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Scaling Stateful Network Devices
One of the premises of SDN and cloud scalability is that it's easy to simply replicate services

One of the premises of SDN and cloud scalability is that it's easy to simply replicate services - whether they be application or network focused - and distribute traffic across them to scale infinitely.

In theory, this is absolutely the case. In theory, one can continue to add capacity to any layer of the data center and simply distribute requests across the layer to scale out as necessary.

Where reality puts a big old roadblock in the way is when services are stateful. This is the case with many applications - much to the chagrin of cloud and REST purists, by the way - and it is also true with a significant number of network devices. Unfortunately, it is often these devices that proponents of network virtualization target without offering a clear path to addressing the challenges inherent in scaling stateful network devices.

SDN's claims to supporting load balancing, at least at layer 4, are almost certainly based on traditional, dumb layer 4 load balancing. We use the term "dumb" to simply mean that it doesn't care about the payload or the application or anything else other than its destination port and service and does not participate in the flow. In most layer 4 load balancing scenarios for which this is the case, the only time the load balancer examines the traffic is when processing a new connection. The load balancer may buffer enough packets to determine some basic networking details - source and destination IP and TCP ports - and then it establishes a connection between the client and the server. From this point on, generally speaking, the load balancer assumes the role of a simple forwarder. Subsequent packets with the same pattern are simply forwarded on to the destination.

If you think about it, this is so close to the behavior described by an SDN-enabled network as to be virtually the same. In an SDN-enabled network, a new flow (session if you will, in the load balancing vernacular) would be directed to the SDN controller for processing. The SDN controller would determine its destination and inform the appropriate network components of that decision. Subsequent packets with the same pattern would be forwarded on to the destination according to the information in the FIB (Forwarding Information Base). As the load balancing service was scaled out, inevitably packets would be distributed to components lacking an entry in the FIB. Said components would query the controller, which would simply return the appropriate entry to the device.

In such a way, simple layer 4 load balancing can be achieved via SDN*.

However, the behavior of the layer 4 load balancing service described is stateless. It does not actively manage the flow. Aside from the initial inspection and routing decision, the load balancing service is actually just a bump in the wire, forwarding packets much in the same manner as any other switch in the network.

But what happens when the load balancing service is actively participating in the flow, i.e. it is stateful.

Scaling Stateful Devices

Stateful devices are those that actively manage a flow. That is, they may inspect, manipulate, or otherwise interact with flows in real-time. These devices are often used for security - both ingress and egress - as well as acceleration and optimization of application exchanges. They are also use for content transformation purposes, such as XML or SOA gateways, API management, and other application-focused scenarios. The most common use of stateful devices is persistent load balancing, aka sticky sessions, aka server affinity. Persistent load balancing requires the load balancing service (or device) maintain a mapping of user to application instance (or server, in traditional, non-virtualized environments). This mapping is unique to the device, and without it a wide variety of applications break when scaled - VDI being the most recent example of an application relying on persistence of sessions .

In all these cases, however, one thing is true: the device providing the service is an active participant. The device maintains service-specific information regarding a variety of variables including the user, the device, the traffic, the application, the data. The entire context of the session is often maintained by one or more devices along the traffic chain.

What that means is that, like stateful, shared-nothing applications, it matters to which device a specific request is directed. While certainly the same model used at layer 4 and below in which a central controller (or really bank of controllers) maintains this information and doles it on on-demand, the result is that depending on the distribution algorithm used, every stateful device would end up with the same flows installed. In the interim, the network is frantically applying optimization and acceleration policies to traffic that may be offset by the latency introduced by the need to query the controller for session state information, resulting in a net loss of performance experienced by the end-user.

And we're not even considering the impact of secured traffic on such a model, where any device needing to make decisions on such traffic must have access to the certificates and keys used to encrypt the traffic in order to decrypt, examine, and usually re-encrypt the traffic. Stateful network devices - application delivery controllers, intrusion prevention and detection systems, secure gateways, etc... - are often required to manage secured content, which means distributing and managing certificates and keys across what may be an ever-expanding set of network devices.

