces and protocols. The project was founded by Nicira Networks in 2009 and was later acquired by VMware. VMware maintains OVS as part of its NSX product line for data center networking.
- Multiple tunneling protocols (GRE, VXLAN, STT, and Geneve, with IPsec support).
- Multi-platform support.
- IPv6 support.
- Remote configuration protocol with C and Python bindings.
- It offers a platform-independent service that can be ported to other platforms.
- OVS offers targeted at multi-server virtualization deployments.
- The tool provides traffic filtering.
This tool can be downloaded for free.
Key Features of Container Networking Software
Container networking software makes it easier for developers to deploy, manage, and connect containers across different networks. In addition, the software simplifies containers’ connection to communicate with other containers on their network.
- Allow for IP Address Management: Users need to be able to assign IP addresses to each container, so they can communicate with each other through Internet Protocol addresses.
- Provides Networking Support for Overlay Networking: Containers need to be able to create new virtual networks, which overlay the underlying physical infrastructure’s network layer.
- Control Plane Support for Multiple Orchestration Systems: Containers may require information from higher-level software to function correctly; this includes metadata about nodes and parameters such as namespace, hostname, or labels.
- Offers Security Layers for Application Networks: Applications might require specific network policies such as firewalls, encryption, and access restrictions for communication.
- Keeps Data Separated by VLANs: In some cases, data needs to remain isolated from one another due to regulations or other needs. Container networking software should allow for separation via virtual local area networks (VLANs) without limiting the user’s ability to communicate with other containers.
- Supports Standard Open-Source Protocols: Open-source protocols like DHCP, DNS, BGP, and TCP/IP should all be supported by the software to keep things simple.
- Fosters Rapid Experimentation: The idea behind container networking software is to make it easier for developers to test new solutions quickly before deploying them in production; there must be an easy way to clone existing projects while creating brand new ones.
- Robust API for Writing Extensions: Users need to have full administrative capabilities at their fingertips when managing networks with this type of software. You want to be able to set routing tables and implement traffic-shaping rules in order to optimize performance or even limit bandwidth if needed.
How to Choose the Best Container Networking Software?
Choosing the best container software depends on the enterprise’s needs. For example, some enterprises may require networking capabilities such as static routing, IP-in-IP encapsulation, and L2 bridging. Others may want to deploy containers in an OpenStack environment or run them with a hypervisor. Or enterprises might need to deploy containers across multiple networks.
Some container software provides limited features; others offer a far wider toolset. Understanding the features needed for your specific use case will help you determine which product to choose.
For example, if all that’s required is connectivity between containers within a single network segment, installing container network interface (CNI) drivers will be sufficient. On the other hand, if additional requirements include security policies, fault tolerance, and scalability, software that supports these features would be necessary.
The important thing is to ensure that the selected software meets your requirements without any unnecessary extras. To get a better idea of whether any container software meets your needs, look at the vendor’s website for demos and guides about how it works.
Reviews from fellow users on third-party websites are also helpful because they provide unbiased information about how well different solutions perform against one another in terms of key criteria like security, management support, and ease of deployment. These resources should give you an idea of which type of container software best suits your needs before making a purchase decision.