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2/27/2016 VXLANOverview:CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesCisco

CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitches

VXLANOverview:CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitches
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SWITCHES
Traditionalnetworksegmentationhas Feedback
CISCONEXUS9000SERIES beenprovidedbyVLANsthatare
SWITCHES standardizedundertheIEEE802.1Q
group.VLANsprovidelogical
DATASHEETSANDLITERATURE segmentationofLayer2boundariesorbroadcastdomains.However,duetothe
WHITEPAPERS inefficientuseofavailablenetworklinkswithVLANuse,rigidrequirementson
deviceplacementsinthedatacenternetwork,andthelimitedscalabilitytoa
VXLANOverview:CiscoNexus maximum4094VLANs,usingVLANshasbecomealimitingfactortoIT
9000SeriesSwitches departmentsandcloudprovidersastheybuildlargemultitenantdatacenters.

Cisco,inpartnershipwithotherleadingvendors,proposedtheVirtualExtensible
LAN(VXLAN)standardtotheIETFasasolutiontothedatacenternetwork
challengesposedbytraditionalVLANtechnology.TheVXLANstandard
providesfortheelasticworkloadplacementandhigherscalabilityofLayer2
segmentationthatisrequiredbytodaysapplicationdemands.

TheCiscoNexus9000SeriesofswitchesconsistsofCiscoNexus9500
platformmodularswitchesandCiscoNexus9300platformfixedconfiguration
switches.Theyaredesignedforthenextgenerationdatacenterwithindustry
leadinghardwarebasedVXLANfunction,whichprovidesLayer2connectivity
extensionacrosstheLayer3boundaryandeasyintegrationbetweenVXLAN
andnonVXLANinfrastructures.Theyenablelargescalevirtualizedand
multitenantdatacenterdesignsoverasharedcommonphysicalinfrastructure.

CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchescanruninACImodeorNXOSmode.InACI
modeCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitcheswhenusedincombinationwiththe
CiscoApplicationPolicyInfrastructureController(APIC)provideanapplication
centricinfrastructure.InNXOSmodeCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitches
functionasclassicswitches.EquippedwithenhancedCiscoNXOSSoftware
astheoperatingsystem,CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesprovidenetwork
connectivitythroughtraditionalmeansbutwithexceptionalperformanceand
enhancednetworkresiliencyandprogrammaticautomationfunctions.The
VXLANimplementationsonCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesdifferbetween
ACImodeandNXOSmode.ThiswhitepaperprovidesanoverviewofVXLAN
onCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesinNXOSmode.

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VXLANOverview
Asitsnameindicates,VXLANisdesignedtoprovidethesameEthernetLayer2
networkservicesasVLANdoestoday,butwithgreaterextensibilityand
flexibility.ComparedtoVLAN,VXLANoffersthefollowingbenefits:

Flexibleplacementofmultitenantsegmentsthroughoutthedatacenter:It
providesasolutiontoextendLayer2segmentsovertheunderlying
sharednetworkinfrastructuresothattenantworkloadcanbeplaced
acrossphysicalpodsinthedatacenter.
HigherscalabilitytoaddressmoreLayer2segments:VLANsusea12bit
VLANIDtoaddressLayer2segments,whichresultsinlimitingscalability
ofonly4094VLANs.VXLANusesa24bitsegmentIDknownasthe
VXLANnetworkidentifier(VNID),whichenablesupto16millionVXLAN
segmentstocoexistinthesameadministrativedomain.
Betterutilizationofavailablenetworkpathsintheunderlying
infrastructure:VLANusestheSpanningTreeProtocolforloopprevention,
whichendsupnotusinghalfofthenetworklinksinanetworkbyblocking
redundantpaths.Incontrast,VXLANpacketsaretransferredthroughthe
underlyingnetworkbasedonitsLayer3headerandcantakecomplete
advantageofLayer3routing,equalcostmultipath(ECMP)routing,and
linkaggregationprotocolstouseallavailablepaths.

VXLANEncapsulationandPacketFormat

VXLANisaLayer2overlayschemeoveraLayer3network.ItusesMAC
AddressinUserDatagramProtocol(MACinUDP)encapsulationtoprovidea
meanstoextendLayer2segmentsacrossthedatacenternetwork.VXLANisa
solutiontosupportaflexible,largescalemultitenantenvironmentoverashared
commonphysicalinfrastructure.Thetransportprotocoloverthephysicaldata
centernetworkisIPplusUDP.

