Product Review: Weaveworks’ Weave Net
In today’s technological landscape, software-defined networking has become an emerging market niche where networking is moving into a virtual plane. The network virtualization depends upon being able to control and run your own applications on a platform.
Weave Net is capable of connecting and routing more than just containers. Any Linux based systems and even systems that have no containers can be utilized on a Weave Net network as enterprise businesses to maintain and connect their entire technological environment.
Docker’s platform, one of the most widely used choices, allows developers the freedom to manipulate and customize at will for what their environments require. What is needed for Docker users are a set of tools to better transform and manage their applications within the fertile soil offered by Docker.
Weaveworks should already be a recognizable name for any Docker user; they are one of the top open source networking choices for Docker users. Weaveworks creates a virtual, software-defined network, or SDN, across every Docker host within the infrastructure. Each container gets its own IP, allowing the user to design the application topology without having to change the application’s behavior. As well as provides a simple service discovery allowing anyone to find a container’s IP using its name. What makes Weaveworks different is that it does all of this without introducing the dependency on a centralized database.
Weave Net, the plug-in from Weaveworks, simplifies and accelerates the deployment of Docker containers by removing the requirement to deploy, manage and maintain a centralized database in development and production.
To support the task of this plug-in, Weaveworks developed “micro router” technology to make Docker container networking fast, easy and inconspicuous. Weave Net is a container running on each Docker host that works similar to a normal Internet router, providing IP addresses to local containers and sharing peer-to-peer updates and learning from other micro routers. Another key benefit of the technology is Service Discovery that responds to DNS requests by containers looking to find other containers by name.
Since it has no centralized database dependency, containers can be started and stopped at all times, even if the network is experiencing connectivity issues, an important tool for the availability of a virtualized network in a cluster.
For those concerned about security, there are two built-in options to protect the containers and application. First, as is common in the industry, it is possible to isolate the containers onto subnetworks. Then, if the container is compromised, the hacker only has access to whatever is located on that subnetwork. Secondly, there are options for full encryption onto the links associated with each container. If too many links are encrypted, the performance of Weave Net will be diminished.
Weave Net has also been designed to handle the cross-host coordination, setting up a communication network known as “mesh,” that allows for containers to be networked and discovered without the need of a traditional cluster store. Finally, Weave Net has fast, standards-based VXLAN encapsulation for handling the network traffic.
Overlays are becoming the markets’ preferred way to network containers. What makes Weave Net different is that it eliminates a Layer 2 (Ethernet) network. Each Docker host includes a router container, and these containers talk to one another just as they would over a standard Ethernet network.
Another factor that makes Weave Net stand out is its support for multicast networking. This appeals to the financial industry, where market data needs to be spread to hordes of applications. Multicast happens to be used by Weaveworks’ marquee customer, the International Securities Exchange.
Weaveworks’ product line also contains Weave Scope that automatically visualizes containers, processes and hosts as a management console, while Weave Flux creates a single API access point for easily locating and intelligently directing connections and requests.
Weave Net and its brother programs also have been able to aid enterprises in other ways. In an interview with Matthew Lodge, the chief operating officer of Weaveworks, he stated “companies have been able to use Weave Net to integrate data in containers with lots of existing systems outside of containers. The connecting power of Weave Net allows an integrated infrastructure for containers and uncontained systems. It can also be used by all technology utilizing Linux systems even those not within containers.”
When a company is attempting to network containers, one of two options exists. One of them talks to libnetwork, the library developed by Docker Inc. for networking Docker containers.
In its latest code release of Weave Net 1.5 and Kubernetes 1.2, Weaveworks released the support for its own plug-in for the other option — the Container Network Interface (CNI). Any apps running on Kubernetes can be supported by Weave Net. Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration platform, originated by Google, which has become popular in Docker environments.
Weaveworks describes this move as a step toward making containers more plug-and-play allowing companies to vary their choices of container networking and orchestration platforms. It’s also a way to broaden the potential audience for Weave Net that is still being developed into becoming a commercial product.
Weaveworks not only partners with Docker and Google Kubernetes, but integrates with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Core OS, and Mesosphere DC/OS. Essentially, Weave Net can be used in conjunction with any networking system that runs on either CNI or libnetwork. Weaveworks’ SDN wants to give creative licenses to businesses across multiple types of data centers and clouds to expand and manage their networking in a multitude of options and formats.
Weaveworks isn’t the only choice on the market for creating these overlay network systems. CoreOS created a solution using an Etcd cluster called Flannel, which is also an open source solution. Additionally, Project Calico is another alternative that allows networking between Docker containers on a pure ‘Layer 2’ approach—no overlay. These are all in conjunction with a limited offering of network options from Docker itself.
Founded in September 2014, Weaveworks currently offers its software in open source form. A commercial version of the product is still being fleshed out and will not appear until late in 2016, according to the company.
Lodge, the Chief Operating Office of Weaveworks, explained the plans for Weave Cloud. Weave Cloud is currently available on the website, but the general availability will be later this year. The idea behind Weave Cloud is that it will be a hosted and managed service that provides a visual console onto cluster; it will manage and monitor an enterprise’s application and network. The interface was designed to be simple and incredibly user-friendly. Weave Cloud is not only a read-only console, but it will offer interactive possibilities for administrators to observe the application map and make adjustments to individual containers.
For those interested to learn more and interact with Weaveworks, the company will be at two upcoming events later this year.
First, they are part of the sponsoring team for Software Circus Europe that will take place in Amsterdam, Netherlands from August 31 to September 2.
In the US, they will be showcasing at the Amazon Web Services Reinvent event in Las Vegas, Nevada from November 28 to December 2.
The next generation of SDN offerings presents a diverse array of choices from which companies can choose for networking their technology stack and the microservices deployed across it. Enterprise businesses must allocate the time to recognize which company and open software are the best fit; Weaveworks certainly has a lot to offer and would be an excellent fit for plenty of businesses.
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