18 Sep 2014
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Brocade: Turning the network into a platform for innovation

SDN has a role to play in data centres, says Brocade's Gary Denman. He highlights one local example.

The data flowing between data centres today has little in common with the data of 10 years ago – and in some cases 12 months ago.

Today there’s a lot more of it and it’s gone from thin to rich. Usage requirements have changed from static to dynamic, and connections have shifted from fixed to mobile.

For decades, data centres have scaled simply by adding physical capacity. This more or less worked until recently, albeit with the caveat of huge amounts of waste generated in the form of server sprawl and under-utilised resources.

For example, IT departments 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.

The reality is that SDN is suitable for all levels of data centres, making configuration, management and monitoring a much simpler task, thus requiring less IT manpower.

Similar, but different

Often misunderstood, SDN and NFV are complementary, but not the same. For instance, SDN leverages the flexibility of new communication protocols like OpenFlow, NFV meanwhile, allows administrators to virtualise core network functions.

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 instead of days or weeks.

Here in New Zealand a great example of this is how AO Cloud has created a new network architecture for cloud platform services with 'convergent cloud' solutions. Deploying new routers featuring SDN capabilities based on the OpenFlow standard has introduced greater programmatic control over the network.

With its low-latency, high-availability onshore hosting environment, the new infrastructure will enable AO Cloud to pioneer the country’s first active-active cloud data centre based on Ethernet fabric solutions.

The overall solution has removed the need to manually reconfigure network infrastructure, simplifying network configuration and management, as well as streamlining the ongoing operations for AO Cloud.

The company can now focus on deploying and managing cloud services for its clients with a hypervisor-agnostic network and a selection of VM technologies, which is a strategic benefit in meeting individual client cloud services requirements.

Active-active data centre architectures support real-time synchronisation and load balancing of applications and their data between two or more cloud data centres, enabling service delivery from any or all of them. This approach makes location another virtualised layer in the service cloud.

With a presence in three New Zealand data centres and plans to expand to another domestic location as well as two Australian data centres, AO Cloud is well positioned to deliver continuous availability and automated disaster recovery to the New Zealand and trans-Tasman markets.

Gary Denman is ANZ senior director for Brocade, whose networking solutions help the world's leading organisations transition smoothly to a world where applications and information reside anywhere.

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