Cloud, mobility, big data and next-gen IT are set to change IT globally but organisations will need the IT infrastructure in place to support them
By Brent Lees, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Riverbed Technology
While the enterprise looks to disruptive trends such as cloud, mobility and big data to drive business innovation and greater revenues, the IT department is well aware that traditional networks and data centres may not be up to the challenge of supporting these new technology demands.
Adding to the challenge is that enterprise applications are proliferating and can be located anywhere – in data centres, local offices or the cloud – yet employees working from anywhere must enjoy flawless application performance and user experience; while CIOs need to maintain full visibility and control across a complex infrastructure. Unless the network is able to support user demands and enable full visibility and control, then the benefits of cloud, mobility and big data may not be fully realised.
In this increasingly complex and demanding IT environment, software defined networking and next generation switches, routers, interfaces and modules present the solution.
Businesses are quickly growing beyond the network “box,” or the limitations of the physical network infrastructure, to embrace location-independent computing through the Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC) or the Software Defined Network (SDN).
This allows IT to turn distance and location into a competitive advantage by hosting applications and data in optimal locations, while ensuring flawless application performance and the best user experience. Traditional network equipment bundles the decision-making logic (the “control plane”) and the data routing mechanism (the “forwarding plane”) into a single box. In SDN, these functions are separated. Boxes still move data, but the decisions are made by software running on general-purpose computers. SDN provides the fundamentals for effective network virtualisation.
SDN relies on well-defined application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow an organisation to develop specialised software that extends functionality beyond what is available out of the box. Load balancing, for example, no longer requires an expensive specialised appliance in an SDN environment, but can be handled with software and provisioned in a “service chain” along with other networking services such as firewalls.
These services run on commodity hardware that is sized (and can be resized) as appropriate. The underlying physical network is simplified, and redundant tools can be eliminated because resources can be moved around as needed. Adjustments to the network can be made in real time through software applications, rather than having to frequently replace or reconfigure physical devices in the data centre.
Doing this effectively also requires a flexible monitoring solution that can be embedded as part of the infrastructure, to monitor end-user experience directly and diagnose problems quickly.
Next Generation networks suggests that the challenge of analysing, diagnosing and resolving performance issues will be more mystifying. However this does not need to be the case.
Some management tools available on the market today, provide a holistic view of the whole of the IT infrastructure, including these state of the art networks, as well as applications and user experience. These tools will offer visibility and problem detection from the variety of end-user devices, thought the complexity of the network and into the multifaceted hosting environments; whether that is the SDDC, or within the public cloud.
And once the problems, or even potential problems, have been highlighted, then complimentary tools can be used to gain performance improvements and provide protection to the users and services across the business.