Click here to close now.


Java IoT Authors: Adrian Bridgwater, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, AppDynamics Blog, Flint Brenton

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, @BigDataExpo

SDN Journal: Blog Post

Stateless Transport Tunneling (STT) Meets the Network

At a high level the concepts of larger packets, hardware offload, reduced CPU load and interrupts all make sense

Last week I walked through the packet formats for VXLAN and NVGRE specifically focused on ways by which the overlay packets provide information to the physical network that help the physical network. Some of the initial extreme thoughts that the overlay and physical network can and should be completely ignorant of each other have softened more recently and more pragmatic thoughts of collaborating layers are being articulated. At Plexxi we have often mentioned that we believe the physical network and the overlay need to be closely orchestrated to get the most benefit out of the total network solution. And orchestration != ECMP.

In addition to VXLAN and NVGRE, Stateless Transport Tunneling (STT) is an encapsulation mechanism used by VMware, mostly for communication between server based vSwitches. It is a bit more involved and complicated than VXLAN and NVGRE, mostly because it was designed to carry large data packets, up to 64 Kbytes. Physical networks have limitations on the size of a packet that can be transferred. Ethernet standard maximum transmission unit (MTU) used to be 1500 bytes, but most ethernet devices these days can support jumbo packets allowing packets of 4, 9 or even 16 Kbytes in size. Even at those sizes, large data transfers are somewhat hampered by the work involved in taking a large chunk of data and then chopping them up into smaller portions to be transmitted. In a response to this, hardware vendors have taken some of this functionality and added it to the Network Interface Cards (NICs) on servers and have them do most of this segmentation and re-assembly work based on how TCP takes large portions of data and chops them into smaller segments. Doing his in hardware means it can be done faster, but more importantly, it removes this burden from the server CPUs, allowing them to do other (more useful) work.

STT was designed to make use of these TCP capabilities in NICs. STT can take ethernet packets up to 64 Kbytes from a VM on a server, and tunnel it to its destination as a 64 Kbyte entity. This STT frame has to be chopped into smaller pieces to match the MTU of the physical network, but an STT packet looks just like a TCP segment to the receiving NICs, allowing them to reconstruct the original 64 Kbyte packet without needing the CPU.

When the sending tunnel endpoint receives a large chunk of data to be transmitted at another VM at the other side of a tunnel, the vSwitch takes several steps to encapsulate this packet. First, it adds an STT Frame Header to the packet.

STT Frame Format 1

The STT Header is 18 bytes in length and has a variety of administrative fields, but the key field is the Context ID. This is a 64 bit field and its intended use is similar to the VXLAN Network Identifier (VNI) or the NVGRE Virtual Subnet ID (VSID). While the semantics of this field are somewhat defined, its value and how to use it is left open in the latest specifications. Its main purpose is to provide the receiving tunnel endpoint the information it needs to determine where this packet needs to be sent after decapsulation.

After the STT Frame Header has been added, this new packet (original packet  + new STT header) is chopped into smaller pieces so that each piece is at least 62 bytes smaller than the MTU of the physical network. Each of these new segments receives 24 byte TCP like header, a normal 20 byte IP header, and of course the final 18 byte Ethernet header before transmission. The magic (or ugliness for those less enamored by STT) is in the TCP like header. These 24 bytes are formatted just like a normal TCP header to ensure the hardware in the NICs can re-assemble segments that belong together. The traditional Acknowledgement field in TCP is used as a fragment ID, essentially telling the NIC that all packets/segments that come in with the same fragment ID belong together and should be reassembled into the larger original ethernet frame. The traditional Sequence number is used as an offset indicator, to tell the NIC in what order the fragments need to be put together.

STT Frame Format 2

Similar to VXLAN and NVGRE described last week, STT has a mechanism to create entropy for the physical network to distinguish flows from each other and allow them to be balanced using ECMP (or link aggregation – LAG) based deployments. In STT, the TCP source port is used to create entropy. The originating tunnel end point will use some hash calculation on the original packets header information and use the result to populate the TCP source port. Switches in the physical network can now use the TCP port information from the tunneled packet in their hash calculation for ECMP or LAG packet distribution.

While STT is likely to be more efficient than either VXLAN or NVGRE for the transfer of large amount of information because it offloads the segmentation and re-assembly, it carries significantly more overhead than either VXLAN or NVGRE in additional header information for smaller packets. STT adds 80 bytes of new header to a VM originated ethernet packet for the first segment of this packet, 62 for each following segment. Compare that to a consistent 46 bytes for each NVGRE encapsulated packet, and 54 bytes for VXLAN. For traffic between VMs on the same server this may not matter, but it certainly does for traffic carried across the physical network. For the plentiful mice flows, we have likely doubled the size and bandwidth required for each.

A probably more significant drawback of STT comes from its strength. Designed for large packet transfers, once an original packet is encapsulated with STT header, chopped into parts, then encapsulated into individual ethernet, IP and TCP (like) headers, only the first packet provides any clue or context of the original source, destination, protocol, application and other content. The relevant pieces of that will only be found in the first segment, any follow up segments only provide enough information about the tunnel endpoints and no other original context without the first segment. And that makes debugging really hard. It also makes it hard to differentiate traffic on the physical network, even at a very high level Virtual Network identifier. And every existing network based service (realizing that one of the goals of overlay networks is to push this to the vSwitches themselves) will also have a hard time deciding what to do with these packets.

At a high level the concepts of larger packets, hardware offload, reduced CPU load and interrupts all make sense. But most data center ethernet networks can easily support 9k or even 16k packets, so perhaps the gap between 16k packet based transfer and 64k semi-stream based communication is really not that much considering that the bulk of packets are small to begin with (remember those mice and elephants?). Perhaps aligning the MTU of the virtual port with that of the network may be worthwhile to have the STT and original header in each and every packet on the wire. Regardless of whether that is a real wire, or a virtual one.

[Today's fun fact: One of the primary reasons the Mayflower pilgrims ended their voyage at Plymouth Rock was pretty much the same reason people today suspend their journeys: they ran out of beer. No need for a funny punch line on that one]

The post Stateless Transport Tunneling (STT) meets the Network appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Marten Terpstra

Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.