VXLANdefinesaMACinUDPencapsulationschemewheretheoriginalLayer
2framehasaVXLANheaderaddedandisthenplacedinaUDPIPpacket.With
thisMACinUDPencapsulation,VXLANtunnelsLayer2networkoverLayer3
network.TheVXLANpacketformatisshowninFigure1.

Figure1.VXLANPacketFormat

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AsshowninFigure1,VXLANintroducesan8byteVXLANheaderthatconsists
ofa24bitVNIDandafewreservedbits.TheVXLANheadertogetherwiththe
originalEthernetframegoesintheUDPpayload.The24bitVNIDisusedto
identifyLayer2segmentsandtomaintainLayer2isolationbetweenthe
segments.Withall24bitsinVNID,VXLANcansupport16millionLAN
segments.

VXLANTunnelEndpoint

VXLANusesVXLANtunnelendpoint(VTEP)devicestomaptenantsend
devicestoVXLANsegmentsandtoperformVXLANencapsulationandde
encapsulation.EachVTEPfunctionhastwointerfaces:Oneisaswitchinterface
onthelocalLANsegmenttosupportlocalendpointcommunicationthrough
bridging,andtheotherisanIPinterfacetothetransportIPnetwork.

TheIPinterfacehasauniqueIPaddressthatidentifiestheVTEPdeviceonthe
transportIPnetworkknownastheinfrastructureVLAN.TheVTEPdeviceuses
thisIPaddresstoencapsulateEthernetframesandtransmitstheencapsulated
packetstothetransportnetworkthroughtheIPinterface.AVTEPdevicealso
discoverstheremoteVTEPsforitsVXLANsegmentsandlearnsremoteMAC
AddresstoVTEPmappingsthroughitsIPinterface.Thefunctionalcomponents
ofVTEPsandthelogicaltopologythatiscreatedforLayer2connectivityacross
thetransportIPnetworkisshowninFigure2.

Figure2.VTEP

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TheVXLANsegmentsareindependentoftheunderlyingnetworktopology
conversely,theunderlyingIPnetworkbetweenVTEPsisindependentofthe
VXLANoverlay.ItroutestheencapsulatedpacketsbasedontheouterIP
addressheader,whichhastheinitiatingVTEPasthesourceIPaddressandthe
terminatingVTEPasthedestinationIPaddress.

VXLANPacketForwardingFlow

VXLANusesstatelesstunnelsbetweenVTEPstotransmittrafficoftheoverlay
Layer2networkthroughtheLayer3transportnetwork.AnexampleofaVXLAN
packetforwardingflowisshowninFigure3.

Figure3.VXLANUnicastPacketForwardingFlow

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InFigure3,HostAandHostBinVXLANsegment10communicatewitheach
otherthroughtheVXLANtunnelbetweenVTEP1andVTEP2.Thisexample
assumesthataddresslearninghasbeendoneonbothsides,and
correspondingMACtoVTEPmappingsexistonbothVTEPs.

WhenHostAsendstraffictoHostB,itformsEthernetframeswithMACB
addressofHostBasthedestinationMACaddressandsendsthemouttoVTEP
1.VTEP1,withamappingofMACBtoVTEP2initsmappingtable,performs
VXLANencapsulationonthepacketsbyaddingVXLAN,UDP,andouterIP
addressheadertoit.IntheouterIPaddressheader,thesourceIPaddressisthe
IPaddressofVTEP1,andthedestinationIPaddressistheIPaddressofVTEP
2.VTEP1thenperformsanIPaddresslookupfortheIPaddressofVTEP2to
resolvethenexthopinthetransitnetworkandsubsequentlyusestheMAC
addressofthenexthopdevicetofurtherencapsulatethepacketsinanEthernet
frametosendtothenexthopdevice.

ThepacketsareroutedtowardVTEP2throughthetransportnetworkbasedon
theirouterIPaddressheader,whichhastheIPaddressofVTEP2asthe
destinationaddress.AfterVTEP2receivesthepackets,itstripsofftheouter
Ethernet,IP,UDP,andVXLANheaders,andforwardsthepacketstoHostB,
basedontheoriginaldestinationMACaddressintheEthernetframe.

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VXLANImplementationonCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitches
CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchessupportthehardwarebasedVXLANfunction
thatextendsLayer2connectivityacrosstheLayer3transportnetworkand
providesahighperformancegatewaybetweenVXLANandnonVXLAN
infrastructures.ThefollowingsectionsprovidethedetailsofVXLAN
implementationonCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesinNXOSmode.

