May 7, 2014
Microsoft and VMware, along with other vendors, are working on a standard to allow greater interoperability between network applications on a virtualized network.
The two companies, together with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), have submitted the Geneve protocol as an informational draft to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) , to bridge VMware's VXLAN (Virtual Extensible LAN) and the Microsoft-backed NVGRE (Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation) protocols.
Geneve is designed to make life easier for software developers, chipmakers, and network operators, which now need to support multiple protocols that essentially do the same thing, Jesse Gross, senior staff engineer for VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), says. "If there's a common protocol, there's going to be one set of tools and technologies to understand."
Geneve supporters also look to the protocol to be more extensible than current implementations.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) didn't have a lot to say about Geneve. I asked for an interview and got a canned email statement in response:
Our goal is to help customers realize the simplicity and economics that SDN promises, just as we have in our cloud datacenters. To make that happen, the industry needs to provide customers with choice and broad interoperability across software defined networking implementations. Consequently, Microsoft is in the early stages of collaborating with others -- the Geneve draft submission is simply one amongst multiple ongoing initiatives we are involved in. For another example, check out our work with the Cisco ACI OpFlex Protocol here and here.
Geneve was submitted to IETF in February. Gross says he expects to see the technology included as part of Open vSwitch and Linux within two months. That will lead to VMware support, because VMware includes Open vSwitch and Linux.
But Geneve may run into roadblocks to adoption, says IDC analyst Brad Casemore. "I'm not sure it's going to get through in the form it's in right now," Casemore says. While Microsoft and VMware have "buried the hatchet," Casemore pointed to discussion on an IETF mailing list, where engineers at Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , and other networking vendors are resisting, saying existing protocols such as VXLan can be enhanced and extended to accomplish similar goals. "The objection is [that] we don't need another protocol," Casemore says. At least one engineer from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is also pushing back.
"I think it's almost a perfect microcosm for the state of the industry now," Casemore says. Software-focused networking vendors, including VMWare and Microsoft, want to change the networking paradigm to focus on software overlays. Meanwhile, traditional vendors want hardware to continue to be integral to networking. And hyperscale data center companies such as Google are pushing back against vendors who aren't responding fast enough, a position that led to the formation of the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) in 2011. (See The Three Faces of SDN and Open Networking Foundation Formed.)
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