We are in the midst of an IT evolution. Both IT organizations and vendors are implementing software-based solutions to replace their legacy hardware technologies. Software can adjust to changing network designs and conditions more easily and quickly compared to proprietary hardware-based solutions. Software-defined everything, or SDx, is becoming the model for next-generation network architectures and shifting networks toward flexibility and agility.
Up until recently, businesses focused on custom hardware-based products due to the low price-to-performance ratio that specialized components could deliver, but Moore’s Law changed this. Now the increased density of electrical components over time translates to an exponential increase in computing power, and common off-the-shelf hardware performance is improving faster than the network architecture requirements. Businesses can cost-effectively realize the benefits of elasticity and agility from a software-based technology due to the recent CPU, memory, and network performance enhancements within COTS technologies.
Hardware-based technologies are fixed in their location, function, and performance capabilities. The expansion of a network function is a non-trivial task since a business needs to acquire the hardware, configure the components, and deploy them in the proper location at the proper time. This process can take days to months. But with the switch to software-based solutions, the network architecture is more flexible and dynamic. As long as a COTS infrastructure is in place, it’s just a matter of loading the appropriate software functions on the virtualized infrastructure to activate or expand a service.
More Than Switching Apples to Oranges
The migration to a SDx architecture requires two key changes before a business gains the full benefits of the solution.
• IT organizations need to orchestrate the disparate virtualized components in a holistic and unified manner. The elastic and agile benefits of the SDx environment are enabled through the coordination of the COTS hardware, the virtualized management environment, the network infrastructure, and the virtual application services deployed.
• Businesses need to change their operational processes as applications and services become virtualized. Operational staff must understand how a function resides on the COTS infrastructure and the virtualized architecture.
Bananas, Papayas, and Mangoes – Combining Functions in Virtualized Architecture
There are several initiatives that are incorporated into the SDx architectures, all of which combine to create the perfect virtualized architecture.
• Applications are virtualized, leveraging virtual machines and hypervisors that manage the COTS infrastructure. The virtualization of the applications is also enabled through public and private cloud architectures.
• Networks are evolving through software-defined network initiatives such as OpenFlow. SDN virtualizes the network forwarding elements of the IT architecture, replacing the traditional switching and routing technologies.
• Network functions virtualization was created to address the need to virtualize the services between the network and applications. NFV virtualizes and orchestrates services such as the firewalls, load balancers, network address translation, and other functions.
Fruit Salad – Bringing the Architecture Together
Centralized orchestration systems bring all of these virtualization architectures together. The different mix of technologies and environments work with each other to deliver the blend of elasticity and agility that businesses expect. There are different and distinct ways to virtualize different levels of the IT architecture, but they are all part of a single consolidated network ecosystem that functions based on the business requirements.
The SDx architecture is based on all of these virtualization technologies. Different components are brought together into the network architecture to function as a single, holistic entity (our fruit salad). With these technological advancements, SDx environments are becoming a reality for today’s networks and provide even more room for businesses to grow and react.
Edited by Alicia Young