Layer2MechanismsforBroadcast,UnknownUnicast,andMulticast
Traffic

VXLANonCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesusesexistingLayer2
mechanismsflooding,anddynamicMACaddresslearningtodothefollowing:

Transportbroadcast,unknownunicast,andmulticasttraffic
DiscoverremoteVTEPs
LearnremotehostMACaddressesandMACtoVTEPmappingsforeach
VXLANsegment

Forthesetraffictypes,IPmulticastisusedtoreducethefloodingscopeoftheset
ofhoststhatareparticipatingintheVXLANsegment.

EachVXLANsegment,orVNID,ismappedtoanIPmulticastgroupinthe
transportIPnetwork.EachVTEPdeviceisindependentlyconfiguredandjoins
thismulticastgroupasanIPhostthroughtheInternetGroupManagement
Protocol(IGMP).TheIGMPjoinstriggerProtocolIndependentMulticast(PIM)
joinsandsignalingthroughthetransportnetworkfortheparticularmulticast
group.Themulticastdistributiontreeforthisgroupisbuiltthroughthetransport
networkbasedonthelocationsofparticipatingVTEPs.Themulticasttunnelofa
VXLANsegmentthroughtheunderlyingIPnetworkisshowninFigure4.

Figure4.VXLANMulticastGroupinTransportNetwork

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ThismulticastgroupshowninFigure4isusedtotransmitVXLANbroadcast,
unknownunicast,andmulticasttrafficthroughtheIPnetwork,limitingLayer2
floodingtothosedevicesthathaveendsystemsparticipatinginthesame
VXLANsegment.VTEPscommunicatewithoneanotherthroughthefloodedor
multicasttrafficinthismulticastgroup.

RemoteVTEPDiscoveryandTenantAddressLearning

TheCiscoNexus9000VXLANimplementationusestheclassicLayer2data
planefloodingandlearningmechanismsforremoteVTEPdiscoveryandtenant
addresslearning.ThenetworkinFigure4isanexamplethatshowsthelearning
process.

ThetenantVXLANsegmenthasVNID10andusesthemulticastgroup239.1.1.1
overthetransportnetwork.IthasthreeparticipatingVTEPsinthedatacenter.
Assumethatnoaddresslearninghasbeenperformedbetweenlocations.End
SystemA(withIPA,MACA)startsIPcommunicationwithEndSystemB(with
IPB,MACB).ThesequenceofstepsisshowninFigure5.

Figure5.VXLANPeerDiscoveriesandTenantAddressLearning

1.EndSystemAsendsoutanAddressResolutionProtocol(ARP)requestfor
IPBonitsLayer2VXLANnetwork.
2.VTEP1receivestheARPrequest.ItdoesnotyethaveamappingforIPB.
VTEP1encapsulatestheARPrequestinanIPmulticastpacketand
forwardsittotheVXLANmulticastgroup.Theencapsulatedmulticastpacket
hastheIPaddressofVTEP1asthesourceIPaddressandtheVXLAN
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multicastgroupaddressasthedestinationIPaddress.
3.TheIPmulticastpacketisdistributedtoallmembersinthetree.VTEP2and
VTEP3receivetheencapsulatedmulticastpacketbecausetheyvejoined
theVXLANmulticastgroup.
TheydeencapsulatethepacketandcheckitsVNIDintheVXLANheader.Ifit
matchestheirconfiguredVXLANsegmentVNID,theyforwardtheARP
requesttotheirlocalVXLANnetwork.TheyalsolearntheIPaddressofVTEP
1fromtheouterIPaddressheaderandinspectthepackettolearntheMAC
addressofEndSystemA,placingthismappinginthelocaltable.

4.EndSystemBreceivestheARPrequestforwardedbyVTEP2.Itresponds
withitsownMACaddress(MACB),andlearnstheIPAtoMACAmapping.
5.VTEP2receivestheARPreplyofEndSystemBthathasMACAasthe
destinationMACaddress.ItnowknowsaboutMACAtoIP1mapping.It
canusetheunicasttunneltoforwardtheARPreplybacktoVTEP1.Inthe
encapsulatedunicastpacket,thesourceIPaddressisIP2andthe
destinationIPaddressisIP1.TheARPreplyisencapsulatedintheUDP
payload.
6.VTEP1receivestheencapsulatedARPreplyfromVTEP2.Itde
encapsulatesandforwardstheARPreplytoEndSystemA.Italsolearnsthe
IPaddressofVTEP2fromtheouterIPaddressheaderandinspectsthe
originalpackettolearnMACBtoIP2mapping.
7.SubsequentIPpacketsbetweenEndSystemsAandBareunicast
forwarded,basedonthemappinginformationonVTEP1andVTEP2,using
theVXLANtunnelbetweenthem.
8.VTEP1canoptionallyperformproxyARPsforsubsequentARPrequestsfor
IPBtoreducethefloodingoverthetransportnetwork.

