Welcome!

Java Authors: Trevor Parsons, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Security, Big Data Journal

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 major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.