Networking needs a new paradigm in SDN: Gartner

  • Networking technology today lags server virtualization advancements; SDN touted as the answer
  • Customers enquiring about the technology; some are already evaluating its merits

Networking needs a new paradigm in SDN: GartnerENTERPRISES today are increasingly more driven by on-demand data, much of which is unstructured in nature, that is to say, not neatly classified into rows and columns. These organizations are also faced with a variety of data sets – not just words and pictures, but also video and social media feeds.
 
These changes are forcing enterprises and service providers to up their game in the data center by providing the necessary solutions and technology to meet these demands, but they are struggling to do so in today’s environment, noted an industry analyst.
 
Bjarne Munch, principal research analyst for Gartner, said the network today is designed based on an old paradigm of the server serving information out into the wide area network.
 
Munch (pic) said in today’s environment, a server-client computing model is no longer as applicable because more enterprises and service providers have adopted virtualization in their data center environment.
 
“Our research shows that by 2016, 82% of server workloads will be running in virtual environments,” he told the media on the sidelines of an HP Malaysia Networking Conference last week.
 
“And Asia Pacific is expected grow the fastest, with a 57.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for virtual server operating system instances.”
 
Munch noted that the data center today is moving away from the “one server hosting one application server” topology to one where applications are being served via several virtual machines (VMs).
 
Noting that traffic within today’s data center no longer goes “north-south” between client and servers but also “east-west” between VMs, Munch said that the data flow in today’s current hierarchical networks create congestion, latency and inefficient use of the network.
 
“The conclusion is that we don’t really have the technology today to deal with the data flow in the data center,” he explained. “We don’t have the equipment or the solutions and what needs to change is the architecture to deal with the type of network traffic in [today’s] data center.”
 
Compounding this challenge, Munch said is the fact that the technology within the networking layer of the data center has essentially not caught up with the progress made at the server layer.
 
“The data center [at the server plane] has good tools that can automate processes, resulting in the ability to almost provision and decommission everything from new loads to new services with just a click of a button.
 
“[But] we can’t do that in the network [plane] because the network is still based on low-level commands that take hours, days, maybe weeks, to configure within the switch,” he explained. “Server technology is somewhat like that before virtualization came along, and this is where software-defined networks (SDNs) can make a different to the networking [plane].
 
Still new on the block
 
Networking needs a new paradigm in SDN: GartnerSDN is being touted as enabling the control plane from individual devices move to a central controller, thereby enabling network abstraction, where traffic is managed based on best path matching application needs instead of depending on manual configuration.
 
But while the concept of SDN makes perfect sense to networking engineers, SDN is still a very nascent technology.
 
In an interview last year with Digital News Asia, Roy Illsley, principal analyst with Ovum, noted that the basic advantage of SDN is the reduced cost in the administration of the network and increased speed and flexibility of its implementation.
 
But SDN has not even made it into the early adopter stage yet and while the technology in theory exists, more work on standards and communications is needed, he warned.
 
“[However], the big disadvantage currently [of SDN] is the lack of open standards and the fact that there are no clear definitions of exactly how SDNs are implemented,” he said. “This, plus the fact that while physical switches and routers have been proven to operate at volume, the same cannot be said for an SDN yet.”
 
On whether he concurred with the Ovum analyst, Gartner’s Munch acknowledged that the technology is still in its early phases, but was quick to add that the clients Gartner serves are beginning to ask if SDN makes sense or whether it’s just hype.
 
“Clients are beginning to evaluate if it makes sense to embrace SDN while some are starting pilot projects,” he claimed.
 
That said, Munch conceded that a lot of these companies evaluating SDN are based more in advanced markets in the United States, Europe and Australia, rather than in Asia Pacific.
 
Still the Gartner analyst was adamant that by 2016, more than 10% of enterprises will use SDN to manage their physical network infrastructure, evolving from embryonic use in 2012.
 
“We expect most early production deployments will be by verticals like education, financial and media,” he said.
 
HP’s new SDN-based solution
 
In tandem with the conference, HP Malaysia announced a new unified solution that it claims will deliver simple scalable and secure networking to companies wanting to support the bring your own device (BYOD) trend.
 
The new solution enables organizations to take advantage of HP’s FlexNetwork architecture, and harnesses the power of SDN technology, the company said in a statement.
 
Raymond Ooi, country manager for networking, HP Malaysia, noted that companies today struggle to deploy BYOD solutions within a complex legacy infrastructure that spans separate networks and management applications.
 
“HP’s complete unified BYOD solution is the first to solve this issue,” he claimed.
 
Ooi said that with HP’s SDN technology, organizations could simplify BYOD management and operations while reducing costs, scale the network to support BYOD for cloud environments, and secure the network for BYOD across main, campus and branch offices.
 
For more information, go to HP networking BYOD solutions.

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