Webinars - Featured Articles

October 12, 2012

Webinar - The Network is the Barrier to Software-Defined Data Center

In preparation for a recent webinar I moderated, “Breaking Dow the Application and Network Infrastructure Silos,” I posted an article where I made the following observation:

The challenge has been… that the explosion of data in many cases has not been matched by an equivalent capability for the data center network. In fact, to be blunt, traditional network architectures have had very little awareness of the applications that are generating traffic over them. Conversely, the new virtual application control systems are unaware of the conditions prevailing within the network. The result is that the network and the applications are operating effectively in silos. And, needless-to-say as a result, attempts by the network or the application controllers (such as VMware’s popular hypervisor) to improve resource utilization typically achieves suboptimal results…The fact of the matter is that your network needs to be applications fluent and your applications need to be network friendly.”

As my panelists Andre Kindness, Forrester senior analyst Serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals, David Fortini director, Strategic Alliances Enterprise Network Group Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) and Sanjay Aiyagari partner architect for Telco Alliances VMWare , develed into why breaking down the silos was so critical and the new Alcatel-Lucent/VMware solution, it struck me that while all of us who follow such things like to talk about “revolutions” what we are looking at in this instance is more about an evolutionary process. It is one that will result in the “transformation” of today’s data centers.

First a quick caveat. I am not a fan of the word “transformation” when talking about sea changes in our industry. Years ago a CIO and I were at the HQ of a well-known vendor who shall remain nameless. We passed a sign that read, “We will be the leaders before, during and after the industry transformation.” The CIO turned to me and said, “They don’t get it!...There is no transformation, there is only dealing with crises and constant change. The only after will be after these guys are out of business…They don’t get my life!”

I’ve never forgotten that interaction, because it was 20 years ago. It seems more relevant now than it did then. And, despite my general dislike of the word transformation, reality it that virtualization, first of servers and now of virtually everything is transforming the data center as well it must for all of the reasons we all know and love, i.e., efficiency, effectiveness and bottom line improvement. It is doing so at an ever increasing speed in order to stay apace of the data storm that is already causing high tides in data centers around the world. 

The Path Forward

That said, what I got from the webinar is that we are watching what will be the requisite fusion of Layers 2 -7 of the stack, this is a about process and a timeline. While you are invited to download the entire session for review, it is worthwhile to take a glimpse at a couple of pertinent graphics.  

First, it must be noted that each of the presenters made a compelling case as to why trend toward the virtualization of almost “E”verything was immutable. Indeed, the business case and drivers are (pardon the pun) virtually bullet-proof that are that convincing. It includes the notion that the silos must come down and increasing investment in the network needs to be a place that gets equal billing/attention. The good news on that front according to Forrester (News - Alert) is that for the first time, network investment entered their CIO council’s top five priority list this year at the No. 4 spot.

Where all of this is leading is that the need for speed in what I have called the Age of Acceleration means the virtualization and automation of most things. As Alcatel-Lucent and VMware see it, as show below, it means moving toward a software-defined data center.

Why is this so critical and how do we get there? The next graphic sums it up. 

The goal here it should be noted is not just speed but also a term we are going to hear more and more about in the future, “elasticity.” This means only using the resources, computing and networking, you need when you need them under an architecture that can burst up and down on demand to meet critical resource needs that are only becoming more unpredictable. Indeed, the facts are that things like cloud services, and the ubiquitous use of smartphones, along with heavy gaming and streamed video which have made traditional traffic predictability obsolete.

The new VMare Ready Alcatel-Lucent VM Manager provides the following capabilities based on its ability to automatically adapt with VM Movement:

- Visibility

  • Provides a unified dashboard of switches, ports, hypervisors and virtual machines
  • Live and historical data tracking and logging

- Provisioning

  • Definition of bindings between VM and vNP

- Movement

  • Migration of vNP to new switch
  • Security & QoS parameters, VLAN configuration
  • Add, migrate, remove

It is an important step down the path to the software-defined data center, and certainly as such a critical means for breaking down the silos that could hamper service and application delivery performance.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey