MLAG – An Implementation for Everyone!



Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.17.05 AM

I typically don’t to get up on a soapbox and preach the awesomeness of Linux networking, but I think I’m going to make an exception for this one topic: MLAG.

Yes, MLAG, that wonderful non-standard Multi-chassis Link Aggregation protocol that enables layer 2 multipathing from the host to gain either additional bandwidth or link resiliency. Every vendor that supports MLAG does so by using their own custom rolled implementation of it, which means Vendor A’s version of MLAG cannot interoperate with Vendor B’s version of MLAG. So I can’t have one switch be an “X” box and another be a “Y” box and expect the two to be part of the same MLAG configuration with a Dell server.

That ends today (arguably I could have said, that ended January 2015 when Cumulus Networks shipped with MLAG support in Cumulus Linux 2.5, but I’ll get to that in a bit). Several weeks ago I was with my colleagues Shrijeet Mukherjee and Tuyen Quoc giving a talk about how “Linux Networking Is Awesome” at the 2016 OCP Summit. During our standing room only talk, we explained how Linux networking has become the de-facto networking stack in the data center (and to some extent, the world) and how we are not going to reinvent it in an “app” or present the case for bypassing the kernel.

To prove our point, we presented a simple demo: a 2 host, 2 switch MLAG implementation.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.17.39 AMHell, anyone can demo that, but that wasn’t the punchline. The punchline line was this being demonstrated not only across different hardware manufacturers (Accton/Edge-Core and Mellanox) but also across different silicon (Broadcom Trident II and Mellanox Spectrum).

“MLAG Across Different Vendors?!?”

This was pointed out by Carlos Cardenas’s latest blog post as a big deal because, well…it is.

Typically, vendors only support MLAG within their own hardware and within a given product family. But because Cumulus Linux implemented MLAG using standard Linux building blocks (PROTO_DOWN, ebtables and more), MLAG is nothing more than an intelligent application that transcends hardware vendors and switching silicon. Which means you can take any two switches on the Cumulus Networks hardware compatibility list and put them together in an MLAG pair.

This is the power of Open Networking, and specifically, Linux. If you’re ready for your MLAG implementation to stop being held captive to a specific vendor, or a specific product family, contact Cumulus Networks to set up your own multivendor MLAG. Or better yet, you can just download Cumulus VX for free right now and spin up an MLAG network using Cumulus Networks technology in virtual machines.

Once you start experiencing the world of Open Networking, you’ll agree: Linux networking is awesome!

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