Prepare for the ‘reinvented’ network

What does 2015 hold for networking technology? Experts suggest that it will be a year in which elements of the network are reinvented, from the network room all the way out to the edge.

One of the most significant ongoing trends is that the network is being recast in software as convergence takes over, and software-based network solutions continue to capture mindshare in the datacentre said David Hughes, CEO of Silver Peak.

“Many IT engineers are moving aggressively to adopt software-based networking solutions and reaping the benefits of flexibility and cost efficiency,” he said.


Accompanying this move to software-defined networking is network function virtualisation, says Hughes. SDN decouples the data layer from the control layer, breaking them out of the router, which previously controlled them both.

“SDN has changed how we route and direct packets; NFV changes how we deliver services, such as DNS, load balancing and WAN optimization,” he continued.

NFV takes these and other functions such as network address translation and intrusion detection out of proprietary appliances and recasts them in software, which Hughes says makes them easier to manage. He expects more NFV implementations in the coming year, independent of SDN.

“There is no need for service providers to wait for SDN adoption in order to take advantage of NFV,” said Hughes. “Service providers are realizing they can start virtualizing network functions using software today and in 2015, we will see more NFV adoption, independent of SDN roll-outs.”

This convergence may happen beyond the network room, though. Hughes describes the Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) as an emerging concept that will see production deployments in 2015, and says that it will be necessary to support SDN in many cases.

“The challenge with SDN in particular is that most business processes must cross the conventional wide area network (WAN) and at that point that SDN breaks down,” he argues, suggesting that routing architectures and peering policies don’t support routing mission-critical applications any better than non-critical ones across a WAN.

”It’s precisely in addressing these and other challenges that SD-WANs become so critical,” he suggests.

Why would such granular control over applications at a wide-area level become such an issue now? SaaS plays a part, he believes, arguing that companies are looking for optimisation solutions that handle SaaS implementations across the board, rather than individual arrangements with particular SaaS service providers.

To complicate the picture, some experts believe that the network boundaries are also blurring between the Internet, cloud and corporate networks. They predict a convergence of branch routers, content distribution networks, and managed network and cloud services.

Graham Williams, chief operating officer of datacenter provider Cologix, says that what worked for content delivery networks over the last couple of decades will start to work for providers of cloud services. CDNs cached their services close to the delivery point, minimising the need to haul lots of traffic over expensive wide area networks.

“Now we are starting to see that manifest itself in cloud architectures as well,” Williams said, describing large data farms sitting in location-agnostic positions, near huge, cheap power sources. “The more popular applications then get housed and stored temporarily at the edge of the network,” he mused.

What will all of this mean to CIOs? As software-defined networking and network function virtualisation become more prevalent, it will give them greater control over their networks and more agility. And as wide area infrastructures evolve to deliver cloud-based SaaS content closer to the user and possibly with greater granularity of service, this could increase the level of interest in more mission-critical cloud-based services. However, there are other concerns facing heavily regulated companies there, including security and compliance issues. Performance isn’t the only benchmark.

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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