Over the past few years, the shift to private and public cloud caused many enterprises to view automation as a key element of success, both as an enabler and as a means of achieving considerable savings in operational expenditures. IDC also has found that cloud-oriented enterprises are working diligently to better align their network infrastructure with the ever-increasing demands of the business and the changing traffic patterns within datacenters.
While server and storage teams have adapted relatively quickly to virtualized workloads, as well as to trends such as mobility and cloud, the datacenter network has been slower to adjust. What’s more, that tardiness has become an impediment to business and technological progress in many datacenters. For example, as businesses strive for enhanced agility and the ability to roll out new services and applications in real time, the highly manual, labor-intensive nature of legacy-network operations has delayed deployments of new services by days or even weeks.
Additionally, traffic patterns in the datacenter are shifting. The north-south traffic found in client/server environments is being supplanted by east-west traffic (i.e., server-to-server) driven by new applications architectures and virtualization. Legacy network designs optimized for north-south traffic have become a bottleneck, and they are difficult to scale without significant disruption or delay.
Fortunately, the datacenter network now is embracing new architectures, operational models, and technologies such as Ethernet fabrics that can help it better align with the application and service requirements of the next-generation datacenter.
The benefits of having the right architectural approach to automating the datacenter network are clear:
Increased operational efficiency
Improved business agility
Faster time to opportunity (and time to value)
Better resource utilization of infrastructure and staff
All these benefits can result in reduced operational expenditures. Nevertheless, despite industry trends that bolster the case for increased automation of the datacenter network, three key considerations should be carefully addressed:
First, enterprise IT departments should consider solutions that minimize deployment time through mechanisms such as zero-touch provisioning.
Second, enterprises should consider solutions that allow them to manage multiple switches or an enterprise fabric as one logical switch.
And third, the solution should provide alignment with other IT resources. The network should be virtual-machine-aware, for example, to ensure proper alignment between applications and relevant network services. When a new VM is created, it should be automatically detected by the fabric, and appropriate network policies should be applied.
In the final analysis, an adaptable and robust network fabric, combined with an automation strategy that expedites and simplifies network provisioning and configuration, provides a solid foundation for datacenter agility in the cloud era.
Brad Casemore is IDC’s Research Director, Datacenter Networks. He covers networking products and related technologies and platforms typically deployed in the datacenter.