How do software-defined networks enhance the value of converged infrastructures?

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1 Frequently Asked Questions: How do software-defined networks enhance the value of converged infrastructures? Converged infrastructure is about giving your organization lower costs and greater agility by integrating all of your compute resources into one entity. With a converged infrastructure platform, you can pool, share and allocate resources far more effectively than if they were to remain in traditional data center silos of storage, servers and networks. In building networks for converged infrastructure environments, network designers can enable substantial additional efficiencies through the use of software-defined networking (SDN). In fact, SDN can be seen as one aspect of a broader software-defined approach to the data center that will simplify deployments and result in far greater agility for the business. How can SDN enhance the value of your converged infrastructure? Here are some of the questions you may be asking: What are the basics of software-defined networks, and what is driving increased demand? In a software-defined network, the network control function is decoupled from the forwarding function. This enables network control to be directly programmable and allows the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services. As defined by the Open Network Foundation (ONF), SDN is: An emerging architecture that is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective and adaptable, making it ideal for the high-bandwidth, dynamic nature of today s applications. As high levels of server virtualization and cloud computing continue to proliferate, softwaredefined networks and data centers are becoming increasingly essential to successful deployments and the delivery of applications. According to one report, SDN could influence

2 30% to 40% of network spending over the next few years, reaching a total market of $35 billion by It s not just the simplified manageability driving the growth of SDN; it is also the impact that software-defined networks can have on network performance and agility. The growth of virtualization and cloud computing have changed the dynamics of how data travels in the data center, increasing the flow of server-to-server east-west traffic, versus the more traditional north-south flow of client-server computing. SDN supports and enables the next-generation fabric architectures and switches that are critical to delivering the performance requirements of highly virtualized and cloud environments, thereby increasing bandwidth, reducing latency and enhancing the availability and accuracy of applications across the entire enterprise. What are the approaches to SDN that will affect IT decisions on network products and design? The first thing to understand is that the evolution of data centers has already reached the point where data center and network designers should account for SDN in all critical purchase decisions today, making sure that their network switches, fabrics and controllers support it. This is particularly important in converged infrastructure environments, where the abstraction of network management functions will make it much simpler and more efficient to provision, scale, deploy and allocate network resources in concert with the provisioning of server and storage resources. There are three main approaches to implementing SDN. One originated in 2010, when the ONF introduced the OpenFlow standard. This standard is a secure communications protocol that enables remote programming of data plane functions in switches, separating the control plane from the data/forwarding plane. Many switch vendors are implementing support for this standard within their data plane architectures, while a few are building centralized control plane software. The second SDN approach is being driven by virtualization companies such as VMware and Microsoft, and is based on a hypervisor-based network virtualization model usually referred to as NVO (for network virtualization overlays). In this model, virtual switches allow an organization to run multiple virtual networks on a single physical network, whereby each virtual network has the characteristics of a physical network. NVO-integrated stacks that support SDN are available from leading virtualization platforms, including: VMware, through Network Virtualization (NSX) Microsoft, through Hyper-V Network Virtualization OpenStack, through network integration using Neutron 2 1 Free Download: SDN Market Size, April 2013, SDN Central

3 The third approach to SDN encompasses a programmable framework whereby individual switches retain their control plane functions yet through an application programming interface (API) to allow control of the switches local control plane functions. Because SDN is still an emerging technology, one of the most important considerations is to work with a vendor that supports all three of the NVO stacks. In addition, it is important to work with a vendor that supports open standards, such as OpenFlow. As noted by the ONF: Implementing SDN via an open standard enables extraordinary agility while reducing service development and operational costs, and frees network administrators to integrate best-ofbreed technology as it is developed. How does SDN fit together with converged infrastructure? SDN is a perfect complement for a converged infrastructure environment. Within a converged infrastructure, such as one enabled by Dell Active System Manager, IT s goals are to: automate a wide range of functions; abstract hardware from software, and create a single entity or solution from which IT can pool and share collective resources more effectively. Converged infrastructure allows you to simplify and centralize the management of those resources to achieve significant cost savings. SDN supports this type of approach by decoupling virtual networks from the underlying network hardware, so that network administrators can programmatically create, provision, scale, adapt and restore complex multi-tier networks, all in software. Software-defined networks create a single point of management for configuring logical networks across hypervisors and physical infrastructure, giving the IT organization holistic views of the virtual and physical topology. This improves operational efficiencies and can help reduce costs by optimizing network resources and closely monitoring/managing physical network resources throughout their lifecycles. What is Dell s strategy around SDN and convergence? Dell has demonstrated leadership in SDN by introducing a range of switches, fabrics and controllers that are already SDN-enabled. In addition, Dell has been an early supporter of the OpenFlow standard and is an inaugural member of the ONF. Dell solutions support three of the leading NVO stacks to enable easier customer deployments, as depicted in the following graphic: 3

