Taking Integration with VMware to the next level with BCF 3.5 

Some say that "SDN" is the answer to all of your IT problems. However, this term is getting over-used and definition changes depending on the day or who screams the loudest. Some have even called it "Slide Defined Networking". At Big Switch Networks however, SDN is definitely not slide defined. In contrast, it is defined by concrete and tangible steps that we take to improve the lives of data center admins and provide them immediate value. What constitutes life improvement for those deploying VMware solutions? To some, its giving ability to quickly identify why VMs are not communicating. To others, its making machines do important but mundane tasks of connecting servers to network and provisioning connectivity. Any solution must work with a variety of existing IT organizational structures where silos between network and virtualization teams may be a thing of the past or may still exist. VMware vSphere integration with Big Cloud Fabric achieves all of the above in a very practical way, without any additional protocols or encapsulations. The solution has been shipping since May 2015 with the following immediate benefits:

  • Automatic ESXi host discovery and flexible attachment to BCF
    No more mocking around with vendor-specific variations of MLAG and countless knobs to align configuration with "best practices" and avoid caveats. Regardless of ESXi server hardware, number of uplinks or teaming mode, attaching a host to BCF is seamless. 
  • Automatic BCF Layer 2 segment creation and VM learning
    Port-group on virtual switch always has a corresponding segment on the network fabric. No more waiting for VLANs to be provisioned. No more trying to figure out which VM connects to which physical port and troubleshooting inconsistent configuration between virtual and physical network. Network is operating in lockstep with server virtualization.
  • Network policy migration with vMotion / Dynamic Resource Scheduler (DRS)
    Security is an important pillar of the solution. If there is a live VM, physical network port is there to accept traffic. The minute the last VM in the segment is gone, configuration is cleaned up. No more rogue devices trying to gain access because someone forgot to clean up VLAN trunking.
  • Improved VM visibility and troubleshooting for both network administrators
    Synchronize vCenter events with BCF analytics engine to give network admin more information VM workloads that are using the network. Use test-path to know exact path between two VM endpoints or between two VXLAN VTEPs. No more box-by-box show command executions and screen scraping. No more black holes in the network fabric.

With the recent release of Big Cloud Fabric 3.5, this solution is taken to a next level. Along with various enhancements to support migration to BCF in brownfield VMware environments, a new BCF plug-in for vCenter 6.0 demonstrates a much tighter integration of our data center fabric with server virtualization.

With all the integration we had before, why do we also need a plug-in? It provides the following benefits:

  • Single pane of glass network visibility for virtualization admin
    Prior to BCF 3.5, network admin got the benefit of great visibility into virtual infrastructure. Now its our turn to offer the same for virtualization admin. We can now map vSphere networking to BCF networking by giving VM admin a view into the physical networking infrastructure including connected BCF switch ports, related segments and tenants. Essentially we are bridging remaining gaps between the virtual and the physical worlds and this provides for an easy avenue to monitor the network and isolate problems.

 

  • Unified view of network configuration across multiple vCenters within a single BCF pod
    This is a salient feature for test and development environments. Not only can I view network configuration for current vCenter but also for other vCenters connected to BCF. Of course, security conscious customers have the option to turn this off and only view configuration from one particular vCenter. For more information on deploying multiple vCenters with Big Cloud Fabric and our vPOD technology, see this blog.
  • Configuration of Layer 3 gateway on BCF from vCenter
    Provisioning network connectivity for a workload has always involved a complex cross-silo workflow. Layer 2 automation helps eliminate a major bottleneck, but we don’t want to rest there. Routing of traffic between vSphere port-groups still required configuration by network admin until now. Now the plug-in gives the ability for VM admin to configure gateway themselves. This allows VM admin to speed up workflow provisioning and for network admin to focus on tasks that are a lot more exciting than configuring Layer 3 gateways and provisioning subnets. Remember that BCF enables a distributed anycast gateway at top of rack leaf switch, meaning no choke points and no hair-pinning of traffic for routing across the fabric.

 

To support VM admin tools and workflows, we are also introducing BCF content pack for VMware vRealize LogInsight. vRealize LogInsight is a part of vRealize product suite and is more than just another syslog server. Its a sophisticated log collection and correlation engine that allows administrators to focus only on events that they need via dashboards. Now those who have connected LogInsight to vCenter, can also view BCF events in several dashboards and therefore correlate VM events to network events and vice versa. Content pack provides the following benefits:

  • Pre-configured dashboards for BCF
    Zero in on BCF specific logs corresponding to tenants, segments and endpoints. Aggregate those logs across multiple BCF PODs. 
  • Pre-configured alerts to monitor BCF error conditions
  • Now you can decide what BCF errors are most critical and act on them. Send email to your team. Alert other tools such as vRealize Operations Manager.

The best data center fabric for VMware is here! Try it out for free at BSN Labs Module 4 or with BCF Community Edition. Feel free to reach out to us at info@bigswitch.com for any comments and questions, and join us on this journey as we continue to innovate and disrupt the status quo of networking. 

Arkadiy Shapiro
Principal Technical Marketing Engineer, Big Switch Networks

To Learn More:

  • BCF Integration with vCenter DEMO
  • BCF Plugin for vSphere 6.0 DEMO
  • BCF Plugin for VMware  vRealize Log Insight DEMO
  • BCF Community Edition DEMO