By sunay on Mar 17, 2009
Crossbow: Virtualized switching and performanceSaw Cisco's unified fabric announcement. Seems like they are going after Cloud computing which pretty much promises to solve the world hunger problem. Even if Cloud computing can just solve the high data center cost problem and make compute, networking, and storage available on demand in a cheap manner, I am pretty much sold on it. The interesting part is that world needs to move towards enabling people to bring their network on the cloud and have compute, bandwidth and storage available on demand. Talking about networking and network virtualization, this means that we need to go to open standards, open technology and off the shelf hardware. The users of cloud will not accept a vendor or provider lock down. The cloud needs to be built in such a manner that a user can take his physical network and migrate it to an operator's cloud and at the same time have the ability to build their own clouds and migrate stuff between the two. Open Networking is the key ingredient here.
This essentially means that there is no room for custom ASICs and protocols and the world of networking needs to change. This is what Jonathan was talking about to certain extent around Open Networking and Crossbow. OpenSolaris with Crossbow make things very interesting in this space. But it seems like people don't fully understand what Crossbow and OpenSolaris bring to the table. I saw a post from Scott Lowe and several other mentioning that Crossbow is pretty similar to VMware's network virtualization solutions and Cisco Nexus 1000v virtual switches.
Let me take some time to explain few very important things about Crossbow:
- Its Open Source and part of OpenSolaris. You can download it right here.
- Its leverages NIC hardware switching and features to deliver isolation and performance for virtual machines. Crossbow not only includes H/W & S/W based VNICs and switches, it also offers Virtualized Routers, Load balancer, and Firewalls. The Virtual Network Machines can be created using Crossbow and Solaris Zones and have pretty amazing performance. All these are connected together using the Crossbow Virtual Wire. You don't need to buy fancy and expensive virtualized switches to create and use Virtual Wire.
- Using hardware virtualized lanes Crossbow technology scales multiples of 10gig traffic using off the shelf hardware.
Hardware based VNICs and Hardware based SwitchingPicture is always worth a thousand words. The figure shows how crossbow VNIC are built on top of real NIC hardware and how we do switching in hardware where possible. And Crossbow does have a full featured S/W layer where it can do S/W VNICs and switching as well. The hardware is leveraged when available. Its important to note that most of the NIC vendors do ship with the necessary NIC classifiers and Rx/Tx rings and its pretty much mandatory for 10 gig NICs which do form the backbone for a cloud.
Virtual Wire: The essence of virtualized networkingThe Crossbow Virtual Wire technology allows a person to convert a full features physical network (multiple subnets, switches and routers) and configure it within one or more hosts. This is the key to move virtualized networks in and out of the cloud. The figure shows a two subnet physical network with multiple switches, different link speeds and connected via a router and how it can be virtualized in a single box. A full workshop to do virtualized networking is available here.
Scaling and PerformanceCrossbow leverages the NICs features pretty aggressively to create virtualization lanes that help traffic scale across large number of cores and threads. For people wanting to build real or virtual appliances using OpenSolaris, the performance and scaling across 10 Gig NICs is pretty essential. The figure below shows an overview of hardware lanes.
More InformationThere is a white paper and more detailed documents (including how to get started) at the Crossbow OpenSolaris page.