Planning the Interop Network Has Begun by Mike Fratto

The planning for the Interop network kicked off with engineers from the participating vendors meeting in person or via audio conferencing. The kick-off meeting starts the long process of designing the Interop network, which will ultimately support tens of thousands of users and devices, both on the expo floor and around the conference. It’s a daunting task for seven days of network activity. This year, the goals of the Interop net are to showcase IPv6 support, interoperability among vendors, cloud computing for critical services, and building and managing Wi-Fi in a high-density environment. If you are attending the show, take advantage of the Interop net tours that will be available.

The WAN network itself is pretty straightforward. There are three data centers, in Sunnyvale, Calif., Denver Newark, N.J. The Las Vegas and New York show floors are connected to two data centers via 1Gbit links each. Each data center has two 1Gbit links for the IPv4 network and one 1Gbit IPv6 Link, for a total of 9Gbit to the Internet via Qwest. The three data centers are connected via 1Gbit in a ring today, but there was some discussion of increasing the backbone to 10Gbit or 100Gbit.

After the fall 2010 show in New York, Interop returned their Class A (/8) net block to the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) for re-allocation. Starting in 2011, Interop will be running dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 for expo members. Qwest will be providing IPv6 connectivity to the Internet IPv6 network. The Interop network design team will have to support IPv4-to-IPv6 translation, define an addressing scheme, and ensure that services are available to both IPv4 and IPv6 hosts. The results will be on display, and we’ll be covering the progress here.

A big focus for Interop is to show interoperability. In years past, the Interop network has largely been single vendor. This year, the engineering team used an request for proposal (RFP) process to solicit multivendor solutions. The networking will be provided by Cisco, HP and Vyatta. The current plan is to have each vendor providing the routing in each data center, both among themselves and to the Internet. This will show that multivendor routing via IPv4 and IPv6 is possible. More importantly, the Interop team will be exploring multivendor management, monitoring and troubleshooting, and we will be bringing out what they learned along the way.

The rest of the network at the show will be split between Cisco and HP. While it is still early, this should be a good chance to get an in-depth view of both vendors’ new networking equipment in a dynamic live environment. I’d really like to see examples of Cisco’s Fabric Path and Cisco Overlay Transport Network between the data centers, as well as HP’s Intelligent Resilient Framework (IRF). While it is too early to know what technologies will be used, the resulting network will be worth checking out. Stay tuned.

Mike is Editor of Network Computing. He has been with UBM TechWeb for over 11 years and has extensive experience evaluating enterprise remote access, security, and network infrastructure products. He is also the Data Center and Storage Track chair at Interop Las Vegas.