Sofware-Defined Networking

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Kelly.Herrell
Posts: 16
Registered: ‎02-11-2013

The New Network Edge

In 2010, Goldman Sachs published an early, but solid, piece of analysis on how cloud computing was forcing networks into an era they called “Fat Core, Thin Edge.” The most salient points were:

  • Two-thirds of network spend is at the edge, where the volume is
  • As apps and data shift to centralized data centers, edge connectivity becomes less complex
  • As data centers benefit from economies of scale, edge networking must similarly demonstrate radically better cost-efficiency

Goldman was correct on how the physical edge was simplifying. However, what’s most impactful is how the virtual edge – the one inside the data center, where all the apps are going – becomes dominant in terms of network topology.

Simply put, the data center is the new network edge. The vast majority of virtual machine deployment is data center and cloud-bound – and we are still only on the cusp of the explosive growth in VMs. More than 50% of servers are now virtualized and every year those servers get more and faster cores. It’s a compute environment fueled with a rising octane, driving unprecedented application density per unit of compute.


This centralized app density is driving a rapid shift in network service placement. Before virtualization, apps at the physical edge were segmented and secured with routing, firewalls and VPNs. Now those same services must be enabled in the virtual and cloud data centers. The denser the population, the more crucial the rules of behavior are.


This New Network Edge also must be delivered at economies similar to those of the applications it services – an efficient virtualized model: low hardware cost, rapid deployment and agility in the face of change.


In other words, The New Network Edge is now software inside the servers that are populating the rapidly growing data centers. The physical edge is relegated to little more than a cloud modem. This is a massive transference of value away from traditional edge networking infrastructure and into the data center.


The use case for software networking is expressly simple, but powerful: The segmentation and security of application-dense environments.

Goldman Sachs was partially right: It is a Fat Core world. It’s the old edge that got thin; The New Network Edge simply moved to the center.

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