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Data center network automation tool: Lab-style provisioning in the cloud

A new data center network automation tool – once used in networking testing environments – takes lab-style provisioning into the data center for application and resource provisioning on demand across public and private cloud networks.

When Gale Technologies first launched automation software for the lab testing environment a few years ago, executives had no idea the platform would be a fit for data center network automation and cloud computing environments.

But the idea clicked when the company – which provides automation software for Cisco's testing lab – realized that enabling data center network automation and provisioning for the cloud environment would take the same kind of tool. Clouds, after all, are based on the ability to fluidly turn up and then turn back down resources across storage, servers and data center networks on demand.

"We were doing cloud long before it was sexy to call it cloud," said Dean Hamilton, Gale Technologies CTO. "We were taking pools of equipment in service provider labs and trying to make them increase their utilization by allowing them to be shared among test beds."

So Gale executives began to look at the data center environment in a different way, thinking about how to "provide a service out of the lab that allows [data center] infrastructure to be used in a dynamic way," Hamilton said.

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The result is the GaleForce software, which will be launched at Interop Las Vegas 2010 this week. GaleForce aims to automate provisioning of physical and virtual resources across storage, servers and data center networks in a multivendor environment and across public and private clouds.

The goal is to enable data center network automation so that networking pros can get better utilization of their virtual and physical machines. Too often, data center managers implement virtual machines to replace physical machines with low utilization but are then unable to make the best of those virtual resources. Often, they place applications on the same physical resources regardless of which configuration makes for the optimal delivery.

"You squeezed everything out of the static compression model, and now you need to move into the dynamic model … and you need to take some steps to do that," Hamilton said.

How the GaleForce data center network automation tool works

GaleForce software begins by taking inventory of data center network components, servers and storage through auto discovery. Then the software builds a database and can begin managing resources. "Because we go in and customers don't know where their stuff is, we become the principal repository," Hamilton said.

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Once that repository is formed, data center network managers and administrators can begin building topologies or designs using a graphical interface that includes all of the components. With drag-and-drop visualization tools, networking pros can design configurations with routers, servers, load balancers and the application stack, creating traffic generations to determine the most efficient way of offering services. They can save these configurations as templates for specific applications and can configure and implement them on demand through the software. Organizations can create these configurations for a private data center, publicly hosted space or across a hybrid cloud. The system can also handle provisioning in networks with components from multiple vendors with varying operating systems.

As part of the ability to implement varying configurations, the software has the ability to "rebuild" servers and storage as well as plug into any storage and networking management system. On the networking front, the software can currently work across Cisco, Juniper, Huawei and Ericsson, and Hamilton said plug-ins can be built for any vendor.

GaleForce is one of Gale's three product lines, the others being LabManager, a network management package that maps networks and enables automated patching; and AutoTest, which manages testing and does archiving and reporting.

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