Networking

3 Linux Foundation networking projects that your business needs to know

In an effort to increase participation in important initiatives, vendors have moved three interesting projects to the Linux Foundation. Here's why you should follow PNDA, DPDK, and Open vSwitch.

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Image: iStockphoto/ktsimage

It's difficult to achieve critical mass for an open source project—even the largest enterprise IT vendors have challenges. It requires product management skills when there's no actual product. In addition to traditional product management expertise, open source projects must have an active community.

I'm a firm believer that enterprise IT shops will soon find themselves in a position where open source becomes a necessity for delivering IT infrastructure. Highly publicized companies like Capital One, Comcast, and Walmart are all increasingly embracing open source.

Most end user organizations are not in a position to directly take advantage of open source infrastructure code. I remember the early attempts to leverage Linux in the enterprise, with engineers spending hundreds of hours writing custom drivers and software for basic operating system functionality. To boost the probability of open source success, large technology companies have begun to move projects to the Linux Foundation, as the Linux Foundation has the roadmap and infrastructure needed to support the governance of open source projects.

Here are three interesting open source network projects that have recently moved over to the Linux Foundation.

1. PNDA

PNDA (pronounced Panda) is an open source big data analytics project. I recently flew to Silicon Valley with 10 other bloggers to participate in Network Field Day 15 (NFD15), where the Linux Foundation briefed us on PNDA.

PNDA is a project out of Cisco Systems. Cisco recently announced the Tetration analytics platform. The platform takes data from various data center devices and applies big data analytics. Customers can mine the data for troubleshooting, performance management, capacity planning, and security use cases. Tetration is a single data center solution. PNDA allows for similar analysis across data centers. The Linux Foundation team described Tetration as scale up versus PDNA as scale out.

SEE: Cisco updates Tetration analytics platform, aims to automate security policies (ZDNet)

According to representatives from the Linux Foundation, there aren't any products based on PNDA, while there are some enterprises taking advantage of the framework.

2. DPDK

I've written about the former Intel project Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) before. Intel transferred DPDK to the Linux Foundation back in February of 2017. DPDK improves networking and network performance on commodity server hardware. I was a bit dubious when Intel mentioned support for non-x86 CPUs. However, with DPDK now sitting in the Linux Foundation, I'm hopeful that broad support for ARM-based processors will increase.

With strong ARM support, the industry could expect white box network devices based on inexpensive ARM processors powered by DPDK.

3. Open vSwitch

VMware caused a bit of controversy when they announced the end of support for third-party virtual switches in VMware vSphere. VMware was another presenter at NFD15. I asked them about the impact of no longer supporting third-party virtual switches on their flagship network product, NSX.

Representatives pointed out the API support of NSX and continued support of Open vSwitch (OvS). OvS was originally an open source project sponsored by Nicira and subsequently VMware after its purchase of Nicira. OvS is the most commonly shipped virtual switch in Linux distributions. With VMware committing to supporting OvS, partners and competitors have the ability to influence NSX integration through the contribution to OvS.

Data center network managers should keep an eye on the Linux Foundation products. Whether network managers consume projects directly such as OvS or indirectly via DPDK, it's useful to know the governance and progress of these projects.

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About Keith Townsend

Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fo...

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