Everywhere you look there's virtualization. Hypervisors, NAS, and Containers. What about networking? Some people say VLANs. Others say MPLS. A topic of recent discussion is overlay technologies and VXLAN. But what if it went deeper than that? What would happen if you apply some of the server virtualization to networking? What would the result be?
Under the hood each networking switch has a control plane, which is basically full blown computer. It has a CPU, memory, and local storage. What would happen if the QFX5100 virtualized its control plane? Well, it did.
The QFX5100 natively boots into Linux and uses KVM as a hypervisor to create virtual machines. Junos, the network operating system, runs inside of a VM. At first glance, one might ask what's the big deal? You just added to layers of abstraction between the switch and Junos. However with abstraction comes the ability to do more than what was previously possible.
One great example of Junos engineering is the ability to perform In-Service Software Upgrades (ISSU) on the M, T, and MX series. This allows you to upgrade the networking operating system without interrupting the traffic flowing through the box. However this feature requires two control planes. At a high level there is a master and backup routing engine. As one routing engine is being upgraded, the other continues to take care of the switch.
Traditionally on 1RU switches, there was only a single control plane. There just wasn't enough space or budget to include a second control plane. However the QFX5100 uses Linux KVM and is able to create two virtual machines running Junos. Now by simply adding two layers of abstraction, we're able to have two control planes and support ISSU on the same 1RU switch.
So what else is possible? Your imagination is the limit. Another possibility is to create a third virtual machine and install Linux. You could use this virtual machine to execute operational scripts and programs that monitor various aspects of the network. You could collect statistics with MRTG and display it on a web page.
Check out the QFX5100 today. What will you do with the power of virtualization?