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Ubuntu Fan Aims to Simply Container Networking

Monday Oct 29th 2018 by Sean Michael Kerner

VIDEO: Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu Linux talks about the hidden gem in his Linux distribution's networking toolkit.

Most people think of Ubuntu as primarily a Linux server and cloud technology effort. Ubuntu also has some networking capabilities that it develops on its own, including the Fan container networking project.

There are multiple open source software-defined networking (SDN) efforts in the market today that are more well known than Fan, including the Tungsten Fabric and OVN, among others. Fan, however, takes a different approach than other SDN models.

"Fan is a zero-configuration SDN," Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical Inc and founder of Ubuntu, said. "What you trade is the ability to live migrate an IP address for simplicity."

Fan takes an overlay network address space and maps it mathematically to an underlay address space. Shuttleworth explained that if a container is trying to get to a particular overlay address, it can be calculated, as opposed to being determined via a lookup method.

While the concept of live migration was at one time a popular tool within Virtual Machine (VM)-based environments, Shuttleworth said that in Kubernetes container environments, live migration isn't typically necessary.

"You never want to live migrate a container IP address because you just shoot one and then grow another [container]," he said. "The Fan gives you an instant SDN with no central configuration, no database and no lookup mechanism."

Fan has been a useful feature for Ubuntu in a number of areas, including LXD clustering. LXD is Ubuntu's open source hypervisor for containers. Overall, Shuttleworth emphasized that Fan is a simpler way to get started with SDN.

"It's just a super tasteful, little idea," he said.

Watch the full video interview with Mark Shuttleworth below:

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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