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Andromeda: The Secret Sauce for Google's Cloud Networking

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Andromeda is Google's network virtualization stack the company uses to control its own internal systems and is now sharing across two Google Compute Engine zones located in us-central1-b and europe-west1-a. According to a blog post last week by Amin Vahdat, a Google Distinguished Engineer, the network virtualization capability of Andromeda is meant to improve the performance throughput of the Compute Engines in the zones where it has been deployed.

[Read: Intro to Software-Defined Networking & OpenFlow]

Google is leveraging its ability and experience in being able to control the hardware it acquires (white box) for use in its cloud data centers. Where most of the world has little or no input into how networking equipment and servers are manufactured or what drives that equipment, Google, Facebook and other mega sized cloud data center operators can be very selective about what they will accept into their data centers. Knowing the details about the hardware and software that drives companies presents an opportunity to develop software solutions around the company's hardware infrastructure. As Vahdat states in his blog, "We are uniquely positioned to leverage Google's control and expertise over the entire hardware, software, LAN, and WAN to deliver a seamless experience for Cloud Platform customers."

This knowledge and experience is now being directed at both software-defined networking (SDN) and its close relation, network function virtualization (NFV). NFV has been a prominent buzzword floating around global telecommunication companies that have a significant financial interest in seeing the technology more fully developed and standardized. While Google is not the only game in town in this arena, Vahdat states that Andromeda is a re-working of the basic network virtualization architecture and one of the goals of Andromeda was to "expose the raw performance of the underlying network while simultaneously exposing network function virtualization (NFV)."

Vahdat makes it clear Andromeda is not a standalone cloud platform networking product, but is the basis for delivering networking services associated with SDN and NFV such as firewalls, routing, and forwarding rules while also providing distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, load balancing, and additional security.

The improvement gains from Google developing its network virtualization has been to lower network-level latency, which in turn improves performance of Google Compute Engine.  In a benchmark test, Google generated a before and after comparison of throughput in one GCE zone using netperf TCP_STREAM.

Google states it will be rolling this out to additional zones in the coming months but did not provide a schedule.

The more significant news is the underlying cloud-based SDN and NFV technologies being developed that customers will be seeing more frequently as they continue to mature. Cloud-based NFV and SDN may just become another catalog selection from a cloud provider for small and medium sized business (SMBs) that want the technology but do not have the time, technical expertise, or money to add SDN and NFV functionality within their organizations.