At Nutanix .NEXT conference in November 2018, a new partnership was announced between Nutanix and BigSwitch Networks. This partnership will provide an extension of BigSwitch’s cloud fabric into Nutanix AHV environments by way of the Nutanix APIs. The outcome will be reduced complexity when provisioning network resources for use in a Nutanix AHV environment through use of BigSwitch E-VPCs.
A Single “Big Switch” to Manage
For those who are not already familiar with BigSwitch they seek to bring a “cloud-first” networking mentality to on premises infrastructure. Acting as a control plane for an enterprise network underlay, their Big Cloud Fabric creates E-VPC networks that can span multiple layer 2 and layer 3 devices on an enterprise network while being managed in a single control plane. The idea is to create a network that acts as a single “big switch” and provide similar functionality to an AWS VPC or Azure VNET where networking is a software construct. This allows for multiple benefits to the organization such as:
- Provisioning and administration of logical networks including constructs such as subnets, gateways, and segmentation policies.
- Multi-tenancy – separation of customer network resources within the Big Cloud Fabric.
- Delegated Administration – allowing server and application teams to provision network resources as necessary without needing to engage the network team.
Building On a Foundation of Simplicity
With the announcement of the partnership with Nutanix, BigSwitch is bringing the capabilities to the provisioning and management of Nutanix AHV based infrastructures. One of the immediate benefits this provides is simplifying the process of creating or expanding a Nutanix cluster. Those already familiar with the Nutanix model of infrastructure deployment may already know about their Foundation tool. Foundation will automate the creation of Nutanix cluster after answering a few questions about networking, hypervisor, etc. Once a cluster is in place and needs to be expanded by one or more nodes, this can be accomplished via the management UI known as Prism or through the Nutanix Prism APIs. With the partnership, BigSwitch helps bring the infrastructure provisioning automation process even further by provisioning the network underlay according to the needs of the Nutanix nodes being used in a cluster. From the creation of a cluster, to the addition of new nodes, to new application networks being created and allocated, BigSwitch can communicate directly with Prism through its APIs. This will reduce friction and allow server/storage teams to quickly provision and manage the network underlay without the need to open a ticket with the network team or manually update multiple network devices via CLI. It is quite powerful as demonstrated in the tech demo below.
Some may wonder if the Nutanix/BigSwitch partnership is meant to provide a SDN overlay experience like VMware NSX. It is not. For that kind of functionality, Nutanix customers will need to look to their new Flow product. BigSwitch is focused on helping simplify the management of the network underlay that backs a customer’s Nutanix Infrastructure.
It’s becoming well accepted that the role of enterprise IT is changing form the guardian of the nerd nobs to the business problem solver. Any time you can simplify IT operations by implementing simple, automated solutions is generally regarded favorably as it will be less of a time sink on valuable IT resources. Hyperconverged Infrastructure itself was born out of this principle as it sought to bring simplicity to IT operations management. Network automation as a practice has been seen as a laggard by some in enterprise IT, but with advancements being introduced from the likes of BigSwitch it is a practice that is beginning to close the gap.