Networking

Open source SDN project could let network admins duplicate production environments

The LiquidMetal SDN project, from Japanese software firm axsh, would allow for duplication of network elements including IP and MAC addresses.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is an increasingly attractive option for organizations looking to automate more of their data center operations. However, SDN deployments typically accompany vendor lock-in, as hardware manufacturers such as Cisco provide proprietary software solutions to go with bundles of network hardware. Similarly, turn-key software defined data center (SDDC) solutions often rely on top-down vendor integration, or have similar limitations for using products from qualified vendors.

One team is working to change that. Japanese software firm axsh is developing an open-source software stack—code named LiquidMetal—that combines their existing OpenVNet SDN software, with OpenVDC VM orchestration software.

With the two, the developers have made it possible to take an off-the-shelf dedicated switch, and configure it for any desired network topology, in effect making it possible to create complete identical copies of a given production network, including copying the IP and MAC addresses of each connected device. The LiquidMetal project also incorporates Terraform, Expect, and Ansible in their software stack.

SEE: SDN and the data center: Deployment plans, business drivers, and preferred vendors (Tech Pro Research)

In an interview with Impress Business Media, axsh director Yasuhiro Yamazaki noted that LiquidMetal is particularly useful for evaluating configurations before deployment. As an example, in the case of firewalls, differences in the firmware between a virtual appliance and hardware appliance may result in unexpected differences in operation. Using LiquidMetal to clone and verify a configuration can avoid problems that arise from these unexpected differences.

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The visual interface of LiquidMetal.

Image: axsh/Andreas Kieckens

Additionally, axsh is developing a GUI for configuring the network, powered by three.js, as noted in the interview. Rather than manually writing configuration files and testing them, the visual editor allows network administrators to create multiple versions of their network topology. Naturally, the configuration generated by the visual editor is written out to standard configuration files, so users are not locked in to only hand-editing configuration files or using the visual editor. The new visual editor will debut as part of the first public release on June 11th in a simultaneous launch at Interop Tokyo and CEBIT in Hannover, Germany.

With the cooperation of TIS, a prototype of LiquidMetal has been successfully deployed at Yamato System Development, the IT and logistics arm of Yamato Transport, Japan's largest parcel courier, the interview noted. The software is used there to duplicate the existing network and automate verification of changes to the network, to ensure that changes will operate as expected before being deployed. Presently, axsh is looking to develop a similar relationship with other organizations for deployments of the LiquidMetal software stack.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • The LiquidMetal software stack aims to let network administrators duplicate their production environment, including IP and MAC addresses.
  • LiquidMetal has been deployed at Yamato System Development, the IT division of Japan's largest parcel courier.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/gorodenkoff

About James Sanders

James Sanders is a Writer for TechRepublic. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.

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