Serverless SDN – Network Engineering Analysis of Appswitch

Networkop (@networkop1posted their results on AppOrbit’s AppSwitch, networking for containers. See partial article Below:

Virtual networking has been one of the hottest areas of research and development in recent years. Kubernetes alone has, at the time of writing, 20 different networking plugins, some of which can be combined to build even more plugins. However, if we dig a bit deeper, most of these plugins and solutions are built out of two very simple constructs:

 – a virtual switch – anything from a linux bridge through VPP and IOVisor to OVS

– ACL/NAT – most commonly implemented as iptables, with anything from netfilter to eBPF under the hood

Note1: for the purpose of this article I won’t consider service meshes as a network solution, although it clearly is one, simply because it operates higher than TCP/IP and ultimately still requires network plumbing to be in place

If those look familiar, you’re not mistaken, they are the same exact things that were used to connect VMs together and enforce network security policies at the dawn of SDN era almost a decade ago. Although some of these technologies have gone a long way in both features and performance, they still treat containers the same way they treated VMs. There are a few exceptions that don’t involve the above constructs, like SR-IOV, macvlan/ipvlan and running containers in host namespace, however they represent a small fraction of corner case solutions and can be safely ignored for the purpose of this discussion. That’s why for networking folk it won’t be too big a mistake to think of containers as VMs, let’s see why:



At a high level both container and VM networking are exactly the same, doesn’t matter what plugin, what networking model (CNM/CNI), what vSwitch flavour or what offload technology you use. Any virtual workload must have a virtual patch cable connecting it to a vSwitch, which implements forwarding and security policies programmed by an SDN controller. These tenets have gone unchallenged since the early days of containers and this is how I, personally, always imagined a typical virtual networking solution would look like. Until I read about AppSwitch and got so excited I decided to sign up for a beta program just to take it apart and see how it works. But before I dive deep into its architecture, I need to provide some theoretical background and I’ll do that by zooming in on a part of the (Linux) networking stack that sits right above TCP/IP.


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