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How to drive intelligence into your next-generation networks

Mark Micallef, Area Vice President, ASEAN | July 9, 2014
Here are a few key steps organizations need to break barriers of network fragility to securely maximize enterprise cloud efficiency

The IT landscape has witnessed rapid change and developments in recent years, with growth in consumerization of IT, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and adoption of cloud computing. Implementing changes, such as onboarding new applications (apps) or equipment upgrades, is difficult on a network not equipped to meet the needs of advanced compute and storage virtualization solutions. These networks may even complicate and convolute the entire IT implementation, impeding enterprises from reaping the true benefits of the cloud.

Unlike compute and storage layers, the vast majority of datacenter networking gear is app-unaware - blindly forwarding packets amongst user, apps and other networking services. More intervention is required by network administrators to manually deploy, configure and maintain networking infrastructure to support a myriad of demands from hundreds of apps.

Network fragilities make change management challenging in today's app-driven environment. To reduce network fragility, network configuration models have to be app-aware in order to be app-driven. Here are a few key steps organizations need to break barriers of network fragility to securely maximize enterprise cloud efficiency:

Step 1: Leverage Software Defined Networking (SDN) and equip IT with app-driven control

IT is all about delivering applications. Hence, the first step towards smarter next-generation networks is to create an app-centric and app-aware automated network environment. One way to do this is to separate the control panel and the data-forwarding panel, and abstract the control panel from the network hardware and implement it in software instead - offloading its functions to a centralized controller. This way, IT is equipped with a convenient interface to program the network to create more efficient and automatic network management and provisioning. With the centralized controller, IT can also allow other applications to control network resources and influence forwarding decisions in order to find the optimized route to delivery network services.

In addition, app-centric networking gear, such as application delivery controllers, next-generation firewalls and mobility gateways can also be leveraged to help control delivery of application services. These devices maintain information such as app state and resource requirements that can be intelligently mined to optimize overall app functions. This will help enterprises build an app-aware platform they truly need, one that unifies advanced network services while preserving the ability to select best-in-class functionality.

Step 2: Consolidate automated delivery and orchestration of apps

By centralizing network management into a single intelligent control entity instead of having distributed controls embedded in each individual network element, administrators can define policies tied to a specific application. IT is able to simplify intial deployment by pre-packaging network services and their associated topology according to the unique requirements of individual apps. Authorized IT personnel will also be able to easily allocate resources and balance bandwidth. The end-to-end network visibility, full network-policy and service-chain automation optimizes the network.


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