Networks are growing, and growing fast. As enterprises adopt IoT and mobile clients, VPN technologies, virtual machines (VMs), and massively distributed compute and storage, the number of devices—as well as the amount of data being transported over their networks—is rising at an explosive rate. It’s becoming apparent that traditional, manual ways of provisioning don’t scale. Something new needs to be used, and for that, we look toward hyperscalers; companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft, who’ve been dealing with huge networks almost since the very beginning.
The traditional approach to IT operations has been focused on one server or container at a time. Any attempt at management at scale frequently comes with being locked into a single vendor’s infrastructure and technologies. Unfortunately, today’s enterprises are finding that even the expensive, proprietary management solutions provided by the vendors who have long supported traditional IT practices simply cannot scale, especially when you consider the rapid growth of containerization and VMs that enterprises are now dealing with.
In this blog post, I’ll take a look at how an organization can use open, scalable network technologies—those first created or adopted by the aforementioned hyperscalers—to reduce growing pains. These issues are increasingly relevant as new technologies, from mobile devices to IoT, become an increasingly common part of everyday enterprise networks.
From hyperscale to enterprise
Many organizations have a traditional network architecture designed mostly to handle north-south traffic, with very little attention paid to east-west communication between workloads. But that architecture is becoming less and less popular as microservices are adopted, and applications become distributed. However, this presents a bit of a problem—namely, how does an organization scale up their network when traffic patterns within data centers are changing in ways that challenge the very design principles of today’s networks?
The answer is open networking. Open networking consists of standards, protocols and technologies that are open, extensible and not tied to a specific vendor. These technologies allow your network to scale dynamically, adding hardware, software and services to meet the specific needs of your organization. Open networking uses an open source-based network operating system that can be installed on a wide range of different switches, allowing organizations to choose the hardware that best suits their needs.
To see an excellent example of open networking and open scaling in action, take a look at the open networking giants: hyperscalers. These companies have had to deal with rapidly changing networks with brand new technologies being added every day. The networks of the hyperscalers are highly automated and make extensive use of APIs. Their infrastructure and applications are deeply integrated, enabling not only the rapid and efficient scaling of their network infrastructure, but of the applications supported by that infrastructure.
Companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are excellent examples of how an organization can use open source software and networking technologies to meet a diverse range of scalability and automation needs. Fortunately, the approaches they’ve used to achieve success scale down, as well as up, and can be applied to in an enterprise environment.
Scale requires automation
One of the key benefits of open networking is that standardized APIs make automating, scaling and integrating your network architecture with your applications easy, using any programming language you care to name. This—the ability for all your devices to talk using standard (often HTTP-based) APIs—is called “web-scale” architecture, where a disparate collection of devices and services can communicate using open standard APIs and formats.
Many organizations—both large and small—are adopting open networking and web-scale architecture. Together, these technologies can, pursuant to the organization’s requirements, create a self-healing, software-defined, fully open network, which adapts to changing conditions, and reduces total time at the console for system admins, and increases productivity across the board.
A modern management platform, such as Cumulus NetQ, is also a benefit here. NetQ builds on open networking’s strengths to provide a next-generation management solution that brings hyperscale management to the enterprise.
Traditional technologies, such as SNMP and the router/switch console of course still have their place. However, if an organization wants to scale to the next level of networking, they need to investigate migrating to open, scalable and secure networking as soon as possible.
According to Cumulus Networks and Dell EMC, adopting open networking technologies at web scale has shown to reduce an organization’s CapEx by one-third, when compared to single-vendor solutions, and reduce OpEx by 75% by optimizing the organization’s operator-to-switch ratio. Additionally, a time-to-production drop of 95% was observed in most cases, leading to massively increased operational efficiency. As organizations and networks grow, the impact of those percentages and ratios become more meaningful, resulting in both significant money and time being saved.
Open networking has trickled down into almost every pricing segment, allowing the smallest startup to afford an automated, scalable network that would’ve been unrealistic to consider even 10 years ago. The time is right for organizations of all sizes to start looking into when and how they can move to open networking; almost every business sector in the world is going to face a problem scaling their networks, and it’s better to get ahead of the problem than wait for it to become intractable.
Cumulus can help. Cumulus Linux is an open source-based open networking solution that supports a wide range of available open networking hardware. Cumulus Linux is highly automatable, and Cumulus NetQ can help manage even the most complex network architecture scale to meet the needs of your business.