Essential Guide

Essential Guide: Application-aware networking

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Essential tips for virtualized network integration and management

To fully embrace virtual networks, these essential tips can help your organization maximize those efforts into server and storage virtualization.

Nearly 60% of organizations have noted a slowdown in their virtualization initiatives, according to a new Nemertes

Research study. The complexity of systems -- specifically the complexity of network configurations -- is often cited as a key barrier to the continued adoption of virtual networks. The ability for enterprises to configure virtual networks and to fully define these configurations in software is the key to boosting virtualized network adoption again. As your organization's network virtualization effort goes forward, here are some tips that should help you maximize those efforts and tie them into server and storage virtualization.

Tip 1: Evaluate your organizational structure and optimize your network policies and procedures

Advancements in storage, server and network virtualization have allowed enterprises to do things in the data center that simply weren't possible on a physical network. Yet the separation in many organizations between IT and network teams hasn't enabled them to reap the full rewards of these new capabilities. Many network teams view virtualization as the responsibility of the server team and are not in a hurry to embrace virtualized switches or virtual network appliances. Many are still happy to have traffic come out of the virtual infrastructure, route it through physical network components and then go back into virtual space. IT organizations should make sure that the roles, responsibilities, policies and procedures of these teams are clarified and revised to embrace virtualization's capabilities. It's only a matter of time before virtualization takes hold in networking the way it has with servers and storage, so resistance is futile.

Tip 2: Consider your monitoring tools and your management framework

Traditional monitoring tools and management frameworks have struggled to keep up with the adoption of server virtualization. Network virtualization will only add to these challenges. Now is an excellent time to re-evaluate your monitoring tools and management framework. Using virtualization as a catalyst, consider how you can create an integrated single-pane-of-glass view of servers and virtualized network infrastructure that can and will be sharing physical host resources with other workloads, moving from place to place, or spread across internal data centers and public or private clouds.

Tip 3: Embrace open standards whenever possible

More on virtual networks

Virtualized network services: Hypervisor WAN optimization

Best virtualization techniques and management strategies

Cisco retreats from the VXLAN standard?

Cisco and VMware are clearly leading in the market share battle for data center virtualization, virtual switching and programmable networks, and they will likely have significant market positions in SDNs. Both have vowed to support open standards such as OpenFlow and OpenStack. Yet their current solutions and product roadmaps don't necessarily enforce these standards. Enterprises would do well to consider whether any purchase decisions might lead them further down the path of being locked into a proprietary solution. Both of these vendors will be quick to point out all of the advanced features and capabilities their proprietary solutions can deliver. Don't take the bait. Opt instead for an open standards approach that won't limit your options. As a side benefit, embracing open standards should simplify the transition of applications to or from cloud environments.

Tip 4: Start evaluating and planning for software-defined networking

Software-defined networking (SDN) is the next major trend in enterprise IT. The adoption of SDN will balloon over the next three years. SDN supports virtual networks, but organizations are struggling to assess the roles of SDN and other network virtualization techniques in their current network roadmaps. Your best approach is to try out both to see which solution or combination of solutions is best suited to your environment and would yield the greatest cost savings and increased agility.

Enterprises that embrace virtual networks and use it to push their overall adoption of virtualization techniques will see the greatest return on their investment. To ensure success, however, IT may need to rethink both its traditional organizational structure and enterprise system management tooling capabilities. Organizations can further protect their virtualization investments by embracing open standards whenever possible. Finally, determine now how software-defined networks can increase your agility and reduce deployment challenges and costs. 

About the author
Henry Svendblad is a principal research analyst with Nemertes Research, where he conducts both primary benchmark research and custom research, advises vendor and enterprise clients, writes thought-leadership reports, and delivers strategic seminars. A seasoned senior-level IT executive, Henry leads research on advanced carrier services, with an emphasis on emerging trends, vendor management, business continuity/disaster recovery, security and cloud strategies.

This was first published in March 2013

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Essential Guide

Essential Guide: Application-aware networking

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