As noted last time, just as the Next-generation Enterprise WAN (NEW) architecture is enabling IT to take advantage of "the cloud" - SaaS, public and hybrid cloud computing - so the cloud is enabling the next generation enterprise WAN. The ecosystem of the new way of doing computing combines with the new way of building enterprise WANs in a synergistic, 1 + 1 = 3 fashion.
Now, I want to go further and claim that in a somewhat (for you fellow math geeks out there) fractal fashion, the key technologies within the NEW architecture - server virtualization, WAN Optimization, distributed/replicated file service, colocation and WAN Virtualization - are synergistic as well. That is, in addition to the benefits each provides separately, they provide additional, mutually reinforcing benefits to each other that make the NEW architecture a) possible, and b) so powerful.
My plan with our next few columns is to dive deeper into how these various key technologies have that 1 + 1 = 3 effect to make each other more useful and more valuable. I'll begin here with perhaps the simplest example, but one that illustrates the point particularly clearly.
Let's consider how server virtualization technology turns colocation facilities from an expensive niche capability used only by a subset of companies for a small number of fairly specialized purposes, to an underappreciated linchpin capability for next-generation network design.
Remember that a colocation facility, or colocation center (hereafter referred to sometimes simply as "colo") is a type of data center "where equipment space and bandwidth are available for rental to retail customers. Colocation facilities provide space, power, cooling, and physical security for the server, storage, and networking equipment."
Colo providers charge more for rack space or square footage in their facilities than your marginal cost of that same space in your own data center. In fact, unless your data center is in midtown Manhattan or Tokyo, it's undoubtedly a lot more.
The original main purpose for colocation facilities, especially so-called carrier-neutral facilities, is as the "meet-up" place for Internet service providers, and other managed services providers, to connect with each other. Colos are where the public and private peering points, which help make the Internet the network-of-networks that it is, are situated. Colos have obvious attractions for these various service providers, and the clustering of all these providers in one place itself provides value; we'll cover this in more detail next time.
Until recently, the primary enterprise use for colocation is as the place to put public Internet-facing servers, such as websites. This might be done by a hoster (likely renting space itself from the colo provider to deliver this hosting service) or managed by the enterprise itself, especially an enterprise particularly sensitive to security.
Server virtualization has many benefits for IT - so many I will make no attempt to enumerate them here. In the context of colos, the relevant benefit is that it makes possible a small physical footprint for a multitude of enterprise applications, as well as security applications and many networking functions. That small footprint enables these applications to be run cost effectively from a colocation facility. A few rack units might be all that is necessary for even a good-sized enterprise, and a whole rack can support computing, storage and security capabilities unimaginable until a few years ago.
Bottom line: the small footprint enabled by server virtualization makes colocation affordable - and highly useful - to the enterprise IT manager, and in particular the enterprise WAN manager.
The ability to leverage colocation, and the many benefits it brings, enabled by server virtualization technology is just one of the reasons why MPLS is no longer the only answer for building enterprise WANs in the era of the cloud.
Next time, we'll look at more examples of this technical synergy among the key technologies, and how together they enable the NEW architecture.
A twenty-five year data networking veteran, Andy founded Talari Networks, a pioneer in WAN Virtualization technology, and served as its first CEO, and is now vice president of product management at Aryaka Networks, the pioneer in offering WAN Optimization as a Service. Andy is the author of an upcoming book on Next-generation Enterprise WANs.