4 Dell Networking Strategy for Multiple Stacks Provide automation using SDN to enable integrated stacks for easier customer deployment Cloud management software (vcloud LOB Suite Managers & VCAC) Network virtualization (NSX) Business continuity Hypervisor Usage trends, analysis (ESX and & VDS) reports to drive utilization Device secuirty, BYOD and mobility Any OS FTOS CLI for VDS NSX with S6000 Cloud Management Software (Openstack End Horizon) Users Partnership with Red Hat Network using Neutron Application availability Enhanced voice and Hypervisor video quality for better (Xen/KVM & OVS) user experience BYOD and mobility ODL based NVO with AFM (traditional) or AFC (SDN) Any OS Cloud Management Software Server and networking (System Center) managers San Diego with OMI Hyper-V Network Simplified deployment Virtualization of virtualized (HNV) environments Hypervisor Streamlined (Hyper-V managerment & virtual switch) Enhanced performance Modular Windows scale-out AFM OEM NVGRE with S6000 Dell Networking Dell Networking Dell Networking From a networking solutions perspective, Dell s commitment to SDN and open network platforms in converged infrastructure environments is already manifested in a range of solutions, including: Dell Active Fabric Controller, a purpose-build SDN networking platform designed to simplify data center operations, particularly for cloud and Everything-as-a-Service environments. Dell Active Fabric Controller is one of the first products on the market to leverage OpenFlow and advanced SDN features. It enables zero-touch deployment and operation, built-in discovery and optimization, plus network, endpoint and policy abstractions. Dell Active Fabric switches that support the three different SDN implementation options OpenFlow, NVO and API-based control over the switch s local control plane functions. Dell Networking S Series S4810 and S6000 top-of-the-rack switches, which support Dell Networking s Open Automation Framework, including the open source Open Network Install Environment. ONIE is an initiative that gives customers flexibility to choose which network operating system works best for their business. An example of how Dell s approach benefits customers in SDN environments can be seen in the close integration of the Dell S6000 switch with VMware NSX. The S6000 Data Center Switch Gateway in NSX environments provides two-way integration with NSX, supporting 4

5 controller and programmatic deployments, while enabling physical workloads to connect to virtual networks. This means network administrators can access and make changes in virtual switching, with traditional compute and virtualization managers gaining access to physical switching. Dell networking products support SDN and are built on open standards, allowing for maximum interoperability. This approach enables organizations to augment their existing infrastructure without disruption and provides for more choices and flexibility with no fear of vendor lock-in. Dell s approach enables: Best-of-breed networking for workloads, applications and other networking needs, including orchestration, automation and monitoring. A consistent view across all data center resources with a common deployment and operational model through a converged infrastructure. Rapid standards-based innovation and availability of abundant open source data center solutions. Conclusion Virtualization and cloud computing are changing the dynamics of IT management and deployment in networks, as well as in the overall data center. In order to address new challenges for speed, bandwidth, resilience, simplified manageability and agility, the designers of networks and data centers must take new approaches and adopt new technologies. Both SDN and converged infrastructure address today s challenges by abstracting hardware from software and automating many of the manual tasks that have typically bogged down IT departments. Individually and together, SDN and converged infrastructure can simplify deployments, reduce management overhead, lower total cost of ownership and support increased business agility. In choosing network solutions today that support the ongoing opportunities enabled by converged infrastructures, IT decision makers should make sure that they are working with vendors that support SDN in their switches, fabrics and controllers. Here s how Dell can help. 5

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