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Brocade: Building the right network foundation

13 Jun 2014

Brocade's Greig Guy offers some tips for businesses wanting to utilise the cloud for some, but not all, of their data in the hybrid cloud space.

According to global research firm Gartner, if your enterprise hasn’t committed to a hybrid cloud now, you will more than likely seriously consider this in the future.

The hybrid cloud space currently lags the overall cloud market by three years, however by 2017, Gartner predicts that ‘half of mainstream enterprises will have a hybrid cloud, which it defines as a policy-based service provisioning platform that spans internal and external cloud resources’.

So what is the best way to combine on-premises resources and off-site (remote) server-based cloud infrastructure?

The solutions to the biggest challenges hampering the data centre, and the ability to move to a cloud computing model, will require both hardware and software solutions, not hardware alone—as well as a mental shift by IT departments themselves.

The network and network services are irrefutably critical in managing a highly elastic hybrid cloud environment, enabling a seamless solution for automated self provisioning of both virtual machines and storage.

Innovating the network with fabrics, SDN and NFV

To make the network as flexible and elastic as the cloud environment, IT departments will need to redefine the way data is distributed, and transformational architecture models like fabric-based networks, software-defined networking (SDN), and network functions virtualisation (NFV) are leading the charge.

Fabrics increase network utilisation by 200% and reduce OpEx by more than 50%, while delivering zero-touch provisioning that radically simplifies network deployment and improves efficiency.

This provides the agile physical foundation that businesses need to drive change.

Together, NFV and SDN are creating highly automated and more efficiently architected networks that deliver next-generation apps and services with ease and speed.

Often misunderstood, SDN and NFV are complementary, but not the same. For instance, SDN leverages the flexibility of new communication protocols like OpenFlow to give network administrators unprecedented control over the path of network packets.

If network traffic begins to bottleneck, administrators can redirect the flow to a different switch, and it’s done entirely in software.

Routing rules can be set ad hoc, or they can be entirely automated through a centralised interface. Openstack is another orchestration tool that allows the control of compute, networking and storage for the deployment of whole workloads.

NFV, meanwhile, allows administrators to virtualise core network functions and leverage the speeds of new generation x86 processors and deploy these in the cloud.

Future-proofing network architecture

So how can businesses build a platform for innovation in the data centre and beyond? One key lesson is that it is very difficult to predict the needs of future products and services. That’s why networks should be constructed with an eye toward open standards and interoperability of hardware that provides a blueprint for innovation.

The most meaningful benefit of a fabric and software-based network architecture is in the long term – the freedom to innovate and the ability to cost-effectively deliver new applications and services in minutes to the cloud instead of days or weeks.