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Metaswitch Aiming Calico v1.0 at Containers

Metaswitch today announced what it is calling a "milestone" release of the cloud virtual networking software it has been developing through its Project Calico open source effort, targeting enterprise cloud users with a Layer 3 networking option that is ready to scale and deployable on OpenStack, on containers or on bare metal servers. (See Metaswitch Unveils Calico 1.0.)

The announcement of what is essentially the first production version, Calico v1.0, comes a little more than a year after the initial open source project rollout, and ahead of any major customer announcements. It is intended to offer an efficient, reliable way to build on-demand data center networks and comes with proven scalability up to 10,000 virtual machines on 500 compute hosts in an OpenStack cluster, or up to 50,000 containers, with setup rates of 20 containers per second. The release is also an indication that Metaswitch Networks has thoroughly tested and vetted the software and is prepared to offer professional-grade support, both for installation and ongoing deployments.

The addition of container support has come in the last eight months for what was initially an OpenStack-based project, says Andy Randall, SVP and GM of the Metaswitch networking business. Calico v1.0 is an OpenStack release but the core technology is the same for containers, and Metaswitch is supporting several types. In fact, Calico is rapidly evolving into a virtual networking solution that is ideal for containers, he says.

Separately from today's Calico v1.0 announcement, Metaswitch announced a partnership with Mesosphere that will integrate Project Calico with that company's approach to containers, Apache Meso, the Mesosphere Datacenter Operating System and other software. The partnership is intended to make it simpler to manage server clusters within the data center.

"We have seen the market move very fast over the last six months or so [toward containers]," Randall tells Light Reading. "Over that period we found more and more customers we are talking to who are planning now for migration of their applications and architecture to microservices and running containers on lightweight operating systems like CoreOS with orchestration platforms like [Google's] Kubernetes or Mesosphere. We are seeing the differentiation of Calico much more strongly with containers than in OpenStack."

That's because Calico offers a relatively lightweight approach to networking that is "philosophically well-aligned" with the lightweight approach to virtualization that containers deliver, he says. While traditional virtual networking emulates an Ethernet switch and tries to maintain state for each of the workloads it supports, Calico "literally does the little bit of state that is required to enforce policy such that workloads can only talk to the other workloads they are meant to," Randall says. "It's much lighter weight, you aren't doing all this emulation of the Ethernet switch. Calico is to traditional networking what containers are to virtual machines."

As enterprises and now telecom service providers look to containers as a way to implement virtualization and enable their move to the New IP without complexity and large overheads, Metaswitch is positioning Calico as an efficient way to network containers, that not only eliminates unnecessary overheads but also simplifies operations, Randall says.


Get up close and personal with vendor NFV strategies in our NFV Elements section here on Light Reading.

Because it uses standard IP protocols to route packets out of virtual machines or containers, Calico provides full visibility of what is happening in the network, making troubleshooting easy compared to other forms of virtual networking, Randall claims.

"I have spoken with end users who have previously worked with another virtual networking solution and said that when something went wrong, it could take them literally hours if not a whole day to work out what the problem was, to diagnose and to fix it, because what is happening under the covers is very opaque," he says. "With Calico, I can do a trace route or a ping and it will solve 95% of my issues because what I get back is what is actually happening -- it's not going through some emulation layer."

What Calico lacks right now is announced customers, although Randall says a number of end users are deploying the software and many more are expected now with Calico v1.0. He sees early applications network for internal private clouds and the massive storage networks being created to support analytics and big data.

The announcement caps a big week for Metaswitch, following AT&T's public statement that it is using the company's virtual session border controller in its Domain 2.0 virtualization push. (See Metaswitch Relishes 'Disruptor' Role at AT&T.)

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

CChappell 8/20/2015 | 2:30:23 PM
Calico and containers Calico and containers sound an interesting combination. I've talked to operators who are reluctant to expore containers because their interface with OpenStack Neutron is such a mess. But there's a bigger question here. How does OpenStack need to pivot to address the very different paradigm of data center operating systems, like Mesosphere or Google Borg, plus containers and a next generation cloud approach based not on IaaS - the Amazon/OpenStack model - but PaaS? This has implications for the NFV reference architecture - not least MANO - and OpenStack-focussed initiatives, like OPNFV. Of course, it's still unproven whether and how containerization applies to NFV but it will be interesting to watch all the FUD and hype that gets kicked up as the very different vested interests fight over this. 
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