Embrane came out of secrecy today and announced their solution that virtualizes the deployment of network based services. In the context of how this affects network virtualization, here’s my initial thoughts on Embrane’s announcement..

My first take is that Embrane heleos is a positive thing for the network virtualization movement (read: good for Nicira, good for Big Switch). To be clear, Embrane isn’t virtualizing the network like Nicira or Big Switch. For Embrane to say they’re “virtualizing the network” is a stretch. Rather, Embrane is virtualizing network based services, and taking down one of the key barriers to adoption of full network virtualization … deploying network services.

Prior to Embrane, discussions of SDN, Open vSwitch, NVGRE, VXLAN, etc, was all fun and high fives until the topic of load balancers and firewalls came up, lobbing a cold bucket of ice on all the fun. Routing traffic to a classic physical appliance and back was ugly and so non-multi-tennant, and services deployed on a single virtual machine simply did not scale, with either way creating bottlenecks. Embrane has fixed that. Services deployed in virtual machines can now scale out – that was the big hurdle.

A quick thought on workload mobility with Embrane heleos: “How does Embrane work with workload mobility, vMotion”?

From what I can tell (based on reading the Embrane architecture paper) the workload consuming network services is going to have a session with one of the “Data Planes Dispatcher” CUs that provides the standard network traffic interface to their “virtual appliance” (DVA). So as I see it, a workload can transparently move with vMotion and still maintain its session with the virtual appliance, provided the Workload-to-Dispatcher logical network topology doesn’t change during the move – typical vMotion considerations. And this needs to work at scale for SPs. So all the things Nicira and Big Switch can do with SDN, OVS, NVGRE, VXLAN, etc. in making the logical network consistent and transparent at scale all apply here.

In a nutshell, Embrane is helping to virtualize to network, by providing a better platform for virtualizing network services.

Note that while I’m focused here on the Embrane impact to SDN and network virtualization, Embrane’s technology is agnostic of any physical or virtual network architecture. It doesn’t require SDN, OpenFlow, VXLAN or any such related technology. Embrane heleos should work fine on your existing infrastructure using traditional L2/L3 network topologies and protocols.

Verdict: Cool stuff. If you’re at all interested in how your infrastructure will evolve in the coming years to the brave new world of SDN and network virtualization, you should definitely check out Embrane heleos and test it out.


Disclaimer: The author is an employee of Dell, Inc. However, the views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily represent those of Dell, Inc. The author is not an official media spokesperson for Dell, Inc.