Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Sematext Blog, Dmitry Sotnikov, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Andreas Grabner, Elizabeth White

Blog Feed Post

It's On: Stacks versus Flows

#OpenStack #CloudStack #OpenFlow #SDN It's a showdown of model versus control – or is it?

 

stack-vs-flow

There's a lot of noise about "wars" in the networking world these days. OpenStack versus CloudStack versus OpenFlow-based SDN.

But while there are definitely aspects of "stacks" that share similarities with "flows", they are not the same model and ultimately they aren't even necessarily attempting to solve the same problems.

Understanding the two models and what they're intended to do can go a long way toward resolving any perceived conflicts.

The Stack Model

Stack models, such as CloudStack and OpenStack, are more accurately placed in the category of "cloud management frameworks" because they are designed with provisioning and management of the infrastructure services that comprise a cloud computing (or highly dynamic) environment.

Stacks are aptly named as they attempt to provide management and specifically automation of provisioning for the complete network stack. Both CloudStack and OpenStack, along with Eucalyptus and Amazon and VMware vCloud, provide a framework API that can (ostensibly) be used to provision infrastructure services irrespective of vendor implementation. The vision is (or should be) to enable implementers (whether service provider or enterprise) to be able to switch out architectural elements (routers, switches, hypervisors, load balancers, etc… ) transparently*. That is, moving from Dell to HP to Cisco (or vice-versa) as an environment's switching fabric should not be disruptive. Physical changes should be able to occur without impacting the provisioning and management of the actual services provided by the infrastructure.

And yes, such a strategy should also allow heterogeneity of infrastructure.

In many ways, such "stacks" are the virtualization of the data center, enabling abstraction of the actual implementation from the configuration and automation of the hardware (or software) elements. This, more than anything, is what enables a comparison with flow-based models.

The Flow Model

Flow-based models, in particular OpenFlow-based SDN, also abstracts implementation from configuration by decoupling the control plane from the data plane. This allows any OpenFlow-enabled device (mostly switches today, as SDN and OpenFlow focus on network layers) to be configured and managed via a centralized controller using a common API.

Flows are "installed" or "inserted" into OpenFlow-enabled elements via OpenFlow, an open protocol designed for this purpose, and support real-time updates that enable on-demand optimization or fault isolation of flows through the network. OpenFlow and SDN are focused on managing the flow of traffic through a network. 

Flow-based models purport to offer the same benefits as a stack model in terms of heterogeneity and interoperability. Moving from one OpenFlow-enabled switch to another (or mixing and matching) should ostensibly have no impact on the network whatsoever.

What flow-based models offer above and beyond a stack model is extensibility. OpenFlow-based SDN models using a centralized controller also carry with it the premise of being able to programmatically add new services to the network without vendor assistance. "Applications" deployed on an SDN controller platform (for lack of a better term) can extend existing services or add new ones and there is no need to change anything in the network fabric, because ultimately every "application" distills flows into a simple forwarding decision that can then be applied like a pattern to future flows by the switches.

The Differences

This is markedly different from the focus of a stack, which is on provisioning and management, even though both may be occurring in real-time. While it's certainly the case that through the CloudStack API you can create or delete port forwarding rules on a firewall, these actions are pushed (initiated) external to the firewall. It is not the case that the firewall receives a packet and asks the cloud framework for the appropriate action, which is the model in play for a switch in an OpenFlow-based SDN.

Another (relatively unmentioned but important) distinction is who bears responsibility for integration. A stack-based model puts the onus on the stack to integrate (via what are usually called "plug-ins" or "drivers") with the component's existing API (assuming one exists). A flow-based model requires the vendor to take responsibility for enabling OpenFlow support natively. Obviously the ecosystem of available resources to perform integration is a magnitude higher with a stack model than with a flow model. While vendors are involved in development of drivers/plug-ins for stacks now, the impact on the product itself is minimal, if any at all, because the integration occurs external to the component. Enabling native OpenFlow support on components requires a lot more internal resources be directed at such a project.

Do these differences make for an either-or choice?

Actually, they don't. The models are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, might be used in conjunction with one another quite well. A stack based approach to provisioning and management might well be complemented by an OpenFlow SDN in which flows through the network can be updated in real time or, as is often proffered as a possibility, the deployment of new protocols or services within the network.

The War that Isn't

While there certainly may be a war raging amongst the various stack models, it doesn't appear that a war between OpenFlow and *-Stack is something that's real or ever will be The two foci are very different, and realistically the two could easily be deployed in the same network and solve multiple problems. Network resources may be provisioned and initially configured via a stack but updated in real-time or extended by an SDN controller, assuming such network resources were OpenFlow-enabled in the first place.

 

* That's the vision (and the way it should be) at least. Reality thus far is that the OpenStack API doesn't support most network elements above L3 yet, and CloudStack is tightly coupling API calls to components, rendering this alleged benefit well, not a benefit at all, at least at L4 and above. 


Connect with Lori: Connect with F5:
o_linkedin[1] google  o_rss[1] o_twitter[1]   o_facebook[1] o_twitter[1] o_slideshare[1] o_youtube[1] google

Related blogs & articles:


 

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By 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.

@CloudExpo Stories
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at ...
IBM has announced software that allows people to hide or anonymize their personal information on the Web, ensuring protection from identity theft and other misuse. Developed by researchers at IBM's laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, the software – called Identity Mixer – will enable consumers to purchase goods and services on the Internet without disclosing personal information. As consumers hand over personal details in exchange for downloading music or subscribing to online newsletters, they...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core...
NuoDB just introduced the Swifts 2.1 Release. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc., discussed why scaling databases in the cloud is challenging, why building your application on top of the infrastructure that is designed with this in mind makes a difference, and what you can do with NuoDB that simplifies your programming model, your operations model.
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"SOASTA built the concept of cloud testing in 2008. It's grown from rather meager beginnings to where now we are provisioning hundreds of thousands of servers on a daily basis on behalf of customers around the world to test their applications," explained Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Verizon Digital Media Services is responsible for the broadcast, video and content delivery network that accelerates, scales and helps our customers reach end users with all kinds of video and web content," stated James Segil, CMO of Verizon Digital Media Services, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session a...
“We are a managed services company. We have taken the key aspects of the cloud and the purposed data center and merged the two together and launched the Purposed Cloud about 18–24 months ago," explained Chetan Patwardhan, CEO of Stratogent, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
CA Technologies released a new study – “DevOps: The Worst-Kept Secret to Winning in the Application Economy” – that reveals that 82% of enterprises in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) already have or plan to adopt a DevOps strategy, a 12 point increase from last year’s figure of 70%. DevOps is a methodology which helps foster collaboration between the teams that create and test applications (Dev) with those that maintain them in production environments (Ops). Vanson Bourne conducted the survey with...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps,...
“The year of the cloud – we have no idea when it's really happening but we think it's happening now. For those technology providers like Zentera that are helping enterprises move to the cloud - it's been fun to watch," noted Mike Loftus, VP Product Management and Marketing at Zentera Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. Acco...