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Virtual-to-cloud - and on to the 'super network'

10 May 2012

Data centre communications are about to change dramatically – first as organisations begin to migrate from physical to virtual, to location-independent cloud networks, then as advancing technology drives demand for super networks based on a 10G Ethernet backbone.

Initially enterprises will build virtualised, scalable, efficient and automated networks to tackle the challenge of scale. Their challenge lies in transitioning to a virtualised environment while leveraging existing network investments.

The migration to a virtualised infrastructure means bringing visibility of virtual machines (VMs) to the network level and solving the departmental divide between switches and server staffs that has developed with virtualisation. Organisations should seek to avoid approaches that strand their assets and tie them to proprietary architectures.

Already network vendors are developing strategies which will accommodate these needs. The more advanced of these comprise network infrastructure solutions that accommodate the evolving technology landscape in the data centre. Their infrastructure solutions allow users to migrate from a traditional or ‘physical’ infrastructure to a virtual one, without forcing a certain technology or operating methodology on the user.

This approach is based on a virtualised network that brings insight at the virtual port level to the network and can dynamically track and manage VMs and apply policies as VMs move across the network.

Such solutions can deliver a robust data centre infrastructure that is 40G and 100G ready and address future scalability requirements. The most versatile data centre network architecture is fortified with a high capacity, multiple terabit switching fabric in the core, 10G Ethernet top-of-rack (ToR) and end-of-row solutions, based upon a non-blocking intelligent (L2/L3) architecture that can handle and distribute massive computing loads.  

Such solutions can complement the scalability and high performance of Ethernet with software advances, opening the door to customised and automated management and configuration, powerful cross-platform stacking, and tools that promote energy efficient network operation.

Evolving network edge demands super 10G network

The need for speed is being accelerated by the ratification during 2009 of IEEE 802.11n, which has prompted organisations to begin serious evaluation of wireless LAN products capable of delivering increased throughput and speeds.  

Whether it is an office, warehouse, healthcare or hospitality environment, 802.11n products will vastly enhance network performance to meet strong demand stimulated by the rapid adoption of smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and Motorola Droid, and other classes of Internet-connected hand-held devices.

Add the enterprise-grade applications that support mobile computing devices, IP voice and video, and all this will soon require a ‘super network’ to handle the incredible strain on bandwidth that these devices and applications can create.

To meet this growing demand, 802.11n wireless LAN deployments will require network managers to transition to a Gigabit Ethernet network edge to handle the extra capacity.

Historically, most organisations have implemented edge networks that feature 10/100 connectivity. While appropriate to support overlay legacy 802.11a/b/g connectivity at 54Mbps, the advances up to 300Mbps that 802.11n brings will greatly enhance performance and user density.

As we move forward, wired and wireless networks will become more integrated to deliver a unified network that is predictable and fast, and features the highest integrity. To achieve this, enterprises will require a 10G backbone to connect the Gigabit edge switches necessary to support advanced mobility applications and services.

For the network backbone, organisations will continue to leverage critical fast failover technologies such as EAPS, harder security and strong QoS at 10G speeds for high performance and latency-sensitive applications.

This ‘super network’ with lightning fast wireless connectivity to cloud-based services will be the foundation for the next decade. Enterprises need to to ensure that 802.11n does not end-up slowing them down in the long run.  

James Owens is regional director, ANZ for Extreme Networks. This article originally appeared in the April issue of The Channel. 

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