SDN and NFV are influencing the convergence of IT, data center and telecommunications. Not only do these technologies offer new opportunities on how data centers can manage their IT infrastructure, but as networks become more programmable, NFV and SDN also allow enterprise data centers to achieve greater agility, and give data center managers the flexibility and scalability to anticipate changing market demands and stay ahead of customer expectations.
A new approach
Gartner has defined software-defined networking SDN as "a new approach to designing, building and operating networks that focuses on delivering business agility while lowering capital and operational costs." In addition, the firm revealed that by 2017, 10% of customer appliances are going to be virtualized, up from 1% of where it is today. Plus, industry analysts are forecasting that more network traffic will be virtualized over the next five years.
Network functions virtualization (NFV) is a network architecture concept that leverages IT virtualization technologies to virtualize entire classes of network node functions (firewall, router, IDS, etc.) into building blocks that may be connected, or chained, to create communication services. The objective of NFV is to use both commodity computing and available storage solutions to reduce -- if not eliminate -- dependency and limitations associated with propriety hardware.
As enterprises are shifting from in-house data centers to colocation facilities, so are different elements of traditional IT infrastructure; from physical servers to virtualized and software-defined architectures and cloud-enabled services.
DCD Intelligence predicts that the growth of in-house hosted IT facilities is limited to around 1.29% CAGR between 2014 and 2020. For colocation, outsourcing and shared facilities space, growth is expected at 9% CAGR for the same period. The total data center space globally will rise from 36 million square meters to 46 million square meters, but only 56.8% of this will be in-house. This trend indicates a year-over-year decline of 2% to 2.5% in physical racks in-house, attributing the reduction to an increase in external and in-house deployment of virtualization technologies and cloud.
An insider's view
As a provider of enterprise software for data centers, specifically DCIM solutions, we are seeing SDN and NFV emerge, especially as customers build new data centers or consolidate existing infrastructures into alternative facilities. Also within large telco providers, there is great interest in implementing these technologies.
When looking at existing heterogeneous in-house data centers, many are not yet on SDN technologies. However, this is primarily because most data centers are still managed in silos, which means that each team is responsible for a different service as well as the respective IT infrastructure to support it. This poses complexity and challenges because of the gaps between disparate silos.
One team is typically responsible for the IT stack and another for managing the network. To implement SDN or NFV technologies, these organizational boundaries must be unified, in order to provide centralized access and control across all IT assets and resources.
As data centers expand (many experience sprawl) to keep pace with growing demands, the challenge lies in the technical deployment process itself. While concurrent implementation scenarios exist today -- one part of the data center is working on SDN while the other is operating on old technologies. This can lead to a difficult transition phase because data center managers need a clear and transparent view into their existing physical infrastructure and a direct link to virtualized assets and technology areas.
In order to automate services, maintain service quality and manage the capacities a data center needs for the transformation towards a virtualized infrastructure, it is essential to have all detailed data on the physical infrastructure available. If the physical infrastructure is well-known and well-managed, then SDN and NFV technologies will provide huge benefits to data centers and interconnected sites.
Both SDN and NFV can increase flexibility and agility for the delivery of services, shorten go-to-market rollouts, help automate many tasks and provide the right network capacities where needed. As a result, data centers will operate more efficiently and be able to launch an array of services.
— Oliver Lindner, senior consultant, Server Management, FNT Software, special to The New IP