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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure Management’

During last week’s VMworld event, traffic visibility leader Gigamon debuted what it is calling “Visibility as a Service,” or VaaS. Network visibility was a big theme at VMworld this year as VMware launched its NSX network virtualization product.

During his keynote, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger stated that the network is the next IT domain to be impacted by virtualization and, in fact, it’s the limitations of the network that hold organizations back from being able to migrate to a software defined data center (SDDC) or IT-as-a-service.

This sounds great during a keynote, but, practically speaking, virtualizing the network has its risks and complications. I’ve heard many people use the benefits of server virtualization to describe how the network can be transformed and what the impact will be. While I don’t fully agree with this analogy, I do believe that some of the risks are similar. While many companies enjoy the fruits of virtualization today, remember that this technology went through some significant growing pains to get to this point.

It’s the end of August, which means “Tis the season.” What season is that? It’s now the end of the summer, which means back to school for our kids. It’s also NFL preseason, so all of us going through football withdrawal are close to getting some real football soon – time for Tebow mania, the football equivalent of SDNs. But, for those of us in tech, the end of August means VMworld time. For me, it means my email inbox is full of messages from PR vendors wanting me to “stop by the booth” and check out the latest and greatest.

This week, Arista and ExtraHop got out in front of the impending noise and announced a strategic partnership between to deliver an integrated solution called the ExtraHop-Arista Persistent Monitoring Architecture. Despite the totally unimaginative name, the product should be compelling to highly virtualized organizations or those considering a move to a software defined data center – the obvious sweet spot for VMworld.

Let’s roll back the clock 20 years and remember what was happening. Mark Zuckerberg was nine years old and learning to code on an Atari computer. Incidentally, I was a big Atari buff, but didn’t monetize it quite like the future Facebook founder. Whitney Houston held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard music charts with “I will always love you,” and Schindler’s List won the Oscar for best picture.

In tech, Cisco dropped a little under $100 million to acquire Crescendo Communications, which gave Cisco its Catalyst 5000 switching line as well as executives Luca Cafiero, Prem Jain, Mario Mazzola, Randy Pond and Jayshree Ullal. Also in 1993, Cisco introduced its Cisco Certified Internetworking Engineer (CCIE) certification to the world to create a high-level, elite certification for networking professionals. In many ways, it was the acquisition of Crescendo that transformed Cisco from a niche router company into a broad enterprise networking vendor. However, it was the creation of the certification program, and most notably the CCIE, that created the dominant network vendor that we know today.

It’s hard to look at Network World or any other tech site without seeing a bunch of articles on software defined networks. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen almost every network vendor, large and small, lay out its vision for SDNs and then back it up with new products to support the vision. One of the vendors that has been absent from the SDN tournament, though, is Huawei – that is, until this week.

Earlier this week, the giant Chinese equipment manufacturer threw its hat into the SDN game with a new switch series, the S12700 Agile Switch, specifically designed for migrating to an SDN. There are two products currently in the Agile Switch line – a big one (S12708) and a bigger one (S12712). From my briefing with Huawei, it appears that these products will be focused on implementing SDNs across the campus network rather than the data center.

Earlier this month, F5 announced its ScaleN architecture designed to make it easier for companies to deploy a software defined network and extend virtual networks to the cloud. ScaleN can be thought of as a unified set of virtual and physical infrastructure that has been configured to optimize SDN environments. ScaleN also provides a new feature called iCall, which is an extension of its popular iRules scripting language and gives F5 ADCs the capability of dynamically reconfiguring based on the real-time status of the ADC infrastructure. The iCall technology allows for applications or networks to interface with the ADCs to trigger the reconfiguration.

Looking at this functionality, it’s easy to see that there’s significant overlap with traditional SDN controllers. One of the value propositions of SDNs is that the controllers offer a set of northbound application programming interfaces (APIs) that give applications more control of the network. F5’s iRules has given customers the ability to create custom features to handle network and application events. But iCall brings automation to F5 infrastructure, removing the need for manual intervention. It would seem that much of the value of the SDN controller is being wrapped into the ADC, and why not? The application delivery infrastructure already sits between the network and application tiers, similarly to how many of the SDN controller vendors position their products.

It seems that data centers have been in continual transition now for the past 15 years. In that time, the industry has seen the rise of server virtualization, the growth of on-demand computing, the transition to network fabrics and the introduction of software defined networks. The latest wave is the movement to converged infrastructure, and Extreme Networks is the latest network vendor to ride this wave by partnering with EMC and Lenovo.

The need for converged infrastructure is certainly there. The concept is to bring servers, network and storage together to create a data center where the IT elements become fluid, orchestrated resources capable of ushering in the cloud era. This is why almost every data center vendor, network, storage or server has released or is part of a converged infrastructure solution. These solutions are pre-integrated, pre-tested and pre-configured and can give customers the confidence that the converged solution will actually provide the functionality require to move into the cloud era. This is why almost every data center vendor today, be it network, storage or server, is part of or owns its own converged “stack.”

If you remember the old Austin Powers movies, Mini-Me was a full replica of Dr. Evil in every way. Just as evil, just as cunning, and just as powerful. Today, Riverbed announced a “mini-me” version of its Stingray application delivery controller (ADC). Stingray came into Riverbed through the acquisition of Zeus so, in a way, Riverbed’s latest product is Mini-Zeus.

In the Austin Powers movies, Mini-Me really didn’t seem to have much of a purpose other than to laugh evilly and scream once in a while. That certainly isn’t the case with the mini-ADC, or Stingray Services Controller, as the product opens up new markets for ADCs.

Historically, hardware-based ADCs have been deployed on a “per-application” basis. Rolling out a new application? Buy a new ADC. Migrating to a new hardware platform? Buy a new ADC. Customers would sometimes repurpose older hardware, but given how fast hardware evolves, this was more the exception than the norm. Lately, the hardware platforms have evolved to where a single ADC could be shared and support multiple applications, but this still doesn’t give a true one-to-one ratio of ADCs per application.



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