Home North AmericaNorth America II 2014 The virtual reality: Why we can’t forget about the network

The virtual reality: Why we can’t forget about the network

by Administrator
Houman Modarres Issue: North America II 2014
Article no.: 10
Topic: The virtual reality: Why we can’t forget about the network
Author: Houman Modarres
Title: Sr. Director of Marketing
Organisation: Nuage Networks
PDF size: 201KB

About author

Houman Modarres is the Senior Director of Marketing at Nuage Networks, Alcatel-Lucent’s venture committed to removing the networking constraints and boundaries that hinder cloud services.
Houman joined Alcatel-Lucent’s rapidly growing IP Division in 2008 as Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, prior to which he led the marketing and product management functions within Hammerhead Systems, a Silicon Valley start-up. In other past lives on the leading edge of shifts in networking technology, Houman oversaw the Carrier VoIP/Softswitch business line at 3Com Corporation, served in Product Management roles at Newbridge Networks, and held broadband & wireless systems engineering and network planning positions at Nortel.
Houman holds an MBA from the University of California Berkeley and a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University.

Article abstract

With network virtualization, organizations can group multiple physical networks into a single virtual one, or even separate a single network into multiple physical networks. Benefits of network virtualization don’t stop with disaster recovery and the reduction of data center footprints. Network virtualization gives organizations the ability to more effectively manage and scale across their cloud environments. It increases agility and can prevent organizations from allocating large amounts of their IT budgets to the purchase of unnecessary hardware, reducing their overall hardware footprint.

Full Article

With the continuous release of new and innovative technologies, it’s easy for organizations to lose momentum when adopting the ‘next big thing’ in enterprise IT. From big data to cloud to software-defined everything, enterprises are bombarded with options that seem to promise development and optimization of key business processes.

These days the IT world is abuzz with talk about virtualization. The cloud represents the ideal consumption model for information, applications and communications. Virtualization has already brought many new technologies and processes to a cloud-based world, and it isn’t slowing any time soon.

Gaining momentum

So, what’s the next step? Network virtualization. Currently, approximately 45 percent of servers in the enterprise are virtualized, and the technology has already proven itself to be invaluable over the past five years. In virtualizing the network, organizations can fully leverage ‘virtualization’ to create truly agile and distributed cloud environments.

As IT environments become more distributed, and demand for timely and efficient application delivery is growing, CIO’s are struggling with the pain of not having a virtualized network that is as agile as virtualized compute has become. Organizations absolutely need to have the ability to access their applications at any time, and CIO’s must deliver. The benefits of virtualization are hard to ignore and easily prove why more and more companies are jumping on board: Disaster recovery, inherent scalability, full dynamic control of data centers and cost savings. In fact, IDC forecasts that virtualization could save businesses US$6 billion in costs by 2020.

So what is network virtualization?

Virtualization of applications and compute resources is widespread, but these aren’t the only consideration in taking advantage of cloud computing. A crucial factor in delivering a high performing cloud environment is the consideration of virtualizing the network. Most cloud environments are typically hybrid and distributed, and many applications are time-sensitive, persistent, or media-based – challenging quality of service for most mission-critical enterprise and cloud provider workloads over the network.

In order for applications to be compelling and broadly used, performance has to meet expectations. The same is true as business applications and telecommunications applications move to the cloud. Users must sense immediate feedback to their actions in order to be indifferent to where their business productivity applications may actually be running. This responsiveness ensures interactivity of users and their applications, and is a critical consideration for moving applications to a cloud environment.

The network infrastructure that underlies the cloud, forming the connective tissue between servers and storage clusters within and across datacenters, is essential in making sure that the performance and availability of applications is maintained. It is a fundamental contributor to users’ quality of experience, without which the true potential of the cloud will be compromised.

With network virtualization, organizations can group multiple physical networks into a single virtual one, or even separate a single network into multiple physical networks. Benefits of network virtualization don’t stop with disaster recovery and the reduction of data center footprints. Network virtualization gives organizations the ability to more effectively manage and scale across their cloud environments. It increases agility and can prevent organizations from allocating large amounts of their IT budgets to the purchase of unnecessary hardware, reducing their overall hardware footprint.

