Apr 14 2014

The Evolving Duties of the Network

As virtualization, mobility and the cloud create new demands, networks must adapt to meet them.

The network — as connector of all systems, components, applications and people that support the organization — has an extensive and growing job description that doesn’t allow for time off. Its latest duties include accommodating the virtualization of everything, cloud services, mobility, bring-you-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, Big Data and instantaneous access to applications at any time, from any location.

Ensuring high availability for applications is driving network designs that incorporate newer protocols and processes that connect geographically dispersed data centers. Distributed data centers themselves help optimize application response times through redundancy, workload mobility, capacity management, optimally located sites and disaster protection and recovery.

Data Center Mobility

Data center mobility leverages stateless computing and other capabilities to distribute application workloads within the primary data center, between data centers and into cloud environments for optimum resource utilization, uptime and performance.

To realize these benefits, the network has to extend Layer 2 and Layer 3 connectivity across data centers. These extensions unlock distributed clustering and other capabilities at the web, application and database layers. IP- based OTV can also deliver value inside the data center, where it improves mobility by working with Layer 3 interconnects, which effectively segment the network. For Layer 3 mobility between data centers, the Locator/Identifier Separation Protocol (LISP), which reassembles distributed applications, supports both IPv4 and IPv6 addressing.

Software-Defined Networking

The emerging software-defined networking (SDN) approach offers a set of scalable applications, protocols and processes that create a new layer for improved management, control, resource allocation and user services. This helps businesses better support mobility, virtual machines (VMs) and cloud services.

Switches and routers usually incorporate a data plane, which handles packet forwarding, and a control plane, which contains forwarding rules. SDN decouples the hardware of the two planes, abstracts the underlying network infrastructure and centralizes network intelligence. It basically transfers the control plane’s decision-making capabilities into a flow controller, a logical interface between the new SDN layer and the physical infrastructure. This centralized controller has visibility into all routing, access and traffic flows to make more intelligent decisions.

SDN is poised to explode, thanks to the network innovation, virtualization, mobility and cloud hosting it supports. Market research firm IDC, in its study “Five Emerging SDN Vendors to Watch in 2013,” predicts the $360 million generated by the segment in 2013 will rocket to $3.7 billion by 2016. To overcome the limitations of Layer 2 switch forwarding, IT teams can leverage Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV) interconnect technology, which optimizes LAN extensions across data centers.

Want to learn more? Check out CDW’s “Top Network Optimization Projects for 2014” white paper.