Future-proofing the data centre

It is essential that businesses ensure their data centres are ready for the future

Tags: Brocade (www.brocade.com)Cloud computing
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Future-proofing the data centre Curt Beckmann, EMEA Chief Technology Architect, Brocade
By  Curt Beckmann Published  January 21, 2015

Virtual infrastructure
On top of the physical infrastructure will be a virtual, or logical, layer. This is well-established in the server domain with hypervisor technology. The same concepts are now being applied to both storage and IP networks, with technologies such as overlay networks enabled through a variety of tunnelling techniques. These allow the provisioning of IPv6 services over existing IPv4 or multi-protocol network infrastructures.

In the future we will see network services virtualised, as a result of the introduction of virtual switches and routers. NFV (network function virtualisation) represents an industry movement towards software or VM-based form factors for common data centre services. Customers want to realise the cost and flexibility advantages of software rather than continuing to deploy specialised, purpose-built devices for services such as application delivery controllers.

This is especially the case in cloud architectures where these services want to be commissioned and decommissioned with mouse clicks rather than physical hardware installations and moves. We are already seeing a shift towards open, more flexible, efficient, highly programmable and elastic network infrastructure solutions with key initiatives such as OpenStack and the Open Daylight Project making a big impact.

Frameworks for orchestration
Lastly, it's essential that the entire data centre environment be managed by orchestration frameworks that allow for the rapid and end-to-end provisioning of virtual data centres. OpenStack, for example, allows customers to deploy network capacity and services in their cloud-based data centres far quicker than with legacy network architectures and provisioning tools.

In the years to come, technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) look set to radically transform the data centre. SDN refers to the separation of the part of the network that is responsible for routing and directing traffic (known as the control plane) from the part that carries the traffic itself (known as the data plane). The goal is to allow organisations to respond rapidly to changing business requirements. By simplifying how network resources are deployed and managed, SDN gives businesses far greater control of their data and applications and makes network management simpler and faster.

SDN is still in its infancy but its potential is vast; IDC has predicted it will be a $3.7 billion market by 2016. By making networks smarter and simpler to manage, it will facilitate innovation throughout the enterprise, helping businesses to develop and deploy new applications and respond to changing market forces faster than ever.

In order to adequately prepare for the data centre of the future and take advantage of SDN and other emerging technologies in the years to come, businesses need to combine the most valuable aspects of the physical and virtual layers. Adopting the steps outlined above will give organisations the ability to flexibly deploy data centre capacity - compute, networking, storage and services - in real-time, whenever and wherever they need it, delivering much improved ROI and helping businesses to turn their data centre into a real competitive advantage.

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