Software-Defined Network Elements Slowly Come to IT
On the road toward software-defined everything, WAN virtualization could play an important part. SDN is useful for a lot of data center networking tasks, like switching. But SDN across existing IP networks doesn’t necessarily bring a lot of value, and many businesses wouldn’t be able to afford to invest in entirely new software-defined networks. SD-WAN, though, has emerged as a simpler way to virtualize and manage multiple networks. One SD-WAN challenge is that its edge placement means IT has to create forwarding rules. Using hosted virtual routers in addition to SD-WAN can help ease those challenges. The enterprise network will all be virtual eventually—once these pieces fall into place.
Also now mostly virtualized for modern IT teams are application delivery controllers (ADCs). A recent EMA study found that of 200 enterprise IT professionals working on active networking projects, 70% are using virtual ADCs. The research responses also indicate that most enterprises plan to use a combination of physical and virtual ADCs for layers 4-7 networking. Now that load balancing is widely deployed and available in open-source fashion, these ADCs offer cloud-friendly services, APIs and other plugins that can help IT manage traffic. Challenges around ADCs include licensing complexity and lack of compatibility with cloud systems.
Here’s an issue we hear about from our customers: They’ve moved applications to the cloud, only to find out that their networks can’t support those cloud apps. The network is an afterthought, not an integral part of the cloud plan. This story takes a look at the options when building a hybrid cloud network. IT teams can choose internet connections or dedicated links to cloud providers. That decision will involve both performance and cost considerations. The public cloud providers themselves also offer various ways for businesses to move data to the cloud, like private connections—or if you’re really feeling old-school, mailing data on devices to your provider. Of course, we recommend to our customers that they monitor the whole network path carefully both before and after a cloud deployment to avoid unhappy performance surprises.
And finally, a story of kumbaya for IT to aspire to: The network and applications teams working together for the best possible performance and user experience. There’s a lot of siloed history between these teams, which is changing now that applications and networks are so intra-dependent. Part of the history of these types of teams is that they’ve adopted different tools to help them see performance over the years. Now, though, they need to communicate and see the same data. That’ll be a change in tools for many companies (performance monitoring, anyone?) and will require cultural change too. We're sure that both will bring positive outcomes for IT.