Virtualization Can Mean Less is More

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rahul Neel Mani


Modern networking and visualization technologies are an opportunity to implement the philosophy that 'less is better,' ensuring a closer-knit functioning of networks and data centers, says Greg Bunt, an Enterprise Architect at Juniper Networks, in an interview with Nipun Sahrawat.

What’s the state of networks and data centers today?

The modern data center is really just an oversized server room – an oversized workgroup computing facility. If you look at when we first built a network, it was because we had a set of computers and then we had a server and then more PCs hence more ports and then it grew out. When we did that, we built this three-tiered architecture, with mostly expensive equipment. The modern data center is just  a very large version of it.

Now one of the things that's more unique to India is the outsourcing industry. When you provide outsourcing, you use low cost inputs, so if you start bringing complex technology into a data center you've got a problem.

If I were managing three boxes it was easy, one breaks, a red light blinks, I'll change it, but if we're using virtualisation, educated and trained management is required because you don't know where the malfunctioning component is –  Just that it's out there, so automation is an important area of focus for us.

The challenge is, 'How can we make it such that inputs are low from the costing perspective, at the same time you get benefits of these newer and more exciting technologies.' Otherwise what happens if you bring complexity to an outsourcer such as Wipro, for instance, is that their costs will go up. They become less economical and customers will outsource elsewhere.

For us it's a balance. We're not going to wake up one day and everything will be virtualized or have less layers in a data center, but we have to start.

Customers are not only driving costs out of the server part of data centers, but the system as a whole and automation helps, reducing the number of layers helps, and that is really Juniper's value proposition.

How is data center architecture evolving in the context of virtualization?

Data centers are designed for 'North-South' traffic, whereas virtualization starts breaking them down and increases both speed and 'East-West' traffic. Juniper's view is that less is better. Maybe we need less layers. If at the access layer if A has to talk to B, rather than going up, how do I join these devices together.

With very high-speed, say almost 128 Gbps, when the devices want to talk, I have a much faster part. On the contrary, economics means I don't have to build  a whole layer for that effect. I cut the middle layer out, I improve performance and that is a stepping stone to virtualization.

That is largely the premise of the 3-2-1 architecture at Juniper. You want to reduce layers. You ultimately want a singular device but due to mid-level redundancy, you may have two of the level one layer as opposed one of the level two layer.

What new routers and switching technologies are being used in modern networks?

The virtual chassis VCF, consists of fabric, which is essentially a high-speed path. It enables us to join up to ten devices together, which means I can connect about 480 high-speed wired Gigabit ports – good enough for ninety percent of India, Asia and global level customers. That virtual fabric helps you increase speed.

Say you have three applications that if running on the same machine in a virtual environment may share compute resources, but can communicate with each other. When they are in different regions they have separate CPUs, which is a benefit but now you need the applications to talk to each other over the network.

That is why Virtual Chassis is so important. If I have a high-speed connection, this allows the applications to communicate with  each other as if if they are in the same machine. Also you then need to be able to bring in other services.

For example we have JunoSpace, an application that allows a network to respond in accordance to a change in a server: security has to move, the firewall has to move, quality of service has to move, so this is the intermediary platform. Say VMware talks to JunoSpace, which talks to the application.

In a public-cloud-private-cloud set up, this talks to your developer in the private cloud. This may also talk to  a public cloud resource posted by say Wipro or IBM.

What knowledge should network administrators have to sail through the age of cloud computing?

Many new administrators feel they are ceding control to servers. They're not. They don't know about networking just as a network administrator may not know enough about servers. There is  a very distinct role here for both teams to play and a system that orchestrates both network and server is important. That's why we're talking about JunoSpace as a platform.

The end customer never calls the system administrator saying that a switch is broken or the server person and say a certain CPU is running slow. They ring up and say that the application is slow.

Network and server administrators must understand that this is not a land grab for roles and jobs. This is an opportunity for a networking person to learn more about visualization, newer technologies such as VPLS and MPLS and how you can get a tighter working relationship with the server and the application.

Cross-posted from CTO Forum 

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