Legacy networks that were designed for an era of ‘best effort’ services and non-mission critical applications, have remained unchanged for the past 20 years and have significant limitations.
They have become inhibitors in meeting ever-growing social business, cloud, mobile and big data compute requirements where virtualisation is the norm and agility is the currency of the day.
In this new era, the data centre is becoming the ‘front door’ of the organisation, where it can directly impact how fast companies can respond to the competition and customer requirements.
This is an era where customers interact with businesses through technology much more than face-to-face engagements - as evident from the myriad of devices and apps in use. This means networking in the data centre must become more agile, dynamic and automated.
This transformation of the network, called the New IP, is characterised by virtualised and software-based network services running on commoditised hardware. It is also driven by customer demand for open architectures and open-source technologies to avoid vendor lock-in.
The architecture for the New IP consists of 4 layers: Physical Underlay, Network Services (NFV) , Control Service (SDN) and Orchestration.
The Physical Underlay is still required because virtual assets need to run on physical assets and physical assets need physical connectivity.
The key consideration is that it needs to support automation inherently and respond to a variety of automation tools at the Control Services (SDN) or Orchestration layer.
The Services Layer is where Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) sits. NFV is revolutionising how network services are provisioned and deployed.
Because NFVs run on industry-standard x86 hardware platforms instead of custom hardware from traditional network vendors, it promises true CAPEX savings, as the cost of software and x86 server hardware are magnitudes lower compared to traditional proprietary devices.
More importantly, it promises the kind of agility never possible before. Because network services like routing, firewall, load balancing, etc, can be run and provisioned like the way virtualised applications are done, rolling out applications with the associated network services can be almost instantaneous.
This compares to having to procure, rack and connect hardware-based network and security devices, which could take days if not weeks.
Another important element is the need to have better visibility and analytics of the network and applications.
Today’s virtualised data centre means that with private, public and hybrid cloud, applications can reside in and be moved to any data centre anywhere in the world, creating a data centre without walls.
This is where visibility and analytics will help with security, compliance and even with service level agreements (SLAs).