December 15, 2017

As containers proliferate across the enterprise, a case is now being made for moving more networking functions on to the host where those containers reside. As such, Cumulus Networks has created the Cumulus Host Pack that enables IT organizations to deploy a Linux-based network operating system on the same host where Docker containers are running.

In addition to providing that capability on a local host inside a data center, Cumulus Networks has begun trials of an instances of Cumulus Host Pack that can be deployed on a public cloud, says Cumulus Networks CEO John Leslie.

The primary benefit of this approach, he says, is that it provides a way for containerized applications to take advantage of routing protocols such as FRRouting and BGP directly within a Layer 3 architecture to ensure consistent levels of performance. Cumulus’ network fabric is able to dynamically learn about containers and distribute IP addresses associated with any set of containers to ensure predictable levels of performance. This approach removes complications associated with Layer 2 network architecture while providing reliable multipathing, simplified IP address management and increased reliability.

Leslie says IT organizations also can take advantage of the company’s NetQ telemetry-based software to continuously monitor the health of those microservices.

Networking is especially challenging in container environments because containers themselves are so ephemeral. Leslie notes that a set of containers running on one host can be transferred to another easily without any warning to the network administrator. When that occurs, the performance of that container application can degrade, because routers are assigned to a specific host. NetQ provides a mechanism through which network administrators can easily discover that a change has been made and can troubleshoot the problem to optimize network latency for the new host.

Host Pack can also provide application availability via integration with container orchestration tools such as Mesosphere, Kubernetes and Docker Swarm.

Over the last several years Cumulus Networks has been as the forefront of an open networking movement that seeks to disaggregate networking software from the underlying hardware. By enabling networking software to be deployed on inexpensive x86 server software, Cumulus Networks has been making the case for an approach to networking that increases performance while lowering total cost of ownership.

It’s unclear to what degree the rise of microservices based on containers will force that networking issue. Leslie says Cumulus Networks already has more than 500 customers running its software in a production environment. As adoption of containers continues to rise across the enterprise, that number could be about to expand exponentially.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.