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IT infrastructure automation: Building a bridge to SDN

Posted by admin July 30, 2015
IT infrastructure automation: Building a bridge to SDN

The need for IT infrastructure automation and DevOps tools for infrastructure automation across legacy, physical, virtual and cloud assets is increasingly apparent as organizations shift to a DevOps mindset, emulate the practices of hyperscale companies like Facebook and Google and build a bridge to SDN. Still, the underlying trends that are prompting this broad technical and cultural overhaul are sometimes overlooked. At this year's Interop conference in Las Vegas, IDC's Rohit Mehra did his best to highlight the stakes for implementing cloud orchestration and automation.

What's driving new attitudes toward infrastructure
Let's step back for a moment. Generally stated, infrastructure automation addresses the growing need to accelerate development and testing, shorten time to market for products and services and increase company agility. On a more specific and technical level, it helps data centers, converged infrastructure and networks better handle new end-user expectations, support diverse infrastructure teams and scale as traffic continues to grow. The need for cloud tools for infrastructure automation has never been more evident.

SDN will be more important as networks scale.SDN will be more important as networks scale.

During his Interop keynote, Mehra specifically pointed to networking's central role within the infrastructure of tomorrow, which is under pressure from all of the above trends. Here are a few numbers to chew on to get a sense of what could lie ahead for the network:

  • Ninety percent of new commercial applications are built for the cloud, and 4 in 5 companies are either already using or considering private or public cloud deployments.
  • SDN was only a $1 billion market in 2014, but by 2018 it could total $8 billion, according to IDC analyst Brad Casemore.
  • Also by 2018, there could be four times as much traffic passing over networks as there is today, with the average user having five IP-enabled devices.

The automation and hardware decoupling of SDN will be particularly important for making the network responsive to these changes. At last year's Interop, there was a running joke that SDN stood for "Still Does Nothing," but this year the attitude is very different, with Guido Apenzeller saying that the conversation for many organizations has gone from "if SDN" to "how SDN."

"The automation and decoupling of SDN will be particularly important in the years ahead."

Executives from vendors like Cisco, HP and Dell all delivered Interop keynotes about how to approach an initial SDN deployment. Beyond Interop, it is worth keeping an eye on what approach many would-be SDN customers end up taking toward network modification, i.e., whether they follow the often-discussed model of pairing a protocol like OpenFlow with white boxes or instead stick to the vendor hardware that they know. Platforms like Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure provide viable alternatives to the OpenFlow hype.

Speaking of which, vendors have had OpenFlow in their sights throughout this year. For example, HP's 5400R zl2 v3 series has been touted for its performance advantages over the Cisco Catalyst 4500 when running OpenFlow. In the run up to Interop, Freescale had also been working on a white box switch with a Linux-based OS, OpenFlow and OpenStack support and an API for OpenDaylight path control.

The takeaway: Expect vendor competition over SDN to intensify as organizations begin to think about how they will implement it across their infrastructure footprints. The underlying trends that have made further automation through SDN necessary seem unlikely to abate. QualiSystems CloudShell is playing a role in many IT organizations that are making a transition to SDN, NFV and cloud while adopting new, agile development and testing methodologies.

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