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2019: Look for improvements to software-defined data-center networks

Dec 10, 20186 mins
Data CenterSDNServers

Developments in cloud services, security, containers, and white-box switches can make a positive impact for SDDNCs in the coming year.

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To help IT pros attain top performance for their software-defined data-center networks (SDDCN), we have identified 10 crucial technology areas to watch and evaluate during 2019.

SDDCN performance requires advanced network software to provision, manage and secure high-speed traffic flows, and network administrators need automated solutions to monitor and deliver reliable quality of service to critical applications.

The SDDCN combines with compute resources (virtual machines and containers) and storage (disc and flash) to deliver specified performance for private-cloud applications. Via software abstraction, data-center resources can be easily reallocated to address changing application requirements without changing the underlying physical compute, storage or network elements.

Here are 10 factors to keep an eye in during the coming year in order to optimize the performance of SDDNCs.

Multi-cloud migration

Most organizations now live in a multi-cloud world with applications running on a wide variety of IaaS, SaaS and internal data-center platforms. IT organizations need the ability to track application performance independent of the platform and to be able to migrate applications/data to the most appropriate service based on latency, security/compliance and cost concerns. Network software (both in the data center and SD-WAN) will increasingly be used to track data flows and to facilitate the migration of applications/data to the appropriate platform. During 2019, IT will be challenged to enable multi-cloud support by integrating network security, cloud-based security and internal IT security systems.

Customer experience

The latest IT buzzwords relate to digital transformation and providing excellent customer experience. Business leaders now expect IT to transform their internal data-center resources to deliver the responsiveness and flexibility of public-cloud services. Data-center managers will continue to leverage network software to identify and prioritize key applications, especially those that impact customers. This includes the ability to scale up or scale down capacity as web traffic spikes and ebbs and the tools to fix performance problems rapidly. For 2019, network professionals will increasingly be judged by their ability to deliver expected customer experience.

New tools for DevOps, containers, and serverless environments

To enable digital transformation, IT is employing new ways of developing applications rapidly. These DevOps principals leverage microservices running on containers and soon in serverless environments. The data-center network must adapt to the new requirements that containers place on the network, including scalability, predictable performance, multi-tenancy and security. The old manual methods of data-center network provisioning with their weeks of wait time have no place in the DevOps world. During 2019, intent-based networking principles will increasingly be deployed to speed automation.

Growth in data-center network traffic both north-south and east-west continue to drive deployment of high-speed Ethernet. Many organizations are considering cost-effective white-box Ethernet switches to grow their data-center network capacity. Customers can choose from a variety of suppliers of network operating systems to power white-box switches. 2019 will see broader adoption of white box switches – beyond the hyperscale cloud entities.

Intent-based networking improvements

Intent-based networking (IBN) abstracts network complexity and improves automation by reducing or eliminating the need for human intervention by using natural-language requests for network resources. Current SDDCN technologies can automatically assign IP addresses, configure vLANs and provide insights to security anomalies and applications slowdowns. In 2019, IBN will and gain the ability to leverage machine-learning techniques to further automate data-center network orchestration and management.

Architecture options

IT professionals with plans to implement a private cloud or SDDC will continue to be confronted with a plethora of architectural options. No clear blueprints exist to deploy a fully automated SDDCN, and the design options are much more like building a custom home than selecting from three feature levels for a new car. Vendors offer architectural options, but IT professionals can also choose to build an SDDCN with white-box switches and independent NOS suppliers. In 2019, system integrators and large IT suppliers will become more prescriptive in their SDDCN offerings.

Better integrated network security

As we reach news saturation about the breach of the week, to say nothing about the thousands of breaches that we never hear about, network security remains the key unsolved problem in the data center. Extensive use of the internet, IaaS and SaaS means companies must defend in depth and can no long rely on a secure perimeter. IT organizations will continue to use Firewall/UTM and ADC appliances in the data center, but they must also enable internal data-center security due to the risk that a breach of one VM or container will allow the attacker to access other data-center applications via “trusted” east-west traffic flows.

Network software provides for segmentation/isolation of critical data-center assets and the ability to monitor data traffic to identify attacks and to alter the network to remediate specific threats. In 2019, network software suppliers must build a broad-based security ecosystem that integrates SDDCN elements with the wide range of network and IT security systems already deployed in most organizations.

SD-WAN to SDDCN frameworks

To ensure a high-level user experience, many SD-WAN providers are enhancing their public-cloud application-acceleration capabilities. They are also expanding the depth of their connections with private-cloud networks and security features. During 2019, these SD-WAN to SDDCN integrations will expand with improved management/orchestration, performance monitoring and security capabilities.

Virtual application delivery controllers

Traditionally, the application-delivery controller (ADC) appliance sits between the firewall and the application servers. It can see, route and analyze much of the inbound and outbound traffic. Software networking and virtualization has enabled the disaggregation of ADC feature with increasing use of microservice-based features, such as a service offerings and flexible licensing. During 2019, virtual ADCs will be distributed throughout the data center to enable container-to-container communications, enhance security and provide quality of service by application and or by customer.

Storage integration with SDDCN

The increases in compute capacity and the demands of new applications like big data, video, and IoT continue to drive massive increases in storage capacity. Decreases in prices have enabled flash to become the leading technology for new storage capacity. SDDCN suppliers have focused on the data side of the network and have typically minimized their storage-handling capabilities.

For 2019, SDDCN suppliers will develop new features to enable rapid provisioning of storage capacity, scalable performance and ability to support any type of storage with any type of compute and application. IT organizations will increasingly converge data and storage traffic on one Ethernet network because the SDDCN supports a virtual path for storage traffic with low-latency requirements.

lee doyle

Lee Doyle is principal analyst at Doyle Research, providing client-focused targeted analysis on the evolution of intelligent networks. He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets. Lee has written extensively on such topics as SDN, SD-WAN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, Lee was group vice president for network, telecom, and security research at IDC. Lee holds a B.A. in economics from Williams College.

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