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Andromeda Improves Networking for Google Cloud Platform

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Google has announced that its Andromeda network virtualization stack is now live in two Google Compute Engine (GCE) zones (us-central1-b and europe-west1-a) with other zones being migrated in coming months. Andromeda offers significant performance improvements without requiring any reconfiguration by Google Cloud users. By combining software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) Andromeda is able to offer distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, transparent service load balancing, access control lists, and firewalls.

As Andromeda is a seamless upgrade for GCE users the most noticeable difference will be performance. Amin Vahdat, a Google Distinguished Engineer writes:

To show the magnitude of improvements rolling-out, the Cloud Platform team performed a number of performance experiments. One benchmark evaluated throughput using netperf TCP_STREAM in the same GCE zone. By comparing the Baseline performance (before Andromeda) against Andromeda, we can highlight the benefits of the Andromeda architecture.

The main objective of Andromeda is to expose more of the capability of the underlying Google network to a multi tenant cloud environment where that network has previously been built to serve a single tenant - Google itself. The system exploits the fact that Google has complete control of its environment (down to specifying custom built hardware) and works across virtual machines, hypervisors, operating systems, network interface cards, top of rack switches, fabric switches, border routers, and Google’s network peering edge.

To fully take advantage of Andromeda’s capabilities GCE users are being encouraged to use the latest Debian backports image, which contains additional kernel drivers to take advantage of offload and multi-queue capabilities. Although GCE has recently expanded its OS support to include Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), Andromeda optimised kernels aren’t offered for those. There is also no mention of Andromeda optimisation for forthcoming Windows images, which are scheduled to debut on 1 May 2014.

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