Lead Image © Shawn Hempel, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Shawn Hempel, 123RF.com

Managing networks in Windows Server vNext

Virtually Switched

Article from ADMIN 28/2015
We look at a new component in Windows Server vNext – the Network Controller server role.

The Windows Server Network Controller enables centralized management, monitoring, and configuration of network devices on Windows Server. Network Controller is designed to offer the same functions for network devices that IP address management does for managing IP addresses – with the difference that Network Controller also can centrally manage devices from third-party manufacturers. You can also manage systems in the cloud.

In addition to hardware devices, you can also manage software-based network services with the Network Controller, which runs on both Windows Server vNext and Windows Server 2012 R2. Currently, it is not clear whether older versions are supported, too. The expectation is that all Network Controller functions will be available only through collaboration between Windows Server vNext and System Center vNext.

Managing Virtual and Physical Networks

Network Controller gives you the ability to manage physical network components and virtual networks centrally in Windows Server vNext and to operate them together. Automated configuration is the focus. Other features include options for accessing individual devices via PowerShell, if supported by the device manufacturer.

Network Controller provides two APIs through the interface function: an API that communicates with the end devices and an API that acts as an administrator for management tasks. Therefore, all devices are managed through only one interface on the network. You can manage the following devices:

  • Hyper-V virtual machines and virtual switches
  • Physical network switches
  • Firewalls
  • VPN gateways
  • Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) multitenant gateways
  • Load balancers

Network Controller also supports configuration and management of IP subnets, VLANs, Layer 2 and Layer 3 switches, and network adapters in hosts.

Automatically Distributing the Configuration

The southbound API is the interface between Network Controller and network devices, and it can automatically detect and connect network devices and their configurations. The API also transfers configuration changes to the devices. The northbound API is the interface between the administrator and Network Controller. Network Controller accepts your configuration settings via this API and displays the monitoring data. Additionally, the interface is used for troubleshooting network devices and for tasks such as connecting new devices.

The northbound API is a Representational State Transfer (REST) API. Connections are possible via a GUI, in the PowerShell, and of course, with system management tools such as System Center. The new version, System Center vNext, can be connected seamlessly to the Windows Server vNext Network Controller, which essentially means System Center Virtual Machine Manager vNext. Monitoring takes place with System Center Operations Manager vNext.

Managing Virtual Switches and Network Adapters

Network Controller allows you to create firewall rules for virtual machines on Hyper-V hosts. The controller also has access to the associated virtual switches. In this way, you can manage, monitor, and distribute firewall rules that concern a specific virtual machine or a workload on a VM, as well as various appliances. In addition to providing centralized management, Network Controller also manages logfiles and makes them available. From the logfiles, you will see which traffic is allowed or denied by a firewall rule.

Network Controller also takes over control of all virtual switches on all Hyper-V hosts on the network, and it creates new virtual switches. You can even manage virtual network cards in the individual VMs in this way. Network adapters in the Hyper-V VMs can be added and removed on the fly in Windows Server vNext. Network Controller also supports Network Virtualization Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE) and Virtual Extensible Local Area Network (VXLAN) functions.

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