Enterprises like Pittsburgh-based healthcare provider UPMC, are using SDN to improve their network availability and capacity. UPMC did this to meet requests from staff and partners needing to access to critical patient information and other vital data instantaneously. UPMC’s network was under increasing pressure from a growing community of employees, patient communities, hospitals, and healthcare insurers who are driving more data and demanding cloud-based services. With 80% of UPMC’s applications virtualized, provisioning of the network had become a barrier to bringing those applications online for users. To remove this barrier, UPMC turned to Software-Defined Networking (SDN) – and to Alcatel-Lucent’s venture Nuage Networks Virtualized Services Platform. From a provisioning standpoint, they had data communications staff, staff handling servers, staff handling cabling, and staff managing address space and DNS. It typically took staff two to three weeks to provision. SDN has taken UPMC’s provisioning from weeks to about an hour. Enjoying the flexibility of a virtual network UPMC appreciates regaining control over the edge of the data center network, while their network engineers have more insight and control over the virtualized edge of the network. The virtualized network is very flexible, allowing IT to move resources around versus the traditional network which is not flexible.

The case for network virtualization

Simply put, a better network drives a better cloud, and the cloud is all about agility in delivery.
The cloud is a distributed system in which applications run remotely from their users, allowing users to be more effective, efficient and interconnected. In the broadest sense, the network is the connective tissue of the cloud. It is the network that allows virtualized data centers to be elastic, and is what helps speed up recovery time if a disaster strikes. And it is the network between users and the data center that provides open and secure access to the applications and content.

Traditional data centers hinder the potential of cloud. While compute management systems assign virtual machines (VMs) within seconds, it can take hours or days to provision the network to deliver optimal paths between new applications and users. There is a mismatch between the operational agility of data center networks and the applications that they serve. While compute has become quite easily consumable due to server virtualization, the network connectivity is nowhere near as responsive and dynamic. Network instantiation today is highly manual and work order driven, with configuration done device by device in the data center network. In addition, cloud computing environments must support user service level guarantees, and multiple applications for multiple users which call for secure, policy driven, multi-tenanted, multi-datacenter connectivity on a data center network.

This is where technologies like SDN, which separates the network’s control and forwarding planes to make it easier to optimize the virtualized environment, can provide network automation and virtualization – first in the data center where the requirement is most pronounced, and over time can extend to the wide area network – to meet the needs of private, public, and hybrid clouds. The value of a software defined network is its ability to abstract the capabilities of the network, and its ability to automate the network in a policy-based way to eliminate errors and delays in the deployment and use of applications.

The case for open and hybrid cloud environments

Hybrid environments are a reality in almost every large enterprise, and according to Gartner, nearly half of large enterprise companies will have hybrid cloud deployments by the end of 2017. These environments provide the freedom to embrace an open, policy-driven networking approach that suits all applications, while also ensuring a return on investment for CIOs and IT managers. In addition, hybrid SDN solutions should give enterprises the capacity to run virtual technologies while using standard hardware and multi-vendor hypervisors. Sounds great, right? But with open and hybrid environments come a whole separate list of challenges. The reality is that CIOs today and their network administrators are dealing with multiple vendors and technologies, as well as legacy systems. Because of this connectivity between virtualized and non-virtualized data center assets to establish centralized visibility and automated control of the network within hybrid cloud environments is essential.

As businesses begin to invest more and more in creating the most suitable cloud environment to meet their applications’ demands, they need to take a closer look at their entire infrastructure – especially the network. Not every infrastructure is ideal for mission-critical business applications due to responsiveness, control and visibility. But a virtualized network using SDN can allow for a more agile and scalable environment, while reducing cost and enabling IT to efficiently allocate resources. This gives CIOs and their teams more control over their infrastructure in order to realize their cloud’s full potential and meet business goals.

So, the choice is yours – continue a manual approach with your network, or enjoy greater business agility and operational simplification of a virtualized network using SDN for cloud environments that are agile, responsive, policy driven, and highly automated.

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