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Virtually networked

01 May 2009

In today’s economic climate, CIOs and IT departments are being tasked with delivering the same or increased business outcomes with less funding. Some are looking at outsourcing as a means of achieving lower costs through economies of scale, while others are continuing to keep IT in-house, but are looking for more costeffective means of supporting their business. In either case, virtualisation is at the centre of many strategies being adopted.

In recent years, deployment of virtualisation in enterprise IT environments has focused on storage and servers. Both are well established with proven success in making more effective use of investments in server and storage hardware, reducing power usage and saving space in crowded data centres – all with signifi cant ‘green’ implications.

Virtualisation of networking and security is the next frontier and provides big benefi ts to customers and opportunities for partners. Scenarios that bring this to the fore include:

? Large corporate environments where multiple business units or companies within a group want to operate their own networks. This is not uncommon in large corporate groups or where multiple company acquisitions have been made but IT infrastructure hasn’t been fully merged.

? Government departments, especially where these are co-located and have their own applications and network requirements but still want the benefits of sharing infrastructure.

? Data centres where servers are hosting applications accessible from multiple separate organisations.

In all of these scenarios, virtualisation of networking and security provide the benefits of investing in and operating a single infrastructure, while still retaining the benefits of network separation and distinct SLAs that meet different business requirements.

Data centres are one environment where virtualisation is being extended into the network and security infrastructure, but another is over wide area networks (WANs). Over WANs virtualisation allows business units or departments to share infrastructure and bandwidth, while still supporting the minimum assured performance levels required and funded by each.

The resulting virtualisation takes different forms:

? The routing plane: The ability to run multiple virtual private networks to maintain network separation, and integrated QoS to enable each business unit or department to have their own bandwidth and SLAs.

? The security plane: The ability to have multiple instances of firewalls and remote access capabilities, to implement the different networks and security policies used by each business unit or department.

? The switching layer: The ability to link multiple switching devices located around a data centre or campus, and operate these as if they were a single device.

While virtualisation is usually considered as a means to reducing cost, the ability to scale is something that often trips organisations up. It is critical to maintain performance when multiple instances are confi gured, and to have sufficient scale to support the number of business units or departments that will use it over the life of the investment. It is also still important to look for solutions that deliver real cost benefi ts in the operations environment – while hardware is purchased once, the benefi ts from even a modest operational improvement will quickly mount up.

For those managing outsourced environments, it’s critical to have a relatively low incremental cost to support each additional customer. The cost of operating outsourced environments is also incurred on an ongoing basis, so organisations operating large environments need to take advantage of any opportunity to reduce operational costs.

In evaluating virtualised solutions, organisations also need to take care. While virtualisation is helping many organisations to realise their economic goals in the current environment, virtualised systems also result in signifi cantly increased reliance on availability. The uptime and maintainability of solutions needs to be well proven. In today’s economic climate, it’s also important to be investing in technology that is underwritten by an organisation financially able to support an ongoing development program that will enable solutions to continue to evolve to meet changing requirements.

Ian Quinn is the New Zealand Country Manager for Juniper Networks and is responsible for leading New Zealand’s eight-member team across both the enterprise and service provider markets. He has held various roles at Juniper since 2000.Phone+64 4 470