Virtualisation is a tried and true, mature technology used in almost all server environments today, giving substantial benefits in terms of increasing server utilisation, improving workload flexibility, and saving money – on rack space, power, cooling, and the server equipment itself. However, a virtualised datacentre is only as strong as its weakest link. While the computing components of the infrastructure are now easily optimised for virtualisation, it simply cannot be leveraged well if the network infrastructure is stuck in a legacy model of operation.

These days, the average network gets in the way of a completely successful virtualised server environment.

Here are some of the most basic needs for virtual infrastructure as it relates to the modern business, and how those translate to requirements for the infrastructure:

Business Need Infrastructure Requirement Traditional Networking
  • Dynamic application provisioning
  • Instant system activation
  • Hours / days to deploy
  • On-demand service levels
  • Variable resource availability
  • Fixed, hard-to-change resource
  • Seamless scale-up
  • Add HW resource virtually
  • Overprovision expensive devices
  • Multiple network workloads
  • Multi-purpose infrastructure
  • Specialised devices
  • Move & replicate infrastructure
  • Physical & geographic mobility
  • Rack-constrained

Modern compute and storage addresses these requirements easily; old-style network infrastructure simply cannot. We find that networking tends to be the ‘forgotten element’ of server deployments, with legacy network equipment and designs resulting in lower server performance and ultimately higher-than-expected costs.

Fortunately, these days virtualising network infrastructure is not only possible, but addresses all of the infrastructure requirements listed above! This group of technologies is called “software-based networking,” and is already well utilised by many of the largest cloud computing providers on the planet – with the technology just as applicable in any data centre environment.

There are a wide variety of ways to leverage software-based networking to achieve the requirements for a more successful virtualised environment. A few key opportunities follow.

 

Instant Firewalls

It’s common for firewalls to be deployed at various places to protect data – both within a data centre environment, and at the Internet edge. This can be for internal policy reasons, such as to protect HR databases or financial systems, or external compliance reasons, such as those required for organisations handling customer financial data.

Deploying systems in a virtualised environment compounds this firewall requirement. Not only must existing sensitive systems still be protected, but connections between virtualised applications must, in many cases, also be suitably protected.

In such an environment, using traditional firewalls is expensive, slow to deploy, and inherently inflexible in design. Traffic often has to traverse multiple points in the network to pass through a traditional firewall, in turn creating artificial bottlenecks. Conversely, software-based networking allows for firewalls to be instantly deployed on demand as virtual machines with no ongoing operating costs, and for these to be co-located with the virtualised applications they’re protecting – taking significant network traffic off the wires.

 

Disaster Recovery

It’s common for most businesses to replicate their operational infrastructure to another location, as a disaster recovery measure. In fact, this is an essential part of all businesses’ planning today. When all IT functions, including networking, are software-based, this is easy and inexpensive to achieve. However, with the use of traditional networking devices this replication is extremely costly – both in CapEx and opEx terms, both for the initial replication as well as for mirroring the ongoing changes that occur as a part of normal business.

With software-based networking, the total architecture can be replicated easily and quickly to another location.  Similarly, changes to policies and applications are easy to duplicate in the disaster recovery arena – guaranteeing that should disaster strike, all components of the IT systems are available as quickly as possible, allowing business to continue as normal.

 

Secure Connectivity

Often, applications and data from a branch office site need to be accessed across the Internet, requiring all user connections to be encrypted for security purposes. This in turn requires Virtual Private Network (VPN) infrastructure at all user locations, and near or in the virtual environment itself.

Software-based networking is an exceptionally clean solution for this requirement. Within the virtual environment, a new virtual VPN machine can be started in moments, using a small fraction of an existing server’s resources – rather than requiring more rack space, power, cooling, and an expensive network asset. The same software can be used at user locations as well, with rapid deployment and minimal expense, forming a secure connection between users and the infrastructure.

 

Give us a call today to discuss how we can help you save money, and build a network that doesn’t get in the way of your virtualised infrastructure.

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