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Addressing WAN edge networking complexity with SDN and NFV

Dave Corley | April 8, 2014
As enterprises add mobile users, virtualized services, and public and private clouds, they're running into constraints that threaten to limit their ability to scale their network infrastructure appropriately. Contrary to what many assume, the constraints are not so much bandwidth and cost, the real culprit is complexity.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

As enterprises add mobile users, virtualized services, and public and private clouds, they're running into constraints that threaten to limit their ability to scale their network infrastructure appropriately. Contrary to what many assume, the constraints are not so much bandwidth and cost, the real culprit is complexity.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) address the complexity of 21st century computing with an agile, centrally managed, automated network that can grow, scale, and change much more easily and effectively than today's static network architectures. Deploying SDN and NFV in the branch office allows IT to get familiar with the technology before scaling it across the rest of the network.

Drivers of Network Complexity

Network complexity has increased dramatically as a result of several trends:

* Mobile devices and applications - Administrators have been hard pressed to achieve the visibility, management and security necessary to accommodate thousands of laptops, smartphones, tablets and other new mobile end points without endangering sensitive information and network performance.

* Virtualization - Virtualization (particularly server virtualization) has caused the number of servers in the average organization to skyrocket. The reason: Provisioning new virtual machines takes minutes compared to the weeks or months it takes to purchase server hardware. Since they're so easily deployed, virtual servers are often added without the knowledge of IT, making the task of monitoring, managing, troubleshooting and scaling IT infrastructure that much more difficult. Virtualization also adds its own layer of management complexity.

* Cloud Computing - With virtualization has come automation, orchestration, user self service and the public and private cloud — turning what was once a static, fenced-off IT infrastructure into an ever changing, ever scaling, growing, shrinking, morphing, distributed beast. The advantage has been unprecedented agility and fast time to market for new products and services. The drawback has been complexity. Gaining visibility into such a dynamic infrastructure has led to a proliferation of system, network, and other logs used to troubleshoot issues that inevitably come up and catch small problems before they become big ones.

The Problem with the Static Network

Unfortunately, unlike the automated, virtual world of servers and the cloud, today's networks still run primarily on thousands of specialized, proprietary routers and switches that require a lot of manual configuration using an archaic command line interface (CLI). While new services can be deployed on virtual servers and storage or in the cloud in minutes, they often have to wait a lot longer while necessary adjustments are made switch-by-switch and router-by-router to the static, distributed network.

 

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