OpenFlow @ GOOG

Marshall Eubanks marshall.eubanks at gmail.com
Tue Apr 17 12:08:49 CDT 2012


I wonder if this will be contributed to the DC (DataCenter) work
currently gearing up in the IETF.

Regards
Marshall

On Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:
>
> http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/04/going-with-the-flow-google/all/1
>
> Going With The Flow: Google’s Secret Switch To The Next Wave Of Networking
>
> By Steven Levy April 17, 2012 | 11:45 am |
>
> Categories: Data Centers, Networking
>
> In early 1999, an associate computer science professor at UC Santa Barbara
> climbed the steps to the second floor headquarters of a small startup in Palo
> Alto, and wound up surprising himself by accepting a job offer. Even so, Urs
> Hölzle hedged his bet by not resigning from his university post, but taking a
> year-long leave.
>
> He would never return. Hölzle became a fixture in the company — called
> Google. As its czar of infrastructure, Hölzle oversaw the growth of its
> network operations from a few cages in a San Jose co-location center to a
> massive internet power; a 2010 study by Arbor Networks concluded that if
> Google was an ISP it would be the second largest in the world (the largest is
> Tier 3, which services over 2,700 major corporations in 450 markets over
> 100,000 fiber miles.) ‘You have all those multiple devices on a network but
> you’re not really interested in the devices — you’re interested in the
> fabric, and the functions the network performs for you,’ Hölzle says.
>
> Google treats its infrastructure like a state secret, so Hölzle rarely speaks
> about it in public. Today is one of those rare days: at the Open Networking
> Summit in Santa Clara, California, Hölzle is announcing that Google
> essentially has remade a major part of its massive internal network,
> providing the company a bonanza in savings and efficiency. Google has done
> this by brashly adopting a new and radical open-source technology called
> OpenFlow.
>
> Hölzle says that the idea behind this advance is the most significant change
> in networking in the entire lifetime of Google.
>
> In the course of his presentation Hölzle will also confirm for the first time
> that Google — already famous for making its own servers — has been designing
> and manufacturing much of its own networking equipment as well.
>
> “It’s not hard to build networking hardware,” says Hölzle, in an advance
> briefing provided exclusively to Wired. “What’s hard is to build the software
> itself as well.”
>
> In this case, Google has used its software expertise to overturn the current
> networking paradigm.
>
> If any company has potential to change the networking game, it is Google. The
> company has essentially two huge networks: the one that connects users to
> Google services (Search, Gmail, YouTube, etc.) and another that connects
> Google data centers to each other. It makes sense to bifurcate the
> information that way because the data flow in each case has different
> characteristics and demand. The user network has a smooth flow, generally
> adopting a diurnal pattern as users in a geographic region work and sleep.
> The performance of the user network also has higher standards, as users will
> get impatient (or leave!) if services are slow. In the user-facing network
> you also need every packet to arrive intact — customers would be pretty
> unhappy if a key sentence in a document or e-mail was dropped.
>
> The internal backbone, in contrast, has wild swings in demand — it is
> “bursty” rather than steady. Google is in control of scheduling internal
> traffic, but it faces difficulties in traffic engineering. Often Google has
> to move many petabytes of data (indexes of the entire web, millions of backup
> copies of user Gmail) from one place to another. When Google updates or
> creates a new service, it wants it available worldwide in a timely fashion —
> and it wants to be able to predict accurately how quickly the process will
> take.
>
> “There’s a lot of data center to data center traffic that has different
> business priorities,” says Stephen Stuart, a Google distinguished engineer
> who specializes in infrastructure. “Figuring out the right thing to move out
> of the way so that more important traffic could go through was a challenge.”
>
> But Google found an answer in OpenFlow, an open source system jointly devised
> by scientists at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.
> Adopting an approach known as Software Defined Networking (SDN), OpenFlow
> gives network operators a dramatically increased level of control by
> separating the two functions of networking equipment: packet switching and
> management. OpenFlow moves the control functions to servers, allowing for
> more complexity, efficiency and flexibility.
>
> “We were already going down that path, working on an inferior way of doing
> software-defined networking,” says Hölzle. “But once we looked at OpenFlow,
> it was clear that this was the way to go. Why invent your own if you don’t
> have to?”
>
> Google became one of several organizations to sign on to the Open Networking
> Foundation, which is devoted to promoting OpenFlow. (Other members include
> Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Verizon and Deutsche Telekom, and an innovative
> startup called Nicira.) But none of the partners so far have announced any
> implementation as extensive as Google’s.
>
> Why is OpenFlow so advantageous to a company like Google? In the traditional
> model you can think of routers as akin to taxicabs getting passengers from
> one place to another. If a street is blocked, the taxi driver takes another
> route — but the detour may be time-consuming. If the weather is lousy, the
> taxi driver has to go slower. In short, the taxi driver will get you there,
> but you don’t want to bet the house on your exact arrival time.
>
> With the software-defined network Google has implemented, the taxi situation
> no longer resembles the decentralized model of drivers making their own
> decisions. Instead you have a system like the one envisioned when all cars
> are autonomous, and can report their whereabouts and plans to some central
