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Why I’m so fascinated with white box switching

All the hype

White box switching seems to be all the networking hype.  For some in-depth research, check out this podcast from packet pushers about ATT making its move into white box switching. Cisco is also committed to offering a decoupled version of IOS-XR from Cisco hardware to enable running their NOS on OCP (open compute project) compliant hardware aka “white box switching.” Fascinating stuff, but what’s the big deal? Well, I’m going to try and make a comparison.

A Lego comparison

I’m a huge adult fan of Lego (AFOL). I remember dumping old tin popcorn bins with Legos all over my bedroom floor as a child. I’m more organized today, but I can’t help tearing down and building new creations. Now imagine you have an advanced Lego technic set put together. You have gears that move, hinges that open and close, wheels turn, etc. Now imagine all those connecting pieces glued together. A nightmare for those AFOL’s who want to rebuild something special.

white box switch lego

Picture that glued together Lego set as a networking switch or router. Sure you can plug and unplug a few items, configure features within the CLI, and even get some sweet stats via SNMP. However, your switch or router’s underlying code is static which you can’t change. You’re at the mercy of the vendors nicely glued together product. I’m not suggesting that’s necessarily a bad thing, but you get where I’m going. With white box switching, you finally get to be a bit more creative with your switch or router. You can unload the default network operating system and load up something completely different. You’ve just expanded your imagination beyond one vendor and their fixed code.

A modular future

Maybe we’ll start to see advanced hardware modularity for white box switching as well. You need more processing power; upgrade your CPU. You need more space for your NOS apps or massively large routing tables, then go ahead and add more RAM. Are you a Cisco or Cumulus fan, who cares, you choose what NOS to run. Now you’re building like an AFOL. The possibilities of customization that deliver high flexibility are endless.

Lego 16 port white box switch

Extreme Networks EXOS on Nutanix CE

EXOS in Nutanix CE

Now that I have my Nutanix CE lab setup, I wanted to get some of my virtual network operating systems installed within my home lab. One of the NOS’s I’ve been running is Extreme Networks virtual EXOS. My last EXOS-VM lived in Virtualbox and ESXi. Extreme Networks has a github page here with all the information you need to get started with running the VM within a Virtualbox or ESXi environment.

Issue and Solution with Nutanix

Following the EXOS installation guide using the downloadable iso and mimicking the Vmware/Virtualbox VM settings within Nutanix CE wouldn’t work. I kept receiving an issue with the disk not correctly detected while Continue reading »

Hyperconverged infrastructure, a look at Nutanix

Sorting Out HCI

Today’s Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) vendors have some exciting product offerings. HCI ultimately provides scalable and flexible storage along with coupling computing resources. Recently at work, our KPI metrics started to show that some of our SAN hardware was having issues keeping up with production workload. So we ended up looking at a few HCI vendors; Simplivity, Nutanix, Pivot 3, and Vmware VSAN. After our initial investigations, it became clear that we weren’t quite ready to step into HCI just yet. Our project scope explicitly called for storage performance. At the current junction, additional compute wasn’t necessary and not budgeted for the project. Since HCI solutions couple storage with computing costs, we ending up investing in an all-flash SAN solution.

However, I was very intrigued with the different HCI platforms. What interested me the most was the ability to scale storage using x86 based systems. During our Nutanix research, I came across their community edition. I decided to load Nutanix CE on my home virtualization server and give it a whirl. There are lots of other great sites with information on how to get the initial setup going, so I’ll focus more on some of my specific findings during my home lab testing.

NutanixCE prism login

Nutanix CE Single Node Setup

I started out with a Continue reading »

Transitioning to Management

My previous IT roles have revolved around the administration of different technologies,  specifically networking technologies.  However, I’ve always had the willingness to perform any other job functions as needed.  That’s lead me to learn all types of new things such as tower climbing, billing, phone support, inventory tracking, training, and the list goes on.  At my current employment, I started as a network administrator. I moved into a network supervisor position within three years, then was asked to serve as an interim supervisor for another area through a merger.  I’m now the supervisor of networking and infrastructure.

