With all the attention being paid to the growing urgency of enterprise data center transformation driven by virtualization, all things related to the cloud and accommodation of mobility, the criticality of ensuring the networking environment for those data centers is also being transformed, and can be easily managed to enable the full potential of those data centers can sometimes take a back seat.
The reality is that the network should not and cannot be a secondary consideration. Indeed, this is why the use of software defined networks (SDN), is fast becoming center stage as enterprise IT professionals consider the best steps for optimizing their evolving data center-centric “E”vironments.
With all of this in mind, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) (ALU) has unveiled its SDN strategy and the company’s plans for introducing new SDN and related technologies to meet the dynamic needs of enterprises as they transform their data centers.
It is an illuminating way to think about where we are, where we are heading and a path to get there.
The role of SDNs
For those of us of a certain age, we remember the acronym SDN (used in the same context) as applying to providing enterprises greater control over the management of their TDM voice networks. Think of the new SDNs as that concept on steroids and much more.
The new SDNs give enterprises the ability to program networks and control the traffic flow, inspection and modification of applications on them. In fact, Alcatel-Lucent points out building greater programmability, application awareness and end-to-end visibility into its Application Fluent Network that moves beyond offering basic awareness of the applications running on it, to a network that can make automatic real-time adjustments.
They are focused on using SDN to extend the entire enterprise network giving mid-sized and large enterprises highly automated and simple to use solutions that are scalable and compatible with existing networks. In short, enhancing the user experience, making IT asset managers’ lives easier in the process and allowing for a reasoned migration path instead of a future shock forklift.
Validation of the approach
Mark Fabbi, vice president, Distinguished Analyst, Gartner (News - Alert), said, “The focus for early SDN related use cases has been primarily on automation to remove the need for the human middleware required for network reconfiguration related to adds, moves and changes of virtual machine deployments. However, greater benefits will appear as new SDN applications focused on end-user experience and operational improvements deliver on the promise of the application fluent corporate network.”
As part of the unveiling of its strategy, Alcatel-Lucent noted that Belgium-based media solutions company, CandIT Media, is the first vendor to validate Alcatel-Lucent’s application fluent approach to enterprise scale SDN. Luc Andries, CTO at CandIT Media, said, “The high volumes of media traffic we deal with have a bursty nature that makes Ethernet switches suboptimal for their transport. By using off-the-shelf hardware and Alcatel-Lucent’s OminSwitch 6900, we were able to achieve and significantly improve Quality of Service by optimally tuning the transfer of media content, which resulted in a much higher utilization of physical components.”
Given the critical role of virtualization in the entire transformation process, central to the Alcatel-Lucent SDN strategy for enterprises is the extensibility of the approach based on VMware certification. To that end, ALU’s OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager is now classified as VMware Ready™. The OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager provides real-time and historical visibility of the enterprise data center network and the location of virtual components within the network.
This visibility of both the network and virtual applications coupled with the ability to provision and manage resources, enables the network to automatically make adjustments in response to changes in virtualized workloads within and between data centers.
ALU is touting its Application Fluent Network and its enterprise SDN enhancements which are built on the aforementioned OmniSwitch platform. The Applications Fluent Network detects virtualized applications and applies a profile-driven policy to enable a network to automatically adjust to virtualized traffic, such as virtual desktops, in order to meet service quality demands.
ALU notes that, “The solution can combine individual user policies, the type of device and applications being used, with the knowledge of the entire network to dynamically adjust network access priority and bandwidth allocation, ensuring required service levels are met.”
Enhancements to the Application Fluent Network during the first half of 2013 include:
- Increased programmability through a set of RESTful interfaces that enable applications, external controllers and orchestration platforms such as OpenStack and CloudStack to talk with Alcatel-Lucent’s OmniSwitch for greater orchestration and optimization of application delivery.
- Greater network recognition of applications through application profiling, and new application performance analysis of virtual machine connectivity to understand and react to network conditions on applications in real-time.
- Enhanced global control view through the addition of Plug-N-Play capabilities that allow each device in the network to be identified and brought into service automatically for improved decision making at the network node level.
It should be noted that SDNs really are a new concept for making life easier in enterprise data centers, and while there is seemingly a lot of information about them, as with anything new there is also a lot of hype and misperceptions that need to be waded through. In fact, I highly recommend a recent webinar
I moderated, SDN: Let’s Cut the Hype, What is the Reality, as a good resource for getting a great handle on the subject.
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Edited by Braden Becker