Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Cloud Best Practices Network, Derek Weeks, Elizabeth White, Jyoti Bansal, Pat Romanski

Blog Feed Post

It's On: Stacks versus Flows

#OpenStack #CloudStack #OpenFlow #SDN It's a showdown of model versus control – or is it?

 

stack-vs-flow

There's a lot of noise about "wars" in the networking world these days. OpenStack versus CloudStack versus OpenFlow-based SDN.

But while there are definitely aspects of "stacks" that share similarities with "flows", they are not the same model and ultimately they aren't even necessarily attempting to solve the same problems.

Understanding the two models and what they're intended to do can go a long way toward resolving any perceived conflicts.

The Stack Model

Stack models, such as CloudStack and OpenStack, are more accurately placed in the category of "cloud management frameworks" because they are designed with provisioning and management of the infrastructure services that comprise a cloud computing (or highly dynamic) environment.

Stacks are aptly named as they attempt to provide management and specifically automation of provisioning for the complete network stack. Both CloudStack and OpenStack, along with Eucalyptus and Amazon and VMware vCloud, provide a framework API that can (ostensibly) be used to provision infrastructure services irrespective of vendor implementation. The vision is (or should be) to enable implementers (whether service provider or enterprise) to be able to switch out architectural elements (routers, switches, hypervisors, load balancers, etc… ) transparently*. That is, moving from Dell to HP to Cisco (or vice-versa) as an environment's switching fabric should not be disruptive. Physical changes should be able to occur without impacting the provisioning and management of the actual services provided by the infrastructure.

And yes, such a strategy should also allow heterogeneity of infrastructure.

In many ways, such "stacks" are the virtualization of the data center, enabling abstraction of the actual implementation from the configuration and automation of the hardware (or software) elements. This, more than anything, is what enables a comparison with flow-based models.

The Flow Model

Flow-based models, in particular OpenFlow-based SDN, also abstracts implementation from configuration by decoupling the control plane from the data plane. This allows any OpenFlow-enabled device (mostly switches today, as SDN and OpenFlow focus on network layers) to be configured and managed via a centralized controller using a common API.

Flows are "installed" or "inserted" into OpenFlow-enabled elements via OpenFlow, an open protocol designed for this purpose, and support real-time updates that enable on-demand optimization or fault isolation of flows through the network. OpenFlow and SDN are focused on managing the flow of traffic through a network. 

Flow-based models purport to offer the same benefits as a stack model in terms of heterogeneity and interoperability. Moving from one OpenFlow-enabled switch to another (or mixing and matching) should ostensibly have no impact on the network whatsoever.

What flow-based models offer above and beyond a stack model is extensibility. OpenFlow-based SDN models using a centralized controller also carry with it the premise of being able to programmatically add new services to the network without vendor assistance. "Applications" deployed on an SDN controller platform (for lack of a better term) can extend existing services or add new ones and there is no need to change anything in the network fabric, because ultimately every "application" distills flows into a simple forwarding decision that can then be applied like a pattern to future flows by the switches.

The Differences

This is markedly different from the focus of a stack, which is on provisioning and management, even though both may be occurring in real-time. While it's certainly the case that through the CloudStack API you can create or delete port forwarding rules on a firewall, these actions are pushed (initiated) external to the firewall. It is not the case that the firewall receives a packet and asks the cloud framework for the appropriate action, which is the model in play for a switch in an OpenFlow-based SDN.

Another (relatively unmentioned but important) distinction is who bears responsibility for integration. A stack-based model puts the onus on the stack to integrate (via what are usually called "plug-ins" or "drivers") with the component's existing API (assuming one exists). A flow-based model requires the vendor to take responsibility for enabling OpenFlow support natively. Obviously the ecosystem of available resources to perform integration is a magnitude higher with a stack model than with a flow model. While vendors are involved in development of drivers/plug-ins for stacks now, the impact on the product itself is minimal, if any at all, because the integration occurs external to the component. Enabling native OpenFlow support on components requires a lot more internal resources be directed at such a project.

Do these differences make for an either-or choice?

Actually, they don't. The models are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, might be used in conjunction with one another quite well. A stack based approach to provisioning and management might well be complemented by an OpenFlow SDN in which flows through the network can be updated in real time or, as is often proffered as a possibility, the deployment of new protocols or services within the network.

The War that Isn't

While there certainly may be a war raging amongst the various stack models, it doesn't appear that a war between OpenFlow and *-Stack is something that's real or ever will be The two foci are very different, and realistically the two could easily be deployed in the same network and solve multiple problems. Network resources may be provisioned and initially configured via a stack but updated in real-time or extended by an SDN controller, assuming such network resources were OpenFlow-enabled in the first place.

 

* That's the vision (and the way it should be) at least. Reality thus far is that the OpenStack API doesn't support most network elements above L3 yet, and CloudStack is tightly coupling API calls to components, rendering this alleged benefit well, not a benefit at all, at least at L4 and above. 


Connect with Lori: Connect with F5:
o_linkedin[1] google  o_rss[1] o_twitter[1]   o_facebook[1] o_twitter[1] o_slideshare[1] o_youtube[1] google

Related blogs & articles:


 

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet and...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"LinearHub provides smart video conferencing, which is the Roundee service, and we archive all the video conferences and we also provide the transcript," stated Sunghyuk Kim, CEO of LinearHub, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Discover top technologies and tools all under one roof at April 24–28, 2017, at the Westin San Diego in San Diego, CA. Explore the Mobile Dev + Test and IoT Dev + Test Expo and enjoy all of these unique opportunities: The latest solutions, technologies, and tools in mobile or IoT software development and testing. Meet one-on-one with representatives from some of today's most innovative organizations
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and E...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.