Embrane Gives Applications More Control in SDN Environments

The vendor’s new vTopology capabilities lets network functions remain with an application throughout its lifecycle.

Embrane officials are keeping their attention in the software-defined networking space on the applications rather than the underlying hardware infrastructure.

With the latest release of heleos, the company's network services platform, Embrane executives want to make it easier and faster to allocate network functions to an enterprise application, and then to keep those with the application as it gets moved around the data center.

Rather than having developers tell IT administrators what network resources an application will need, and then have the IT administrators pull those resources together—a time-consuming process, according to Dante Malagrino, Embrane's co-founder, president and CEO—the application grabs the necessary resources, and those resources remain with the application throughout its lifecycle.

The dedicated virtualized network functions—from firewalls to load balancers—are housed in Virtual Topologies, or vTopologies, that are given to specific enterprise applications. The vTopology—essentially a Layer 3 overlay—stays with the application from development to production, and when the application has run its course, so has the vTopology.

"Applications drive enterprise business," Malagrino told eWEEK. "All [network] roles are given to that application, they run with the application and they die with the application."

While servers and storage devices in data centers have become increasingly virtualized over the past several years, networks have remained relatively static, expensive and cumbersome, with most tasks needing to be done manually. Software-defined networking (SDN) has become the hot trend in the industry, with the idea of decoupling the network intelligence from the underlying physical hardware to create networks that are more automated, programmable, scalable and flexible.

The network functions are run in software, and network services and applications can more easily run on top of that. Embrane officials are focusing their efforts in this area. Because so much of network tasks run on physical hardware and currently must be done manually, rolling out new applications is a time-consuming effort that can take months to do.

By removing the network functions from the hardware and virtualizing them, Embrane's heleos can assign them to an application and not force network administrators to have to reconfigure hardware. With heleos, organizations can create SDN services in seconds, and tie them together through the company's Virtual Links, or vLinks.

"Networking should not be part of the problem," Malagrino said. "It must be part of the solution."

Along with the July 22 introduction of vTopologies, Embrane also unveiled other new features, including a plug-in that enables Embrane SDN network services to be provisioned and inserted into network instances through the Neutron and Horizon software in the OpenStack cloud platform.

In addition, heleos can now interoperate with VMware's vCenter and supports IPv6.

Malagrino said Embrane has been embraced by service providers, including C7 Data Centers, SunGard and Peer 1 Hosting. However, the vendor is "seeing a lot of traction with enterprises. … Enterprises are adopting this technology."

Ryan Labs Asset Management is the first enterprise to publically talk about its adoption of Embrane's technology. In a statement, Ryan Labs President Sean McShea said the use of the heleos platform will make the company's data center more agile.

"For Ryan Labs, we ultimately want to be able to dedicate network services directly to our applications so we can get them to our traders, analysts and clients with increased security and lower costs," McShea said.