What IDC calls "the 3rd Platform" — the latest evolutionary stage of IT built on cloud, mobile, social, and data analytics — has unleashed unprecedented dynamism and innovation in the datacenter. However, in the process the 3rd Platform is placing new demands on network infrastructure.
Indeed, the technology pillars of the 3rd Platform have challenged enterprise IT departments to transform themselves from custodians of disparate technologies into agile, cost-effective service organizations that can satisfy real-time business expectations and requirements.
Toward that end, enterprise IT has embraced server virtualization and cloud computing for these technologies' capacity to improve IT agility through inherent automation and efficiency. The underlying datacenter network infrastructure must adapt. Virtual machines (VMs) and cloud services, for example, can be spun up in mere minutes to support new application workloads, but configuring the network to support new workloads requires significant time and effort, impeding the agile delivery of services.
In response, the IT industry is looking at networking in new ways, and as a result, new datacenter network architectures and technologies, including Ethernet fabrics, software-defined networking (SDN), and network virtualization, have emerged. While some in the industry are starting to refer to this new approach to networking as "the New IP," a recent paper from IDC, "The New IP: Building the Foundation of Datacenter Network Automation," considers how a datacenter network fabric can provide a foundation for the automated and programmatic provisioning, configuration, and ongoing management of network-based services in the era of the 3rd Platform (see Figure 1).
3rd Platform Forms Foundation for Business Transformation
Source: IDC, 2015
Datacenter Automation: Key to Leveraging the 3rd Platform
IDC research consistently finds that the shift to private and public cloud causes many enterprises to view automation as a key element of success, both as an enabler and as a means of achieving improved business processes and considerable cost savings in operational expenditures. IDC also has found that cloud-oriented enterprises are working to better align their network infrastructure with business demands, new application workloads, and changing traffic patterns within datacenters.
Datacenter automation can deliver numerous benefits, including increased operational efficiency, improved business agility, faster time to opportunity and time to value, and lower operational expenditures. Various IT constituencies — application, compute, virtualization, storage, and cloud architects — have invested in automation tools and technologies to achieve those results. Perhaps belatedly, networking professionals are joining their counterparts in reaping the value that automation can bestow.
As enterprises strive for enhanced business agility and the ability to roll out new applications in real time, the manual, labor-intensive nature of legacy network operations has become a well-recognized impediment, delaying the deployment of new services by days or weeks. Additionally, as traffic patterns in the datacenter shift — with the north-south traffic emblematic of client/server applications increasingly supplanted by the east-west (server-to-server) traffic associated with new application architectures and virtualization — the limitations of legacy network architectures have been exposed, revealed as inefficient and difficult to scale in the context of the 3rd Platform.
These factors have led to the emergence of a new network architecture — Ethernet fabric — designed specifically to support the automation, efficiency, and agility requirements of the 3rd Platform.
Learn more about how to build the foundation of datacenter network automation by reading IDC’s new report – click here to access.