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Feature Article
May 2003

Tony Rybczynski photoMaking Business Realities Work For You

Part V: Playing By The New Rules Of Networking



Routers have served well as the practical workhorses of enterprise networking for decades. But as enterprises transform the ways they use networks, networks have to transform too. Instead of more workhorses, maybe you really need armored cars, a bullet train, and better navigation systems. The network equivalents of those special-purpose vehicles are here.

Business Reality: If you keep doing the same thing, you�ll keep getting the same results.

It�s an old adage, but still true. If the present enterprise network architecture is expensive to manage, troublesome to maintain, short on bandwidth, and inflexible to growth and change... deploying more of the same equipment isn�t going to solve the problem. If the network grows in scale but not in �intelligence� and efficiency, IT headaches only turn into migraines.

For decades, Layer 1-3 routers have served as the workhorses of the multi-protocol IP and Ethernet world. They interfaced to multiple LAN and WAN environments, supported a range of speeds from sub-56Kbps to Gbps, and provided best-effort routing in an open Internet environment.

�Best-effort� isn�t the best anymore. New ways of using the Internet and intranets call for new ways to manage exponentially growing traffic.

Technology Response -- Transform the network to be smarter, faster, and more secure.

Technology advances of recent years are dramatically simplifying the network and improving price/performance in ways that traditional, router-based architectures can�t match. These innovations enable IT organizations to completely rethink how they distribute applications and storage, how they connect with all their stakeholders, and how they can exploit the network for competitive advantage. These �discontinuities� -- fundamental changes in how enterprise networking is done -- are offering tangible benefits over the tried-and-true.

Transform the network with IP and content-aware intelligence.

Internet Protocol (IP) and a family of related protocols (RTP, TCP, FTP, HTTP, SSL, IPSec, H.323, etc.) have emerged as the de facto standard for enterprise networking and applications. IP has become the glue that converges applications and infrastructures across the enterprise -- the favored protocol suite for clients, networking, content distribution, application switching, security, and applications.

In this IP-centric, converged network environment, purpose-built networking platforms that operate at Layer 3-7 are starting to replace legacy Layer 1-3 routers as the workhorse of enterprise networks. Layer 3-7 switches can go far beyond connectivity and packet-routing services offered by enterprise routers.

Using sophisticated policies that are unknown to traditional LAN switches and routers, Layer 3�7 switches provide intelligent traffic management capabilities, such as local and global server load balancing, content-aware application redirection, �cookie-aware� differentiated services, virtual hosting, persistent connections for business transactions, content-aware security, and intelligent bandwidth management.

Legacy routers will continue to provide value at the edge of this transformed networking environment, while new platforms will reduce global network load and costs, improve server and network response time, and enable differentiated services that cannot be achieved any other way.

Transform the network with intrinsic security.

Savvy CIOs were quick to see the potential in IP VPNs to connect to remote users, connect sites together, and connect partners, suppliers, and customers in an integrated B2B environment.

The Internet is an important channel to customers and a cost-effective way to bring employees, partners, and remote sites into the enterprise network, for constant communications or just-in-time partnering. It supports data, voice, and video streaming. It�s a cost-effective way to provide full mesh connections among sites, with T1 access speeds via DSL, for popular new uses such as peer networking and IP telephony.

But it�s inherently insecure. To date, security requirements have been met by bolting security capabilities onto routers or adding specialized security devices to the network. Upgrading routers to support robust IP-VPNs over the open Internet has been either expensive or impossible. Dual-box solutions based on IP-VPN switches and routers add operational complexity and cost, and require multiple encapsulations to support dynamic routing over encrypted tunnels. Firewalls provide perimeter defenses, but they don�t stop insider abuse, and they leave loopholes for wireless and dial-up access.

In the new enterprise networking model, security is built into the network, at data centers and at the edge, operates across Layers 1 to 7, and is managed under enterprise-wide policies. IP VPNs, firewalls, Network Address Translation (NAT), and dynamic routing over encrypted tunnels are all tightly integrated in the networking platform. This strategy increases reliability by using multiple paths, simple configuration (compared to prevailing multi-encapsulation techniques), secure mesh connectivity, and acceleration techniques that enable stringent security without performance penalty.

Transform the network with optical networking.

Fast, inexpensive, and simple to use, �plug-and-play� Ethernet technology has become the standard in more than 90 percent of corporate LANs. Originally developed for coaxial cable and twisted copper pair, Ethernet jumped onto fiber. It was a natural evolution, because fiber networks were being deployed everywhere, and optical technologies had advanced eight times faster than Moore�s Law in price/performance.

Optical networking combines the ubiquity, flexibility, and simplicity of Ethernet with the reliability, wavelength agility, and speed of optics. With optical networking, this proven LAN technology has emerged as the reliable, cost-effective, and speedy choice for the metropolitan- and wide-area network as well. With orders of magnitude increases in bandwidth -- delivered over a simpler and more reliable network -- optical networking can profoundly change networking parameters and open up new application possibilities, new computing models, and new ways of doing business.

Optical networking enables new storage networking options. Traditionally, distributed processing and storage was expensive due to bandwidth consumption and gateway processing. Now it�s feasible to have real-time disk mirroring, remote backup and data replication, and shared databases across the network, using optical network wavelengths. Protocol-independent optical wavelengths deliver the ultra-high reliability and scalability required of storage and mainframe extension applications, and support the end-to-end delay, reliability, and capacity requirements of the most stringent storage applications.

Optical networking redefines the design of router networks. Within a campus, centralized IP and Ethernet-optimized routing switches and switched Ethernet wiring closets have largely displaced a mix of legacy technologies. Optical networking enables a flattening of the network by deploying routing switches at larger site and having �routerless� branch offices as a logical extension of the campus network. An enterprise network, even one spanning a continent, becomes more like an extended campus network than the Internet.

The �Net� Effect of Transformation

IP, Ethernet, and optics -- and the security, performance, and intelligence they enable -- are defining a new order in enterprise networking. Over the next five years:

� Optical networking will largely replace private lines, frame relay, and ATM in metropolitan area networks (MANs) and inter-city connections. Say goodbye to the speed bumps, protocol conversions, traffic management, and QoS gymnastics required today, when going from Ethernet-dominated LANs and Fibre Channel dominated storage networks to the frame/cell/T1/T3 world of MANs/WANs. In fact, Infonetics predicts a five-fold increase by 2004 in metro optical networking investments by businesses, service providers, utilities, and local governments.

� The Internet will gain an expanded role for branch and remote access networking. IP VPNs will largely replace private, dedicated circuits for connecting non-metro locations and remote users, and partners across the extended supply chain.

� Layer 4-7 devices -- which can make routing decisions based on information unknown to Layer 2-3 switches and routers -- will deliver critical capabilities required for application-aware IP networks: more intelligent traffic management capabilities, local and global server load balancing, content-aware routing and access control, and content-based bandwidth management.

� Security will become inherent in applications and services. High-performance, multi-layer security will protect data integrity and privacy across all environments, including mobility, without compromising performance. Routing will be transformed by building IP-VPN and firewall security into routing devices, and through increased centralization of Layer 3 switching enabled through optical networking.

Whatever transformation strategy and timetable an enterprise chooses, ultimately, the rewards will be seen in evolution to a more profitable and efficient network-based business model that permeates all aspects of the business and its relations with all stakeholders.

Tony Rybczynski is director of strategic enterprise technologies for Nortel Networks with 30 years experience in networking. For more information, visit the company�s Web site at www.nortelnetworks.com.

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