SDN and hybrid cloud: open, scalable, programmable
A consensus seems to be emerging that hybrid cloud is the future for a large proportion of enterprise ICT, and the favoured path to it is software defined networking (SDN).
Approximately half of respondents to an IDC survey indicated they are planning a private cloud strategy while the other half plan on rolling out a hybrid public and private cloud approach (IDC 2013). Gartner research too predicts that half of enterprises will be using hybrid cloud solutions by 2017 (Gartner 2013).
All of this will require new management tools, and the cloud systems management business is predicted to be worth up to $3.6 billion (€2.9 billion) in revenue by 2016, according to IDC.
As the world of servers, and indeed storage, have been revolutionised by virtualisation, so too does networking seem poised to be changed utterly, with many of the same benefits expected.
SDNs hold particular promise in the areas of scalability, flexibility, agility and ease of management. However, there are also reports that early adopters are running into specific issues.
According to a white paper by F5 Networks, while SDNs hold promise in these areas, in practice companies are not convinced they can deliver at enterprise scale.
“Device configuration quickly becomes too difficult and expensive to perform, particularly for Layer 4–7 stateful services such as firewalls, load balancers and Web performance optimisation. What’s more, the layering of virtual network services — in effect disconnecting them from the underlying physical infrastructure — can lead to a lack of end-to-end visibility that makes SDNs difficult or impossible to manage and troubleshoot,” says the white paper.
“There’s been a lack of clarity in terms of the SDN value proposition, with much of the SDN industry focused on reducing the cost of hardware,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, in the white paper. “I don’t think many customers really care about that. They want environments that are easier to manage and enable applications to perform better. That hasn’t really been the top priority for SDN pure-play companies.”
Kerravala advises that any SDN approach must have policy control carried out by a centralised controller, but with distributed policy implementation and execution. This is what makes it possible to centrally determine the level of service each application should receive, but automate the chore of ensuring the policies are carried out.
Currently, the network can become a bottleneck when delivering applications because Layer 4–7 devices still require human configuration, to ensure proper application performance, security and availability.
“Historically, it can take months to deploy applications and services, and a lot of the reason is human latency,” Kerravala says.
The white paper argues that SDN can only be effective on an enterprise scale, if it is built on an open architecture to support multivendor implementations. It also needs to be able to work with both the physical network infrastructure and the virtual servers and storage systems deployed on top of it. The resulting SDN solution will then be at once open, scalable, programmable, secure and manageable — with automation a key element.
Once these issues have been dealt with, the prospect of then going out to a public cloud infrastructure is much more palatable, as control, orchestration and automation are now commensurate with the needs of public services.
TechFire 13, in association with Agile Networks, will examine this topic in detail on 11 November in Bewleys Hotel, Ballsbridge Dublin.
With expertise from Agile Networks, Juniper and a compelling user experience from Continent 8 Technologies, the event will look at the specifics of SDN implementation, with a view to hybrid cloud models and what they can do for Irish organisations.
To register for this free event got to www.TechFire.ie