#VFD3 Day 2 – Tap your Hypervisor with Spirent


One of the recent developments in virtualization I’m thinking of exploring in the home lab is NVGRE or Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation. NVGRE is Microsoft’s offering in the nebulous, ill-defined software-defined networking space, and it’s just a few powershell cmdlets away from being turned on in my lab.

But should I bother?

No less an august networking authority than Ivan Pepelnjak has called the network virtualization model & NVGRE of Windows Server 2012 R2 “simply amazing,” but he’s also remarked on how complex and confusing it is, how it’s truly a Layer 3 NV product between Hypervisor hosts, but a muddled L2/L3 product within the hypervisor itself.

For a humble systems engineer with a mutt lab at home and a highly rationalized stack at work, I’m struggling with whether network virtualization’s benefits outweigh its risks. The goal is simple: #NetworkingGlory, the promised land where my most important /24 subnet follows the sun, hopping between datacenters over my existing MPLS network, or freeing me from paying for an MPLS network in the first place. Does NVGRE put me on the path to NetworkingGlory or is it a distraction?

NVGRE. Whoohooo, the same /24 on a single server. Great for Azure, meh for me
NVGRE. Whoohooo, the same /24 on a single server, no conflict. Great for Azure, meh for me

My sense is from the last few days here at #VFD3 that the VMware guys are in the same boat. They’ve got VXLAN & NSX in their stack, but when I see those products mentioned, I get the feeling from some of them that they’re just as “meh” on NSX as I am on NVGRE.

Enter Spirent (pronounced Spy-Rent), a large technology & testing/validation firm that could, frankly, use a bit of work on their website (just run your mouse of “Products” and check out the dizzying list that results). I wasn’t too excited to visit Spirent, but I’m glad they sponsored the event because I left their facility in Mountain View impressed.

So what’s Spirent do? When you or I are shopping for a new top of the rack switch and we want to compare baseline fabric performance of each switch in packets per second, bandwidth, and switching capacity, it’s Spirent’s test equipment that’s often been used to populate the datasheets. If you’re familiar with IXIA at all, Spirent is in the same space, but more of a dominant player, and their client list is pretty impressive, spanning web service companies, telecom, mobile, and so many more. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have certain three letter government agencies as clients.

But what can they do for me?

Well, if I ever get to a place where I’m embracing NVGRE in Hyper-V, I’m going to give Spirent a call. The firm sells network virtualization products designed to help you test, tap, validate, and troubleshoot your virtual networking stack. You can purchase, today, a virtual machine that enables you to peer inside your encrypted NVGRE tunnels, and that’s important because in an encrypted virtualized network, WireShark isn’t going to tell you squat about what’s wrong.

Glowing_Ring_White_re_LRtThey also sell some pretty neat software testing products. iTest Enterprise, a fat Win32 client, is able to capture your most complicated testing setups. Want to see what happens to your advanced caching storage array when you automate the deployment of 100 virtual machines? You can run it once and that will tell you something about the array, but true StorageGlory Wisdom will only be achieved when you’ve run that same tedious test a dozen times, which would be a major pain in the ass unless you have something like iTest Enterprise.

Wish I had that during my bakeoff with the Nimble and incumbent arrays earlier this year.

Spirent’s got more too: cloud testing products, cloud automation tools, and a slick-looking (but we couldn’t touch and play with, sadly) iPad application that looked like it could do all sorts of useful things.

These are some smart guys making some interesting products that allow you to tap into your hypervisor and find out exactly what’s going on.

Ping them if: Your virtualization environment is huge, you suffer automation & testing pains, you want to peer inside your encrypted virtual networks

Set Outlook Reminder for when: No need to wait for them on anything, they support VMware, Open Stack, Hyper-V, hell, even Xen.

Send them to /dev/null if: You don’t care about your users’ and company’s data integrity & security



Author: Jeff Wilson

20 yr Enterprise IT Pro | Master of Public Admin | BA in History | GSEC #42816 | Blogging on technology & trust topics at our workplaces, at our homes, and the spaces in between.

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