Bridging the Gap Between Virtual and Physical Networks

This blog is co-authored by Bops Puliyanda, Senior Product Line Manager, VMware Network & Security.

The evolution of networks has seen a shift from legacy, proprietary technologies that are hardware-bound to modern, open technologies that are software-driven and driving innovation. As seen with the rapid adoption of server virtualization throughout data centers, today’s organizations are embracing the concepts of a software-defined network based on virtualization concepts that bring enhanced efficiency, agility and security. The challenge that remains is how to ensure the physical underlay network is provisioned and optimized for these virtual environments.

The Dell EMC SmartFabric Director, co-developed by Dell EMC and VMware, enables data center operators to build, operate and monitor an open network underlay fabric based on Dell EMC Open Networking PowerSwitch Series switches. SmartFabric Director automates and simplifies the provisioning and monitoring of the fabric using Openconfig based models and protocols. Tight integration with VMware vSphere and NSX-T allows SmartFabric Director to dramatically simplify fabric provisioning for dynamic virtualized workloads and overlays.

Let’s take a moment to take a closer look at two key features within SmartFabric Director that directly contribute toward helping data center cloud, system and network administrators to automate and simplify management of both a physical and virtual network environment.

Leaf-Spine Fabric Automation

SmartFabric Director uses a declarative model that allows the user to express intent of a given network topology with a set of well-defined fabric types. User input to SmartFabric Director is in the form of a Java Script Object Notification (JSON) formatted file that includes wiring diagram information.

The three pre-defined fabric types that SmartFabric Director supports include:

  • A layer 2 leaf-spine fabric
  • A layer 3 Border gateway protocol (BGP) leaf-spine fabric
  • A layer 3 BGP leaf-spine fabric with NSX-T overlay

Network topologies with edge/border leaves with BGP as the peering protocol are also supported.

Fabric discovery is an ongoing process by SmartFabric Director and ensures that the fabric wiring is consistent with the user-defined intent. The quick error-free deployment of the Dell EMC SmartFabric OS10 configuration on Dell EMC PowerSwitch switches takes away the guesswork and enables rapid auto-provisioning of fabrics. Complex Day N operations such as add/remove switch, links, etc. are easily handled with a few clicks.

VMware vSphere® and NSX-T Data Center™ integration

Tight integration of SmartFabric Director with VMware vCenter and NSX-T ensures that the physical underlay/fabric is correctly provisioned to help ensure seamless functioning of the application workloads in a VMware Software-Defined-Data-Center. This includes provisioning virtual LANs (vlans), auto-creation of Link aggregation (LAGs)/port-channels, auto-detecting add/remove of ESXi hosts and Maximum transmission unit (MTU) consistency checks.

Dell EMC and VMware are working closely together to rebuild the network for the cloud era – with everything open, automated and software-defined. SmartFabric Director is a co-developed software-defined networking solution that enables the physical underlay infrastructure to keep pace with the changing demands of virtualized overlays and the Software-Defined-Data-Center. By simplifying the definition, creation and deployment of data center fabrics with intent-based auto-provisioning and enhanced visibility and management between virtual and physical network environments, organizations can overcome earlier challenges between these two environments and pave the way for the future.

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