Cisco Supports Competing Overlay Technology in Hedging SDN Bets

Cisco Systems Inc. has made several fits and starts in positioning itself for the new era of software-defined networking (SDN), joining some initiatives and projects, proposing its own alternatives and now embracing multiple options.

The traditional networking powerhouse recently announced support for an overlay technology, even though some experts have said it has the most to lose if the upstart SDN technology truly disrupts the industry. SDN and related technologies are challenging the old guard with new ideas, such as putting network intelligence into a software control layer rather than in proprietary switches and other hardware.

Cisco has been involved in SDN-related open standards efforts but has also positioned its own Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) approach as being "better" than SDN.

It continues to hedge its bets, however, last week announcing it's "furthering its open standards approach to SDN" and "complementing" its ACI approach by supporting the IETF standard Border Gateway Protocol – Ethernet Virtual Private Network (BGP EVPN) protocol for overlay networks.

The new capability will come to the company's Nexus 9000 Series switches this month and will be rolled out to Nexus 7000 switches and ASR 9000 routers in the second quarter of the year.

Cisco said the new support gives more options to customers, who can now choose to run the Nexus 9000 switches in standalone mode on traditional topology networks, with VXLAN overlays or in ACI mode with Cisco's software.

"Overlay networks provide the foundation for scalable multi-tenant cloud networks," Cisco said in a statement. "VXLAN, developed by Cisco along with other virtualization platform vendors, has emerged as the most widely-adopted multi-vendor overlay technology. In order to advance this technology further, a scalable and standards-based control plane mechanism such as BGP EVPN is required.

"Using BGP EVPN as a control-plane protocol for VXLAN optimizes forwarding and eliminates the need for inefficient flood-and-learn approaches while improving scale," the company continued. "It also facilitates large scale deployments of overlay networks by removing complexity, fosters higher interoperability through open standard control plane solutions, and access to a wider range of cloud management platforms."

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.