The reality is that stateful network devices are a necessary and integral component of not just networks but applications today. While modern network architectures like SDN bring much needed improvements to provisioning and management of large scale networks, their scaling models are based on the premise of stateless, relatively simple devices not actively participating in flows. For those devices that rely upon deep participation in the flow, this model introduces a variety of challenges that may not find a solution that fits well with SDN without compromising on performance outside new protocols capable of carrying that state persistently throughout the lifetime of a session.

* This does not address the issue of resources required to maintain said forwarding tables in a given device, which given current capacity of commoditized switches supported for such a role seems unlikely to be realistically achieved.

Read the original blog entry...

About 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.

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Cloud Expo - Cloud Looms Large on SYS-CON.TV


Cloud Expo 2013 East Opening Keynote by IBM
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Lisa Larson, Vice President of Enterprise Cloud Solutions of Rackspace Hosting Live From New York City
In the old world of IT, if you didn't have hardware capacity or the budget to buy more, your project was dead in the water. Budget constraints can leave some of the best, most creative and most ingenious innovations on the cutting room floor. It's a true dilemma for developers and innovators – why spend the time creating, when a project could be abandoned in a blink? That was the old world. In the new world of IT, developers rule. They have access to resources they can spin up instantly. A hybrid cloud ignites innovation and empowers developers to focus on what they need. A hybrid cloud blends the best of all worlds, public cloud, private cloud and dedicated servers to fit the needs of developers and offer the ideal environment for each app and workload without the constraints of a one-size-fits-all cloud.

Keynote: Driving Cloud Innovation: SSDs Change Cloud Storage Paradigm
Cloud is a transformational shift in computing that can have a powerful effect on enterprise IT when designed correctly and used to its full potential. Join Citrix in a discussion that centers on building, connecting and empowering users with cloud services and hear examples of how enterprises are solving real-world business challenges with an architecture and solution purpose-built for the cloud.

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Many organizations want to expand upon the IaaS foundation to deliver cloud services in all forms—software, mobility, infrastructure and IT. Understanding the strategy, planning process and tools for this transformation will help catalyze changes in the way the business operates and deliver real value. Join us to learn about the new ITaaS model and how to begin the transformation.


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There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Get a jump on that rapidly evolving trend at Big Data Expo, which we are introducing in June at
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Testimonials
Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
AHMAR ABBAS
SVP, Global Infrastructure Management, CSS Corp.
 
With our launch at Cloud Expo, we successfully transformed the company from a relatively unknown European player into the dominant player in the market. Our competitors were taken by surprise and just blown away. We got a huge number of really high quality leads..."
PETE MALCOLM
CEO, Abiquo
 
We were extremely pleased with Cloud Expo this year - I’d say it exceeded expectations all around. This is the same info we got from partners who attended as well. Nice job!"
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Director of Marketing, UnivaUD
 
Cloud Expo helps focus the debate on the critical issues at hand in effect connecting main street with the next frontier."

