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Data Center

Two Fast Paths to Docker Networking with Brocade VDX

by patild on ‎09-28-2016 01:59 PM - last edited on ‎09-30-2016 10:47 AM by Community Manager (4,412 Views)

In my previous blog, I made some high level network architecture recommendations for your Docker software ecosystem. But the best way to get started with container networking is to play with a real setup! Below, I’ve laid out a couple of the most common approaches to flaming tirethe first step -  getting Docker software up and running alongside a Brocade VDX switch fabric. Docker helps configure the container side of networking via libnetwork and Docker Swarm. To build a complete container network solution, you’ll need to integrate your Brocade VDX fabric with Docker networking.


Here are a couple of options for how you can get orchestration and visibility across container networks and physical networks:


  1. Container Network Configuration with Brocade Workflow Composer

Brocade Workflow Composer (BWC) enables you to write flexible workflows for automation across domains such as physical network fabrics, Docker containers, and ChatOps tools like slack. You can write a workflow to orchestrate your network when Docker containers are spun up and post messages to your tools such as slack when network events occur.


This involves writing a simple workflow involving a BWC sensor which talks to Docker Software via the Docker Swarm API to tap into network events; and then configures the VDX switches via BWC actions. For example, you could create Macvlans or Ipvlans on the containers and configure the corresponding L2/L3 configuration on the switches.

You could script this yourself, or use this step-by-step guide and get up and running fast!


  1. Container Network Visibility via Python Scripting

Now that you have containers deployed and your network is up and running, how do you find out where the containers are connected to your network? This may not matter if everything is running smoothly, but this will be the first thing on your mind if your containerized application stops working.


Getting this visibility is really easy with a Brocade fabric of VDX switches. You can write a Python script and run it via BWC or you can download and run it on VDX switches. The Python script can interact with Docker Swarm via the API to gain visibility into the containers and networks which have been created. Then, it can talk to each VDX switch via NETCONF/REST to get the physical switch information. Finally, the script can correlate the information to create a map of your physical switch ports and connected hosts in a network fabric.


Get a head start with this simple version of a Brocade VDX container tracer python script on GitHub, which you can enhance as needed:

This is a quick example of a script which runs on VDX switches, talks to Docker Swarm and interacts with the switch via the cli. It collects the switch information related to vlan and port from the VDX mac address table.  The script then displays all the network connectivity information about the containers as shown in the sample output:


script which runs on VDX switches, talks to Docker Swarm and interacts with the switch via the cli


And there’s one more thing


Now that we have the basics covered, what if you want to create VXLAN tunnels in your physical network fabric to enable your Docker L2 networks to seamlessly extend across racks? This is a simple extension of what we did earlier via BWC.


A Docker Swarm API hook can trigger a workflow to automatically create a VXLAN tunnel across Top of Rack (ToR) switches to provide the L2 connectivity needed for Docker containers; and also set-up everything else needed on the physical network to get your containers to talk. Container shutdown results in the tear-down of the tunnel. We’re playing with a Docker libnetwork plugin wrapper to help this workflow. The Brocade Libnetwork Plugin functions as a global libnetwork remote driver within Docker swarm and is based on the Container Network Model.


In this way, Brocade Network Fabric provisioning can be fully automated and integrated with the lifecycle of Docker containers. This is an important aspect as micro-services are deployed and shut down in an agile fashion in a container environment. Close integration of Brocade Fabrics with the container life cycle via Brocade Workflow Composer workflows helps optimize usage of network resources in such environments.


Here’s a video showing container network visibility and the overlay configuration on a Brocade IP Fabric network:


We are interested to hear about how you are using containers! Leave a comment and let us know or continue the discussion on the DevNet Community.


Happy Experimenting!