Transitioning from a network administrator to a supervisor isn’t always a breeze.  When you’ve spent lots of time administering systems, you become ingrained into build, Continue reading »

Best of Breed

I recently heard the term “best of breed” used when discussing network vendor selection. I was surprised by this answer because you don’t hear it too often.  The more I thought about it, why not “best of breed” selection? My time as a network and infrastructure supervisor has taught me that a data center environment can be full of different compute and storage vendor products. Our SAN environment consists of Pure, Tegile, EMC, and even QNAP. Each product has its place.  Pure serves the VDI environment, Tegile/EMC host production, and QNAP serves as a target for our Veeam backups. The team has also categorized and carved out each platform into tiered offerings.

On the other hand, network vendor selection tends to be biased. Typically you’ll see one network vendor selected for the edge/access, distribution, and core. However, you will find a different wireless vendor from time to time.

Many reasons exist

A compilation of the most popular

  • We would like to interact with only one vendor for purchases and support.
  • ABC vendor only works well with a particular management tool.
  • I only know vendor ABC, and we don’t have time to learn something new.
  • Did you hear that vendor ABC had an issue with XYZ product, I don’t want those problems.
  • Everyone else uses vendor ABC.
  • No other vendor supports my VOIP feature set.
  • You can’t do XYZ well or at all with any other vendor product.

I will say that there are a few use cases that keep you tied Continue reading »

A simple start to project management

Being able to track your work efficiently is a very useful skill. For years I completed my work but rarely tracked my work in a project management professional (PMP) sort of way. Sure, I’ve done the weekly reports, sticky notes, Outlook tasks, and Outlook calendar block scheduling, which are all useful. However, simple project management skills help create a consistent and straightforward approach to managing time, resources, and tasks. I’ve seen organizations take an all guns blazing PM approach to a nothing at all approach. Sometimes you’ll see IT subject matter experts resist PM due to the “I’m too busy” or “It takes too much time” statements, but in reality, basic fundamental project management is not that difficult.

project management board

Here’s an example of how you can model behavior and start to implement some basic PM skills. I recently had a team reach out to discuss a new project that would require infrastructure resources. The team pulled up a draft diagram, and we began our dialog. I started to ask peering questions, and the diagram began to transform. Once I was comfortable with understanding what we were trying to accomplish, I shared my screen with the team and opened up OneNote. I began typing each major task that needed to be completed and here’s Continue reading »

Checkpoint CPU optimizations

We recently upgraded some of our WAN link bandwidth capacity from 1Gbps to 10Gbps to decrease transfer rates of backups across our two data centers. Traffic between each site encrypts with Checkpoint physical open appliances. The upgrade to the WAN links involved installing 10Gbps Intel NICs in our Checkpoint open servers. Once all the pieces were in place, I started to test everything using iperf3.

My initial iperf3 TCP results showed a maximum capacity of around 650Mbps. Something seemed to be limiting my ability to push more traffic across data centers. I started looking at the primary site Checkpoint VPN open server gateway. Using top in expert mode, I found that Continue reading »

Extreme Networks – enabling a few things on b5/c5/k series

Extreme Networks Switching Commands

Some of my most visited posts seem to be on brocade switching configuration/commands, so I decided to put together our standard list of commands for some Extreme Networks switches we use. These commands can be used on the B5, C5, K series, 7100 series, and S Series Extreme Networks switches. These switches run the EOS network operating system. Extreme networks product line moving forward will be purely EXOS (ExtremeXOS operating system). Therefore the following commands will become legacy, but are still very useful to know since some of the EOS product line hasn’t reached EOL.  Some commands are self explanatory, but for other’s I added a short description. Continue reading »

Troubleshooting ARP/IGMP/Router CPU

The Issue

We recently starting having issues with a building reporting that icmp stopped responding on a distribution router and some access switches behind the router. Some routing interfaces would respond, but the management VLAN interface wouldn’t. Further troubleshooting showed that the CPU processes on the router comprised of two Extreme Networks 7100 series switching running OSPF climbed up to 80/100% utilization. The “show logging buffer” revealed massive amounts of host-dos ARP attack events. The first thought was that a possible infected machine was creating an ARP storm. Continue reading »

Some PHP SNMP scripting

I was digging through some of my old notes and came across a few SNMP networking PHP scripts that I put together for some Proxim AP-4000 access points. I put this script and many others together to help manage these standalone access points before there were wireless controllers. This particular PHP script sets up a while loop to modify some SNMP values to modify AP filters. The SNMP values within this script can be modified to be used in changing other values as well. Your setup will require PHP installed along with the SNMP package. Have fun. Continue reading »

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