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@CloudExpo Blogs
Microservices are a type of software architecture where large applications are made up of small, self-contained units working together through APIs that are not dependent on a specific language. Each service has a limited scope, concentrates on a specific task and is highly independent. This setup allows IT managers and developers to build systems in a modular way. In his book, “Building Microservices,” Sam Newman said microservices are small, focused components built to do a single thing very well.
2016 will be the year of the data lake. But I expect that much of 2016 data lake efforts will be focused on activities and projects that save the company more money. That is okay from a foundation perspective, but IT and Business will both miss the bigger opportunity to leverage the data lake (and its associated analytics) to make the company more money. This blog examines an approach that allows organizations to quickly achieve some “save me more money” cost benefits from their data lake without losing sight of the bigger “make me more money” payoff – by coupling the data lake with data scie...
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Enterprises across all industries are in the midst of difficult, bet-the-company changes we call digital transformation. And yet, there remains broad confusion about the scope of the word digital. While the rise of mobile technologies are the impetus for many such transformations, digital goes well beyond the choice of user device. In fact, digital transformation reflects the fact that customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions – and such technology decisions impact the entire organization, from innovative, customer-focused efforts all the way to the traditi...
Here in the US, the Super Bowl is more than just a football game - it's a national holiday, with its own traditions, festivities, and food and drinks. One of the most important aspects of super bowl is the commercials. Every year, brands spend millions of dollars to get the attention of the more than 120 million Super Bowl viewers. The Wall Street Journal created this brilliant interactive chart of past ad spending. We are sure that the all industries outdid themselves in terms of spending again this year.
I sat down with Michael Rösch, COO of POOL4TOOL, to chat about cloud computing. With a lot of buzz about the impact of the cloud on business, it was a chance to get a perspective, as well as a few hints and tips, from someone who has been at the coalface of procurement cloud services for the past 15 years. Michael has been at POOL4TOOL since 2000, becoming COO in 2012, and has worked on projects with German giants like Behr, Hansgrohe, Heidelberger Printing Presses, Carl Zeiss and ThyssenKrupp Presta in that time.
Once again, the boardroom is in a bitter battle over what edict its members will now levy on their hapless IT organization. On one hand, hybrid cloud is all the rage. Adopting this option promises all the cost savings of public cloud with the security and comfort of private cloud. This environment would not only check the box for meeting the cloud computing mandate, but also position the organization as innovative and industry-leading. Why wouldn’t a forward-leaning management team go all in with cloud?
The arrival of the Microsoft Azure Stack Technical Preview marks a turning point in the cloud-computing market and forms a leading indicator of how dramatically Microsoft has changed in the past two years. The cloud turning point comes because the path to hybrid-cloud capabilities and benefits has a powerful new usher, one with the enterprise, developer, and service-provider presence, R and D budget, and competitive imperative to succeed in a market still underserved and nebulous.
This post is the second in a series based on a discussion with Marc Andreessen. The first was on: AI, Robotics, Jobs and Accelerating The Future Gourley: Can you provide more context on what kind of education and training? Andreessen: It is fair to say I am biased on that subject but my view is that the quantitative skills will be in greater demand: Math, Economics, Science, Engineering, Computer Science. The requirements for these are rising at much higher rates so their premium is rising. All of us should seek to self educate on these when we can and this is what we should encourage our yo...
Microsoft pulls a fast one! Good showing Microsoft. Project Natick is Microsoft's R&D feasibility project to explore, manufacture and operate a underwater. Hey, you don't look for cooling water, if you can take the salt out. How is latency improved? drop the datacenter at the nearest ocean or lake. Energy efficiency is no brainer considering the environment the datacenter is in. Bring in 3D manufacturing and you can have a datacenter manufactured and deployed in no time at all, no need for expensive land acquisition, licenses, certificates etc.
With some of the busiest shopping days of the year behind us, now is the time for retailers to pause for a moment to evaluate what worked, and to consider new online strategies and technologies for the 2016 shopping season. We don’t yet have numbers for 2015, but in 2014, holiday season retail e-commerce spending in the United States amounted to 53.3 billion U.S. dollars with the most money being spent online on Cyber Monday. Fujitsu is working with Grid Dynamics to deliver an Oracle Commerce Platform as a fully-managed cloud service. I had a chance to sit down with Victoria Livschitz, E...
Teams that have embraced DevOps and begun using the practice of test driven development are familiar with the headaches that accompany testing legacy code. This is particularly true for companies that have applications out in production that have been working for years, but have no formal tests or testing regiment associated with its codebase. Most of the time the physical code for the applications is known; many times it is not. In fact, both the code and the developer who wrote the code might have left the building years ago.
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Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty

S.F.S.
Dell

Singer
NRO

Pereyra
Oracle

Ryan
OpSource

Butte
PwC

Leone
Oracle

Riley
AWS

Varia
AWS

Lye
Oracle

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AppZero

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RightScale

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Dell Boomi

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CiRBA

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Layer 7 Tech

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NYT

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Oracle

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