This past year proved that the more things change in networking, the more they stay the same. In 2010, many of the top networking technology trends took advantage of old techniques to provide new solutions. While topics like VLAN tagging, network monitoring and ITIL are anything but new, all of these will take on a new role in shaping enterprise data center networks going forward. Likewise, virtualization and cloud computing are driving change throughout both the network and IT organizations. .
Here are the top five networking feature stories for 2010:
The fifth most popular feature in 2010 is actually not a technology, but a new way of thinking about IT and service delivery. As private clouds and converged networks reshape corporate data centers, the technology department itself, from the help desk to network architects, will have to evolve as well. For many IT organizations, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the IT service management (ITSM) it prescribes is the way forward for their IT organizations. While ITIL has been a common practice in Europe since the 1980s, the concept of IT as a service organization is still largely new for U.S. enterprises. An ITIL certification on a resume would have met with strange looks or questions a few years ago, but it is quickly becoming a differentiator, or even a requirement, for many large organizations. And many believe that private cloud deployments will push this even further. Network administrators looking for that next promotion, or graduates looking for that first position, should consider adding the ITIL foundation certificate to their list of accomplishments.
Truly virtualized data centers are all about motion. In a virtualized environment, virtual machines can be moved around to make the best use of the smallest number of physical servers, seldom leaving any server idle. Taken further, virtual machines could travel with the sun, utilizing global data centers to bring workloads as close to the user as possible. All of this motion, however, requires a flat network. While easy enough to do when the servers are on the other side of the room from each other, building a flat network gets a bit trickier when the data centers are on opposite sides of the country. Virtual private LAN services (VPLS) offer both the flat network and long reach that data center managers need. Available from most service providers, VPLS can link disparate data centers, while presenting itself as ports of a Layer 2 Ethernet switch. A VPLS solution can give data center managers the flat network they desire without complicated intervention from the WAN team.
Virtualization may be a boon for data center and server managers, but it can be a thorn in the side of the networking guys. Unlike the data center of old, server virtualization creates a dynamic data center environment where servers that once were traced back to a specific network port can now be running anywhere on the data center network. Combined with the fact that the virtual environment also includes virtual switches -- or software that acts like network switches within the virtualized environment itself-- the “new network” can get messy. Fortunately, technologies like VLAN tagging and network management tools provide a way to plan and maintain the level of performance expected from the data center network. The network will no longer be static, and network administrators will have to adjust their configurations, as well as their mindset, to be dynamic as well.
#2: Network monitoring and setting network performance baselines
Network monitoring is an essential element of managing an enterprise network. Rather than waiting for the users to complain, a suite of network monitoring tools can proactively alert the network team about hardware failures. Network monitoring tools can also alert when utilization for a particular segment of the network gets too high and puts the user experience in jeopardy. The tools also build a history of network performance and can enable administrators to roll back time to troubleshoot issues, even if that issue is an intermittent problem. But before you can detect something abnormal going on with your network, you have to know what normal is. Our primer on setting performance baselines describes what’s needed to define the norm for your unique enterprise network. This baseline is not only an essential element in setting acceptable and reasonable thresholds within the monitoring tools, but it also enables the network team to understand the impact that new applications and infrastructure will have on their enterprise network. We also uncovered a few myths that needed to be debunked and discovered what really works for network monitoring.
Without a doubt, cloud computing has been the most hyped (and likely overhyped) technology trend in 2010. So, it is with little surprise that SearchNetworking.com readers made our primer on network design in the era of cloud computing the most read feature this year. Many of the conversations about cloud computing concepts revolve around public cloud applications and services, leaving the enterprise network, which makes all of these applications and services possible, largely overlooked. Data privacy, security and governance concerns still remain in public cloud offerings, pushing enterprises to take the core concepts of cloud computing, such as self-provisioning of resources and applications, and apply them to internal applications and services, also known as private clouds. In a private cloud, prioritization, security, and segregation of data are key requirements, likely forcing many IT organizations to model themselves as internal service providers. The networks will see many changes as well and could ultimately be designed as multi-tenant networks for the private cloud.
The feature stories you're not reading
While at the end of the year we usually look back on the year’s successes, we can’t help but notice one topic that did not fare as well with our readers. Both our primer on enterprise energy management networks and our deep dive on implementing networked enterprise energy management systems did not even come close to the popularity of the big topics this year -- but they should have.
Like many other technologies, such as phone and security systems, the energy management systems that monitor and control the heating and cooling, lighting and even the power in corporate offices are moving to IP-based networks and will be heading for your enterprise network, whether you want them there or not. Not only will these energy management sytems need network access to the smart grid to get the latest energy rates, but they will interact with the rest of the devices on the network, shutting down, for example, idle systems during peak usage. Whether our readers were too caught up in private cloud networks and network monitoring to even think about connecting the heating and cooling systems to the network, we will never know. But not to worry, we will keep an eye on this technology and try to let you know when it needs to be high on your to-do list.