> repository which also knows of weather conditions and aggregate traffic
> information. Such a system doesn’t need independent taxi drivers, because the
> system knows where the quickest routes are and what streets are blocked, and
> can set an ideal route from the outset. The system knows all the conditions
> and can institute a more sophisticated set of rules that determines how the
> taxis proceed, and even figure whether some taxis should stay in their
> garages while fire trucks pass.
>
> Therefore, operators can slate trips with confidence that everyone will get
> to their destinations in the shortest times, and precisely on schedule.
>
> Continue reading ‘Going With The Flow: Google’s Secret Switch To The Next
> Wave Of Networking‘ …
>
> Making Google’s entire internal network work with SDN thus provides all sorts
> of advantages. In planning big data moves, Google can simulate everything
> offline with pinpoint accuracy, without having to access a single networking
> switch. Products can be rolled out more quickly. And since “the control
> plane” is the element in routers that most often needs updating, networking
> equipment is simpler and enduring, requiring less labor to service.
>
> Most important, the move makes network management much easier.  By early this
> year, all of Google’s internal network was running on OpenFlow. ‘Soon we will
> able to get very close to 100 percent utilization of our network,’ Hölzle
> says.
>
> “You have all those multiple devices on a network but you’re not really
> interested in the devices — you’re interested in the fabric, and the
> functions the network performs for you,” says Hölzle. “Now we don’t have to
> worry about those devices — we manage the network as an overall thing. The
> network just sort of understands.”
>
> The routers Google built to accommodate OpenFlow on what it is calling “the
> G-Scale Network” probably did not mark not the company’s first effort in
> making such devices. (One former Google employee has told Wired’s Cade Metz
> that the company was designing its own equipment as early as 2005. Google
> hasn’t confirmed this, but its job postings in the field over the past few
> years have provided plenty of evidence of such activities.) With SDN, though,
> Google absolutely had to go its own way in that regard.
>
> “In 2010, when we were seriously starting the project, you could not buy any
> piece of equipment that was even remotely suitable for this task,” says
> Hotzle. “It was not an option.”
>
> The process was conducted, naturally, with stealth — even the academics who
> were Google’s closest collaborators in hammering out the OpenFlow standards
> weren’t briefed on the extent of the implementation. In early 2010, Google
> established its first SDN links, among its triangle of data centers in North
> Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Then it began replacing the old
> internal network with G-Scale machines and software — a tricky process since
> everything had to be done without disrupting normal business operations.
>
> As Hölzle explains in his speech, the method was to pre-deploy the equipment
> at a site, take down half the site’s networking machines, and hook them up to
> the new system. After testing to see if the upgrade worked, Google’s
> engineers would then repeat the process for the remaining 50 percent of the
> networking in the site. The process went briskly in Google’s data centers
> around the world. By early this year, all of Google’s internal network was
> running on OpenFlow.
>
> Though Google says it’s too soon to get a measurement of the benefits, Hölzle
> does confirm that they are considerable. “Soon we will able to get very close
> to 100 percent utilization of our network,” he says. In other words, all the
> lanes in Google’s humongous internal data highway can be occupied, with
> information moving at top speed. The industry considers thirty or forty
> percent utilization a reasonable payload — so this implementation is like
> boosting network capacity two or three times. (This doesn’t apply to the
> user-facing network, of course.)
>
> Though Google has made a considerable investment in the transformation —
> hundreds of engineers were involved, and the equipment itself (when design
> and engineering expenses are considered) may cost more than buying vendor
> equipment — Hölzle clearly thinks it’s worth it.
>
> Hölzle doesn’t want people to make too big a deal of the confirmation that
> Google is making its own networking switches — and he emphatically says that
> it would be wrong to conclude that because of this announcement Google
> intends to compete with Cisco and Juniper. “Our general philosophy is that
> we’ll only build something ourselves if there’s an advantage to do it — which
> means that we’re getting something we can’t get elsewhere.”
>
> To Hölzle, this news is all about the new paradigm. He does acknowledge that
> challenges still remain in the shift to SDN, but thinks they are all
> surmountable. If SDN is widely adopted across the industry, that’s great for
> Google, because virtually anything that happens to make the internet run more
> efficiently is a boon for the company.
>
> As for Cisco and Juniper, he hopes that as more big operations seek to adopt
> OpenFlow, those networking manufacturers will design equipment that supports
> it. If so, Hölzle says, Google will probably be a customer.
>
> “That’s actually part of the reason for giving the talk and being open,” he
> says. “To encourage the industry — hardware, software and ISP’s — to look
> down this path and say, ‘I can benefit from this.’”
>
> For proof, big players in networking can now look to Google. The search giant
> claims that it’s already reaping benefits from its bet on the new revolution
> in networking. Big time.
>
> Steven Levy
>
> Steven Levy's deep dive into Google, In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works
> And Shapes Our Lives, was published in April, 2011. Steven also blogs at
> StevenLevy.com.  Check out Steve's Google+ Profile .
>
> Read more by Steven Levy
>
> Follow @StevenLevy on Twitter.
>



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