Interesting news today on the interoperability front. (Yes, I know I am obsessed) In a news conference IBM and Juniper Networks jointly demonstrated what they describe as a means of seamlessly migrating workloads over private and public clouds enabling enterprises' existing data centers to seamlessly interact with the public Internet.
Also interesting is the news that IBM has created a new group called the Enterprise Initiative Group, which will focus on accelerating adoption of the cloud related technology. (Sounds like a great CCIF sponsor) The unit will be headed by Erich Clementi as general manager and he will report directly to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano.
What I find most telling about this news is the technical approach that IBM and Juniper have chosen to go with. In the announcement they outlined a plan to use a hardware based virtual private lan which allows any-to-any (multipoint) connectivity in conjunction to a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) system. In case you're unfamiliar with MPLS, it is a protocol agnostic, data-carrying mechanism.
I did a little further digging into what MPLS is, and from what I can tell it allows data packets to assign labels as a kind of packet meta-data descriptor enabling packet-forwarding decisions to be made solely on the contents of this label, without the need to examine the packet itself.
Interestingly this approach may also fit in nicely with some of the concepts of my virtual private cloud, semantic cloud abstraction and unified cloud interface where a virtual networking interface can create end-to-end circuits across any type of transport medium, using any protocol. Needless to say, a very interesting approach to secured cloud networking. To give some background, some of you may remember my concept of a "Virtual Private Cloud" or VPC which I described last year. The general idea was to provide a method for the partitioning of public & private clouds so they could encapsulate multiple local and remote resources to appear as a single homogeneous computing environment. This concept could allow for the bridging and secure utilization of remote resources as part of an seamless global compute infrastructure.
With in this vision for a virtual private cloud was a core component of a virtual private network (VPN) or a virtual LAN (Vlan) in which the links between nodes are encrypted and carried by virtual switches. MPLS may be an ideal basis for this concept. Another reason for the use of MPLS within the context of a VPC is in its ability to virtualize the entire network stack giving it particular characteristics & appearance that match the demands as well as requirements of a given application regardless of where it's deployed.
Unfortunately there are very few implementations MPLS except for a few high end networking devices. If Juniper and IBM are serious about this plan, they will need to create something capable of running both on traditional hardware as well as in virtual machines. I should also note that Juniper unveiled its new MPLS based line of the technology late last year under their "E-series Broadband Service Routing Platforms" brand.
This new announcement clearly pits IBM against Cisco. As the propagation of cloud computing protocols & models continues, there has never been a better time to address the needs of an interoperable cloud ecosystem. I'd like to personally welcome IBM and Juniper to the party.