The Network Matters: Simplification Will Accelerate Software-Defined Data Center Adoption

Organizations are looking for ways to scale-out their data center network to meet the increasing demands of the business. The digital enterprise, fueled by new applications, hyper-growth of the Cloud, and adoption of hybrid IT are all driving dramatic change. In order for organizations to fully realize the potential of technology, they are looking to modernize their network and leverage the Cloud for increased agility, speed and consistency. This means new approaches and capabilities are required. Ideally, all aspects of a data center would be virtualized and available as a service. We’ve already seen this happen with the compute and storage layers. But this has not really happened for the network. Until now.

The allure of the public cloud is the efficiency, elasticity and simplicity that the Cloud enables. It’s more flexible than the typical enterprise data center, and resources are readily available as-a-service. The harsh reality is that the “Cloud” is actually not less expensive than doing it yourself. In the end, the Cloud usually ends up costing more. In many cases, a lot more. What the business really wants is to have the agility and elasticity that the Cloud affords, while still being able to retain control and manage the enterprise as a unified environment.

Imagine being able to bring the simplicity, adaptability, and elasticity of the Cloud to the enterprise data center. This has been the promise of Software-Defined Networks (SDN). The Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) allows bringing the Cloud-like scale and operating model into the data center to create your own private Cloud. Sounds great, right?  But, why has this not been so easy to achieve?  Well, it’s complex.

Yes, SDN has been all the rage. It promises to bring new flexibility and much desired change to the network. Disaggregation meant opening up the hardware layer and providing the IT organization more choice. After all, years of legacy network architectures were hardware bound and tied to software from a single vendor.  Abstraction enabled configuration and operational flexibility. Automation centralized management to make it easier to provision and manage large-scale networks from a single vantage point. Programmability brought the benefits of orchestration for network capabilities and integrating control across platforms. With SDN, it seems we were well on our way to the utopia of the next generation network.

But the true benefits of SDN remained elusive. While SDN is all about change, and disruption to the status quo, it has come at a price. While many characteristics of SDN are net positive, one of the significant inhibitors to SDN adoption has been architectural complexity. To enable the desired common control, programmability and automation, many SDN solutions require centralized controllers and new protocols. The problem is that controllers increase complexity. They require wholesale changes to the existing network and limit the ability to deploy a single network across multiple locations. Controllers also increase latency, and inhibit network resilience. Fail-over times are slower because the controller, which works like an old-fashioned “supervisor” in a chassis switch, has to instruct connected switches what to do, and manages any and all cross-switch communications, provisioning and reconvergence.

Pluribus Networks has changed the way SDN operates and has radically simplified the architecture, and operational model. Its launch of the Adaptive Cloud Fabric™ will empower organizations to speed their transition to a Software-Defined Data Center with a simpler and non-disruptive architecture that makes it easier to deliver, manage and secure service delivery across clouds and devices. The Adaptive Cloud Fabric operates without a controller, and delivers a more dynamic, resilient and elastic network that adapts to change and a wide-range of deployment scenarios to streamline operations, improve efficiency and lower costs.

Built on the deployment-proven Netvisor® network virtualization software, the Adaptive Cloud Fabric delivers a simple approach to building a holistic distributed network architecture with all of the benefits of cloud-scale, elasticity and adaptability for the modern data center. With the Adaptive Cloud Fabric, multiple geographically distributed data centers can be interconnected with a seamless fabric that works over any WAN to optimize performance and resource availability. The result is improved resiliency and support for disaster recovery requirements without special protocols or reengineering. The dynamic, scale-out architecture delivers multi-terabit capacity with predictable performance and latency, and supports millions of concurrent connections, enabling organizations of any size to build a next-generation private or public cloud with ease.

Running on open networking switch hardware, Netvisor provides a best-in-class layer 2 and layer 3 networking foundation and a distributed fabric with intelligence. Netvisor virtualizes the switch hardware, similar to how VMware® virtualizes a bare metal server. This switch virtualization decouples network resources from the underlying hardware to create multiple network containers on a single device that can be dynamically allocated. A single switch can instantiate multiple network containers, each with their own virtualized router, to support granular east/west and north/south network segmentation, strict multi-tenant services and the integration of virtualized network services and functions.

The Adaptive Cloud Fabric is a peer-to-peer distributed fabric that clusters all switches into a unified operating domain, enabling them to operate and be managed as a single virtualized switch – regardless of their location. There is no controller. All switch-to-switch communications, configuration, policies, and state information is dynamically updated across the fabric. Consequently, member switches across the fabric deliver chassis-like resiliency with sub-second failover. The fabric has telemetry embedded into the network to eliminate the need for monitoring probes. This enables monitoring at the speed of the network to see every port, all traffic flows, and every transaction, regardless of link speeds.

The network matters – it sees all and knows everything.  As the network becomes more intelligent, it can provide dynamic insights into how the enterprise is running. This will enable knowledge of application, network and end-point service state to better understand how the users and services are consuming the infrastructure, and conversely how the infrastructure is supporting the users and services. This will enable the network to dynamically compare actual versus desired state and automate corrective actions such as security or traffic policy changes, reroute traffic, and link to other systems to implement dynamic changes to the infrastructure, redefining real-time service assurance.

The Adaptive Cloud Fabric will simplify SDN and enable organizations to bridge the operational models of DevOps and NetOps to overcome the growing skill gaps that exist in IT. It reduces architectural complexities and enables new services to be rolled-out quickly, and for changes to be implemented faster, and with greater confidence against configuration errors. It dramatically simplifies the operational model while enabling consistency across the network without compromise.

You can read more about the announcement here.


About the Author

Steve Shalita

Steve Shalita is Vice President, Marketing and Business development for Pluribus Networks