Today’s digital world is evolving into a tech-smart populous with a strong belief that products and services will revolve around their digital expectations. Not the other way around. Consequently, a worrying chasm has emerged. One where the user’s idea of innovation (instant) isn’t matched by the provider’s ability to deliver it (distant).
The situation is understandable given that many enterprise data centers are crippled by aging or obsolete equipment. A situation that is compounded by networks which are creaking under the strain of bandwidth and workload demands.
And, at the core of the issue, an over reliance on proprietary hardware and software that places a time and cost drag on the path to upgrade. Not to mention an inability to automate manual processes which effectively means that businesses are held hostage by their own infrastructure.
And while it’s true that the share of virtualised servers and storage will be more than double over the period 2009 to 2016, networks are still, in the main, designed to connect physical hosts and physical networking services.
This is an architectural handicap that few enterprises can afford, especially when many Web 2.0 companies are unencumbered by such legacy issues, and have embraced a cloud-first approach with network topologies to match.
To keep pace with the velocity of business, data centers need to support a flexible infrastructure that focuses on virtualisation, automation, converged systems, software-defined offerings and cloud-based technologies.
According to Gartner, establishing agile infrastructure forces infrastructure and operations organisations to rethink infrastructure strategy, with an emphasis on integrated systems, cloud and virtualisation, which means taking Web-scale approaches, using containers and working to establish a software-defined infrastructure.
Today, your task is no longer about getting the network up and running. It’s about integrating with applications and how you move with unprecedented speed. It’s about instant evolution in action. Virtualisation, automation and Software Networks (SDN) bring efficiency benefits but are not a direct replacement for your engineering resources. To truly transform the network, there are some challenges that will need to be solved:
1. Network planning is a long-term commitment, which makes technology evolution a complex decision. Which standards do you commit to? There’s a danger in “I’ll just buy a little more of this”. None of us has a perfect vision of the demand on the network five years from now, and vendors prefer to differentiate, which might lock you into an architecture that will raise your costs or constrain your flexibility.
2. When diagnosing intermittent problems in network subsystem becomes complex in virtualised network and the path application takes to reach user varies. Network data analysis takes this problem and turns it into a capability that’s better than anything we see in fixed networks, because it instruments both underlay and overlay, and shows the performance in both underlay and overlay. It can isolate problems to the underlay, the overlay, or even the application itself. This capability will be essential to create reliable service delivery in your cloud applications.
Your network needs to be intelligent, smart, self-healing, proactive and secure. It should allow you to collate, correlate and control data from across the network. It should utilize intelligence from switches such as network analytics, buffer inputs/ outputs and granular interface statistics – and allow you to do something with it. An intelligent network takes information from the network, firewall or router and correlates the data with other technologies (for example, SaaS). In essence, it should permit smarter decision-making based on the entire technology ecosystem, not just components.
3. Data centres were, in recent history, hierarchical, with multiple tiers of switching, built for north-south traffic. As data centres become more dense and applications more robust, we are seeing heightened levels of traffic generated between hosts within the data center. Typically, we refer to this as East-West traffic. In order to support this shift – as well as the rapid increase or decrease of resources that need to be connected – networks need to become flatter and provide significant scale out capabilities.
Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP), a technical university in Perlis is the first site in Malaysia to deploy a Juniper Networks QFabric System, a scalable fabric switching system that flattens the data center network to a single tier where all access points are equal, eliminating the effects of network locality and making it the ideal network foundation for virtualized data center operations. This deployment has resulted in significant improvement in application response times during service outages because of the uniform low latency between QFabric ports.
It’s important that, regardless of the architecture you choose today, your hardware can be repurposed as your business grows or your requirements evolve. Don’t get locked in or it can get very costly, very quickly. Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge yet, it’s undeniable that automation, centralized management, plug and play provisioning and SDN integrations are critical factors in boosting competitiveness. In your current situation some of these solution might seem far-fetched, but we live in a world where technology is evolving at the speed of light.
So, with that in mind, it’s key to build a foundation that will allow you to do all of this and more. Make sure that you have the logical and physical scale that allows you to grow. Make sure that your network gets out of the way and fast-tracks the evolution of your enterprise.
4. When we transform the underlying networks, network engineers have to take on many more of the skills of IT engineers, the next generation of engineers will merge those skills. Change creates opportunity to work across the boundaries, but the transition will take time. It’s another reason we embrace open standards, so that you can plug into the widest range of skills, and know that investments in reskilling have long-term value.
SDN is a growing market in APAC and will surpass the $1 billion mark (RM 4.3 million) by 2018 based on a report from International Data Corporation (IDC).
With upwards of 50 billion devices expected to be connected in the next five years, global service providers will need software-defined networking (SDN) and NFV to automate those cumbersome manual tasks and increase agility in rolling out virtually managed services at the touch of a button, to achieve greater revenue-generating opportunities, lower costs and enhance customer satisfaction.