Weaveworks Enables Container Networks for IoT

Given the lightweight nature of containers and the limited amount of memory and storage available on embedded systems, there should be a natural affinity for building and deploying containerized applications in internet of things (IoT) environments. To make building those applications more feasible, Weaveworks has made available its software-defined networking software for containers available on ARM processors.

Weaveworks CEO Alexis Richardson says it’s still early days as far as containers are concerned in IoT deployments. But Richardson says early indications suggest developers are moving in the direction, which in turn will create a need to network containers running on disparate embedded systems together. At the moment Weaveworks is only adding support for ARM processors that are widely deployed in embedded systems using Raspberry Pi single-board computer systems. But Richardson would not rule out support for additional processors as usage of containers in IoT environments increases.

To make sharing data across the networks more secure, version 1.9 of Weave Net now includes support for a fast datapath VXLAN implementation using IPsec to encrypt data in motion. The significance of that support is derived from the fact that both the IPsec and VXLAN functions run inside the kernel, which means there’s no performance penalty for encryption data in motion, says Richardson.

Unlike other approaches to network virtualization, Richardson says Weave Net is aimed primarily at developers who need to spin up network connections quickly. Rather than waiting for a network administrator to configure and deploy a virtual network, Richardson says many developers much prefer to be able to set up their own networks. Because the data traveling across that network can be encrypted easily, developers can now also meet any security mandates associated with networking containers.

In IoT environments made up of thousands of sensors and gateways, that ability to set up virtual networks dynamically is likely to prove pivotal as each application becomes more distributed.

As developers in the age of DevOps take more control of the end-to-end application environment, Weaveworks is betting they will show a marked preference to more programmable approaches to networking and security. In fact, Richardson says the biggest issue many of these developers now face is proving to skeptical IT operations and security teams that containers can be networked together securely without any intervention from IT.

In fact, in many IoT scenarios there might not even be a traditional IT department involved. Operations teams with various departments have jealously guarded their privileges. Any approach to networking that doesn’t require them to necessarily interact with networking administrators that report to an IT director will no doubt have a certain amount of appeal.

In the meantime, containers are already poised to usurp network function virtualization (NFV) software in its current incarnation. In fact, while just about everyone agrees that the future of networking will be defined by software, there’s much less consensus concerning the form in which that networking software ultimately will manifest.

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.

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