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Creating a Modern Campus Area Network: A ‘How to’ Guide

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Written by: Barry McGinley Avatar 1/27/2020

Without question, Open Networking and SDN have altered the landscape of data center networks irrevocably. Less than a decade has elapsed since Facebook open-sourced its hardware designs for its Prineville, Oregon data center and formed the Open Compute Project (OCP). One month previous, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) had formed to promote the benefits of SDN and the OpenFlow protocol. These two organizations, with more than a little help from companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, have presided over a shift that has massively reduced CAPEX and OPEX, improved scalability, automation, and efficiency and has given the power back to companies to determine what is the best fit for their particular need.

Open Networking How to Guide

Originally, these organizations concentrated on the data center market, but since 2016 they have adjusted their focus to include the telecoms and enterprise markets. The Telecom Infra Project, founded in 2016, has gone from strength to strength in bringing the benefits of the disaggregated data center model to the telecoms industry with products like the Cassini transponder or the Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway from Edgecore. (Webinar recording on topic here)

Enterprise and campus networks are the next area of networking that is going to benefit from the model that has completely altered data centers. Cumulus Networks are bringing open networking, with all its innovation and cost efficiencies to the campus network space in what they are calling, “Modern Campus”.

Who is Cumulus Networks?

Cumulus Networks is a software company that was founded in 2010 by JR Rivers and Nolan Leake. They have been at the forefront of open networking since its foundation, with Gartner highlighting them as a “pioneer of open source networking”. They have two main products which are Cumulus Linux, a Debian based Linux network operating system (NOS), and NetQ, which provides real-time telemetry and fabric-wide analytics. Cumulus also initiated the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) project. ONIE comes preloaded on every bare metal switch and allows for the NOS, like Cumulus Linux, to be installed.

Cumulus has had great success in the open networking market, supporting more than 1500 customers worldwide and 35% of the Fortune 50. Not too shabby!! They also support more hardware vendors than any other software with over 130 platforms from the likes of Edgecore, Quanta, and Delta et al. Cumulus is now looking to redefine the boundaries of open networking in the campus space. Read on to find out a little about campus networks and what is the Cumulus proposition here. Webinar with Cumulus here.

What is a campus area network (CAN)?

When first hearing the term campus network the mind immediately conjures images of a university or a college, while not wrong, it doesn’t give the full impression of what it is describing. A campus network sits between a local area network (LAN) and a metro area network (MAN) in size. It can be described as multiple LANs connected over a small(ish) geographic area. This can incorporate enterprise, government, schools and of course, colleges and universities. The hardware involved on the networking side is switches and routers with fibre optic (preferably) or copper cabling. Even though the CAN can (everybody dances!) be spread over multiple kilometers geographically, the networking equipment is usually owned by the campus itself.

Despite the clear benefits of open networking, there has been slow deployment in the enterprise and campus sector to date. The main reasons for this were concerns about service and support, implementation worries, and most importantly, the lack of a real market leader. Many of the software vendors dabbled in this area without really making the commitment that was needed. If the vendor does not show complete confidence it is understandable that you would have an apathetic customer base. Cumulus Networks have now made the commitment that was required to get the ball rolling, and take campus fabric design to the next level.

Cumulus’s Modern Campus

Cumulus Linux is the industry-leading, open, data center NOS and it’s this success that has steered them into the campus market. Requests were made from their own customer base to add the enterprise feature set that would allow companies to not only run their data center with Cumulus but the campus fabric too. The same monitoring and operational tools in use for their Linux systems in the data center can now be used for the campus network also. Some of the new features added to Cumulus Linux:

  • BGP, OSPF, and multicast for L3
  • Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) for L2
  • Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR) for L1
  • Port security
  • VXLAN and BGP-EVPN for campus fabric
  • TACACS, LDAP, and RADIUS for authentication
  • 802.1X interfaces with change of authorisation (CoA)
  • Network Command Line Utility (UCLI), CLI with tab complete and commit/rollback
  • SNMPv2c/v3
  • Multigigabit
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Cumulus also offers visibility into the network fabric in real-time with its NetQ analytics and telemetry server. This all in one tool simplifies troubleshooting, heightens visibility, and enriches existing monitoring and operational strategies. NetQ comes with a GUI, a CLI and RESTful API that allows you to retrieve data in real-time or in the past. Additionally, NetQ can be installed on your Linux servers to extend your overall visibility. The Cumulus NetQ agent is simply installed on a bare-metal Linux host or even inside a Linux VM.

Within the data center, Cumulus works best in a Clos (spine and leaf) or fat-tree topology. This is different from the traditional three-tiered hierarchical model used in the campus that contains 3 distinct layers, core, distribution, and access. For larger deployments we will usually see these 3 layers but in smaller ones, we may see core and distribution collapsed into one layer. There are not really any hard and fast rules once your network suits the use case. Below the image there are a few helpful considerations to use during the planning phase.

Three Tiered Network Topology

Things you should Consider when Creating a Modern Campus Area Network

  • Existing Infrastructure – Cat6 cables allow for speeds up to 10Gbps and Cat5e up to 1Gbps. Features like 802.3bz allow Cat5e to reach 2.5Gbps and Cat6 5Gbps.
  • Scalability – Making a concession in the design phase for future scalability can often pay dividends. Allowing room to grow is essential.
  • Budget – The budget will always drive decision making. Do not let this stop you from building a highly redundant network.
  • Security – This needs to be looked at early in the process. Security best practices and regulatory compliance can create design problems when segmenting the network.
  • Management and operations – How easy is it to manage the network devices? Can changes be made easily and quickly? Is it easy to monitor the devices and how easy is it to troubleshoot when things do go wrong? These are some of the questions that should be asked in the early stages of planning.