ECMPandLACPLoadSharingwithVXLAN

EncapsulatedVXLANpacketsareforwardedbetweenVTEPsbasedonthe
nativeforwardingdecisionsofthetransportnetwork.Mostofthedatacenter
transportnetworksaredesignedanddeployedwithmultipleredundantpaths
andtakeadvantageofvariousmultipathloadsharingtechnologiestodistribute
trafficloadsonallavailablepaths.ItisdesirabletosharetheloadoftheVXLAN
trafficinthesamefashioninthetransportnetwork.

AtypicalVXLANtransportnetworkisanIProutingnetworkthatusesthe
standardIPECMPtobalancethetrafficloadamongmultiplebestpaths.To
avoidoutofsequencepacketforwarding,flowbasedECMPiscommonly
deployed.AnECMPflowisdefinedbythesourceanddestinationIPaddresses
andoptionallythesourceanddestinationTCPorUDPportsintheIPpacket
header.

BecausealltheVXLANpacketflowsbetweenapairofVTEPshavethesame
outersourceanddestinationIPaddresses,andallVTEPdevicesmustuseone
identicaldestinationUDPportthatcanbeeithertheInternetAllocatedNumbers
Authority(IANA)allocatedUDPport4789oracustomerconfiguredport,the
onlyvariableelementintheECMPflowdefinitionthatcandifferentiateVXLAN
flowsfromthetransportnetworkstandpointisthesourceUDPport.Asimilar
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situationforLinkAggregationControlProtocol(LACP)hashingoccursifthe
resolvedegressinterfacebasedontheroutingandECMPdecisionisanLACP
portchannel.TheLACPusestheVXLANouterpacketheaderforlinkloadshare
hashing,whichresultsinthesourceUDPportbeingtheonlyelementthatcan
uniquelyidentifyaVXLANflow.

CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesimplementVXLANinthewaythatahashof
theinnerframesheaderisusedastheVXLANsourceUDPport.Asaresult,a
VXLANflowcanbeunique,withtheIPaddressesandUDPportscombinationin
itsouterheaderwhiletraversingtheunderlaytransportnetwork.Therefore,the
hashedsourceUDPportintroducesadesirablelevelofentropyforECMPand
LACPloadbalancing.

CiscoNexus9000asHardwareBasedVXLANGateway

VXLANisanewtechnologyforvirtualdatacenteroverlaysandisbeingadopted
indatacenternetworksmoreandmore,especiallyforvirtualnetworkinginthe
hypervisorforvirtualmachinetovirtualmachinecommunication.However,data
centersarelikelytocontaindevicesthatarenotcapableofsupportingVXLAN,
suchaslegacyhypervisors,physicalservers,andnetworkservicesappliances,
suchasphysicalfirewallsandloadbalancers,andstoragedevices,etc.Those
devicesneedtocontinuetoresideonclassicVLANsegments.Itisnot
uncommonthatvirtualmachinesinaVXLANsegmentneedtoaccessservices
providedbydevicesinaclassicVLANsegment.ThistypeofVXLANtoVLAN
connectivityisenabledbyusingaVXLANgateway.

AVXLANgatewayisaVTEPdevicethatcombinesaVXLANsegmentanda
classicVLANsegmentintoonecommonLayer2domain.Thelogicmapping
betweenIEEE802.1QVLANandVXLANonaVXLANgatewayisshownin
Figure6.

Figure6.VXLANtoVLANLogicMappingbyVXLANGateway

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ACiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchcanfunctionasahardwarebasedVXLAN
gateway.ItseamlesslyconnectsVXLANandVLANsegmentsasoneforwarding
domainacrosstheLayer3boundarywithoutsacrificingforwardingperformance.
TheCiscoNexus9000Serieseliminatestheneedforanadditionalphysicalor
virtualdevicetobethegateway.Thehardwarebasedencapsulationandde
encapsulationprovideslinerateperformanceforallframesizes.Examplesof
CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesasVXLANgatewaysareshowninFigure7.

