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March 25, 2015

The Software-Defined Data Center and Network Virtualization

Martin Casado, SVP & GM of VMware's network and security business unit, argues that the debate over software-defined networks is over.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

An introduction to Network Virtualization
There’s little doubting that Enterprise data centers are already realising the tremendous benefits of server and storage virtualization solutions to consolidate and repurpose infrastructure resources, reduce operational complexity and dynamically align and scale their application infrastructure in response to business priorities.

These server and storage virtualization solutions have dramatically transformed the data center by delivering significant operational savings through automation, capital savings through consolidation and hardware independence, and greater agility through on-demand and self-service approaches to provisioning. As significant as these gains have been, however, much of the potential for these solutions remains untapped. More to the point, these businesses are being held back, by an antiquated network operational.

The data center network has not kept pace and remains rigid, complex, proprietary and closed to innovation – a barrier to realising the full potential of virtualization and the software defined data center (SDDC). Networking and network services have been stuck in the status quo and are out-of-step with server and storage solutions that can be quickly provisioned but are constrained by networking services that still require manual provisioning and are anchored to vendor specific hardware and topology. This directly impacts application deployment time because applications need both compute and networking resources.

The answer for most organisations is to deploy a non-disruptive disruptive technology that acts as a vital component in bringing customers to the SDDC and the hybrid IT data center. In essence, it helps to bring the operational model of a virtual machine to customer’s data center network, allowing them to transform the economics of network and security operations.




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Schuberg Philis – Improving customer service and increasing business agility
It’s an approach more and more organisations are taking in EMEA. Take Schuberg Philis as an example, they’re an innovative business technology company and an important player in the field of mission critical outsourcing services, based in The Netherlands.

After increasingly seeing its network as a barrier to increasing business agility Schuberg Philis looked to VMware’s NSX platform, to accelerate application roll out and ensure its customers have easy access to the flexibility of the cloud, but within a certified, auditable environment, which includes built in controls and security. Whereas in the past thee process for spinning up new applications for customers used to take weeks to complete, now it can be done in a little more than 18 minutes.

Securing the data centre
The business agility and economic benefits are just one of several drivers that are making network server virtualization an attractive proposition. An important driver for NSX is security and, more specifically, the ability to micro-segment various processes within an SDDC architecture. Micro-segmentation is a big term, but it plays an even larger role in keeping data centers safe.

A lot of companies do a great job of building secure firewalls that prevent threats from getting in; the problem is, once a threat actually penetrates that wall, those companies typically don’t have any other methods of protection to stop it from attacking other machines inside the data center as well. Micro-segmentation sets up a honeycomb-like pattern of firewall protection internally to decrease the potential damage done.

Micro-segmentation makes it possible to instantly apply new rules to different firewalls within the data center; by being able to make changes to the firewalls on a virtual level, companies are now able to effectively trap and isolate threats before they can attack other machines.

We no longer see a debate over the value of software defined networks. Rather, a recognition from data centre managers that both the economic benefits and the operational simplicity of spinning up networks in seconds rather than months. Thanks to this mindset I would argue that there is actually no longer any debate over the value of software defined networks.

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