Campus Area Network Topology

This was a quick first look at campus networks from Cumulus. In an upcoming blog, I will take a closer look at the hardware involved from Edgecore Networks and others. We will also take a more focused look at the three-tiered architecture and the possibilities when it comes to the network design.

For more information on products and services related to Open Networking come check out our website at www.epsglobal.com. Next in the Open Networking Series, we will be taking a deeper dive into the world data center fabrics.
Slán go fóill,
Barry

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

  • IoT – Internet of Things
  • 5G – 5th generation of cellular mobile communication
  • Linux – Family of free open-source operating systems
  • ONF – Open Networking Foundation
  • OCP – Open Compute Project
  • SDN – Software Defined Networking
  • Edgecore – White box ODM
  • Quanta – White box OEM
  • Data Plane – Deals with packet forwarding
  • Control Plane – Management interface for network configuration
  • ODM – Original design manufacturer
  • OEM – Original equipment manufacturer
  • Cumulus Linux – Open network operating system
  • Pluribus – White box OS that offers a controllerless SDN fabric
  • Pica8 – Open standards-based operating system
  • Big Switch Networks – Cloud and data center networking company
  • IP Infusion – Whitebox network operating system
  • OS – Operating system
  • White Box – Bare metal device that runs off merchant silicon
  • ASIC – Application-specific integrated circuit
  • CAPEX – Capital expenditure
  • OPEX – Operating expenditure
  • MAC - Media Access Control
  • Virtualization – To create a virtual version of something including hardware
  • Load Balancing – Efficient distribution of incoming network traffic to backend servers
  • Vendor Neutral - Standardized, non-proprietary approach along with unbiased business practices
  • CORD – Central Office Rearchitected as a Data Center
  • SD-WAN – Software Defined Wide Area Network
  • NFV – Network Function Virtualization
  • RTBrick – Web scale network OS
  • Snap Route – Cloud native network OS
  • MPLS – Multiprotocol label switching
  • DoS – Denial of service attack
  • ONOS – ONF controller platform
  • LF – Linux Foundation
  • MEC – Multi-access edge computing
  • Distributed Cloud -
  • COMAC – Converged Multi-Access and Core
  • SEBA – SDN enabled broadband access
  • TRELLIS – Spine and leaf switching fabric for central office
  • VOLTHA – Virtual OLT hardware abstraction
  • R-CORD- Residential CORD
  • M-CORD – Mobile CORD
  • E-CORD – Enterprise CORD
  • PON – Passive optical network
  • G.FAST – DSL protocol for local loops shorter than 500 metres
  • DOCSIS – Data over cable service interface specification
  • BGP – Border gateway patrol routing protocol
  • OSPF – Open shortest path first routing protocol
  • DSL – Digital subscriber line
  • Container – Isolated execution environment on a Linux host
  • Kubernetes – Open source container orchestration system
  • Docker – Program that performs operating-system-level virtualization
  • Cloud Native – Term used to describe container-based environments
  • CNCF – Cloud Native Computing Foundation
  • API – Application Programming Interface
  • REST API – Representational State Transfer Application Programming Interface
  • CLI – Command Line Interface
  • VM – Virtual machine
  • NAT – Network Address Translation
  • IBN – Intent Based Networking
  • TORs – Top of Rack Switches
  • RHI – Route Health Injections
  • BCF – Big Cloud Fabric
  • VPC – Virtual Private Cloud
  • ONIE – Open Networking Install Environment
  • CI/CD - Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment
  • SONiC – Software for Open Networking in the Cloud
  • SAI – Switch Abstraction Interface
  • CoA – Change of Authorisation
  • CSP – Communication Service Provider
  • DCSG – Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway
  • TIP – Telecom Infra Project
  • TEAC – TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center
  • RAN – Radio Access Network
  • OOPT - Open Optical & Packet Transport
  • SDK – Software Development Kit
  • CAN – Campus Area Network
  • STP – Spanning Tree Protocol
  • PoE – Power over Ethernet





Creating a Modern Campus Area Network: A ‘How to’ Guide

Without question, Open Networking and SDN have altered the landscape of data center networks irrevocably. Less than a decade has elapsed since Facebook open-sourced its hardware designs for its Prineville, Oregon data center and formed the Open Compute Project (OCP). One month previous, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) had formed to promote the benefits of SDN and the OpenFlow protocol. These two organizations, with more than a little help from companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, have presided over a shift that has massively reduced CAPEX and OPEX, improved scalability, automation, and efficiency and has given the power back to companies to determine what is the best fit for their particular need.
 
Without question, Open Networking and SDN have altered the landscape of data center networks irrevocably. Less than a decade has elapsed since Facebook open-sourced its hardware designs for its Prineville, Oregon data center and formed the Open Compute Project (OCP). One month previous, the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) had formed to promote the benefits of SDN and the OpenFlow protocol. These two organizations, with more than a little help from companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, have presided over a shift that has massively reduced CAPEX and OPEX, improved scalability, automation, and efficiency and has given the power back to companies to determine what is the best fit for their particular need.
 

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