Federal Insights

The SLX Router (and Safely Landing ASCII Jetliners)

by Wilbur_Smith ‎09-06-2017 10:23 AM - edited ‎09-06-2017 10:25 AM (5,158 Views)

As I was thinking through a topic for this blog entry, I remembered a conversation with a fellow SE describing their customer’s first demo with our new SLX router: “…yeah, and he thinks Air Traffic Controller is a blast!”


Though I didn’t get it initially, the comment was a joking reference to the underlying Linux OS that SLX-OS is built on. It took some Googling to learn Air Traffic Controller is a TTY Console-based game that has survived as a port into Linux. Still confused? Don’t worry, because the Internet is amazing at stuff like this: https://ttygames.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/air-traffic-controller


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So is there really a hidden console game on Brocade’s newest routing platform, the SLX? Not quite, but it is inside the Third Party VM (TPVM) that can be deployed on SLX. What’s the TPVM and why should customers care? Before answering, let’s take a step back.


The SLX 9850 is Brocade’s next-generation router, incorporating technology from both the MLX & VDX platforms. We designed the SLX to meet the converging challenges of Hyper-Scale Data Centers and the demand for more network bandwidth. The SLX was built for high-density IP Fabrics, supporting tens of thousands of servers or VMs and providing a massive amount of 100G connectivity within these networks. The SLX can reduce the time and cost of integrating applications and orchestration systems into the network layer, without sacrificing reliability and down time. It also provides, baked in, visibility into network traffic.


Part of our solution was to fundamentally change how a network device’s OS is built. SLX-OS isn’t a monolithic application code built on top of a Linux OS. Instead, you can think of SLX-OS as the sum of three pieces: an underlying KVM hypervisor, the primary and secondary SLX-OS VMs that manage routing and switching, and a third guest VM dedicated for customer use, we call the TPVM.


As mentioned earlier, in the distant past, the TPVM was once home to hidden computer games. Let’s get into the real reason we developed the TPVM for SLX. Here’s a hint: It doesn’t have to do with Air Traffic Controller.


On-Board Applications and The Insight Architecture


The TPVM is a platform any customer can build on and extend for their individual needs. Below are some ways Brocade has added some interesting tools and applications to support this tailored solution:


  • VNC – The standard for Linux remote desktop, a VNC server can be launched to provide a GUI interface for any tools running on the TPVM
  • Wireshark –If a customer launches a Wireshark session from the SLX, they can capture traffic by leveraging it with Insight Interface

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  • Google ARC & Chrome – Users can launch Google’s Advanced REST Client (ARC) plugin through the included Chrome browser to query data from the SLX’s REST API, or use it to help develop applications running on the TPVM

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  • Docker support – The TPVM has Docker’s container support built in, which allows Brocade to provide applications for the TPVM. Customers can also use Docker to deploy their own containers on the TPVM

  • perfSonar – Customers can deploy a personal appliance directly on the TPVM with Brocade’s provided Docker image test latency, as well as measure end-to-end network performance

  • ArpSponge – Developed by AMS-IX, ArpSponge prevents ARP storms by blocking ARP traffic from dead IP addresses or malicious devices

Also included in the TPVM are many of the utilities bundled in a standard Ubuntu server, like Python support, shell scripting and an NFS client to easily store data externally. A customer doesn’t have to use Brocade’s Ubuntu VM. Rather, they can build their own VM and install it in place of the one provided. Through the TPVM, Brocade will also allow customers to integrate their own tools directly onto the router. Any application a customer builds on top of the TPVM will have access to all the data available through the SLX’s APIs.


The SLX’s Insight Architecture can be used to mirror traffic directly to the TPVM, like having a packet broker imbedded inside your router. Suspect traffic mirrored to the TPVM can be analyzed or forwarded out of a dedicated analytics port on the SLX’s management module.


It is likely that our customers will build the most innovative uses for the TPVM. For this reason, Brocade is starting with an easy to use, extensible foundation for customer flexibility. Though TVPM isn’t used for gaming on the SLX, we look forward to seeing how our innovative federal customer base will flex their imaginative muscles on this dynamic platform.


If you want to learn more about the TPVM and how its capabilities can benefit your unique needs, check out our documentation for SLX-OS 17r.1.01 at: http://www.brocade.com/content/html/en/slx/17r-1-01/slxr-17.1.01-managementguide/GUID-0CABB66C-7E66-4307-B18C-0E83ACFC3729.html


For an overview of our entire SLX portfolio, visit: http://www.brocade.com/en/general/announcements/brocade-slx-agile-data-center-portfolio.html