Figure7.CiscoNexus9000asVXLANGateways

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NetworkConsiderationsforCommonVXLANDeployments
MTUSizeintheTransportNetwork

DuetotheMACtoUDPencapsulation,VXLANintroduces50byteoverheadto
theoriginalframes.Therefore,themaximumtransmissionunit(MTU)inthe
transportnetworkneedstobeincreasedby50bytes.Iftheoverlaysusea1500
byteMTU,thetransportnetworkneedstobeconfiguredtoaccommodate1550
bytepacketsataminimum.Jumboframesupportinthetransportnetworkis
requirediftheoverlayapplicationstendtouselargerframesizesthan1500
bytes.

ECMPandLACPHashingAlgorithmsintheTransportNetwork

Asdescribedinaprevioussection,CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesintroduce
alevelofentropyinthesourceUDPportforECMPandLACPhashinginthe
transportnetwork.Asawaytoaugmentthisimplementation,thetransport
networkusesanECMPorLACPhashingalgorithmthattakestheUDPsource
portasaninputforhashing,whichachievesthebestloadsharingresultsfor
VXLANencapsulatedtraffic.

MulticastGroupScaling

TheVXLANimplementationonCiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesuses
multicasttunnelsforbroadcast,unknownunicast,andmulticasttraffic
forwarding.Ideally,oneVXLANsegmentmappingtooneIPmulticastgroupis
thewaytoprovidetheoptimalmulticastforwarding.Itispossible,however,to
havemultipleVXLANsegmentsshareasingleIPmulticastgroupinthecore
network.

VXLANcansupportupto16millionlogicalLayer2segments,usingthe24bit
VNIDfieldintheheader.WithonetoonemappingbetweenVXLANsegments
andIPmulticastgroups,anincreaseinthenumberofVXLANsegmentscauses
aparallelincreaseintherequiredmulticastaddressspaceandtheamountof
forwardingstatesonthecorenetworkdevices.Atsomepoint,multicast
scalabilityinthetransportnetworkcanbecomeaconcern.Inthiscase,mapping
multipleVXLANsegmentstoasinglemulticastgroupcanhelpconserve
multicastcontrolplaneresourcesonthecoredevicesandachievethedesired
VXLANscalability.However,thismappingcomesatthecostofsuboptimal
multicastforwarding.Packetsforwardedtothemulticastgroupforonetenantare
nowsenttotheVTEPsofothertenantsthataresharingthesamemulticast
group.Thiscausesinefficientutilizationofmulticastdataplaneresources.
Therefore,thissolutionisatradeoffbetweencontrolplanescalabilityanddata
planeefficiency.

Despitethesuboptimalmulticastreplicationandforwarding,havingmultiple
tenantVXLANnetworkstoshareamulticastgroupdoesnotbringany
implicationstotheLayer2isolationbetweenthetenantnetworks.Afterreceiving
anencapsulatedpacketfromthemulticastgroup,aVTEPchecksandvalidates
theVNIDintheVXLANheaderofthepacket.TheVTEPdiscardsthepacketif
theVNIDisunknowntoit.OnlywhentheVNIDmatchesoneoftheVTEPslocal
VXLANVNIDs,doesitforwardthepackettothatVXLANsegment.Othertenant
networkswillnotreceivethepacket.Thus,thesegregationbetweenVXLAN
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segmentsisnotcompromised.

Conclusion
VXLANprovidesasolutiontoextendLayer2networksacrossLayer3
infrastructurebywayofMACinUDPencapsulationandtunneling.VXLAN
enablesflexibleworkloadplacementsbywayoftheLayer2extension.Itisalso
anapproachtobuildingamultitenantdatacenterbydecouplingtenantLayer2
segmentsfromthesharedtransportnetwork.

VirtualizedhostsareincreasinglyadoptingVXLANhowever,itisraretohavea
completelyvirtualizedenvironmentinadatacenter.Morecommonly,adata
centerhascoexistingvirtualmachines,baremetalhosts,andphysicalservice
appliances.Virtualmachinesneedtoaccessservicesonphysicalhostsand
appliances,whichcreatestheneedofagatewayforvirtualmachinesina
VXLANsegmenttocommunicatewithdevicesinaclassicVLANsegment.

CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchessupportVXLANfunctionswithhardware
basedperformance.DeployedasaVXLANgateway,CiscoNexus9000Series
SwitcheseasilyconnectVXLANandclassicVLANsegmentstocreatea
commonforwardingdomainsothattenantdevicescanflexiblyresideinboth
environmentswithvirtuallyonehopconnectivity.Incontrasttosoftwarebased
VXLANgatewaysolutions,CiscoNexus9000SeriesSwitchesprovidelinerate
performanceinhardware,whichiscriticaltoensuringtheperformanceof
applicationsthatinvolvesdevicesinbothVXLANandVLANnetworks.

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