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Nuage Networks helps hospital add SDN and network virtualization

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center adds SDN and network virtualization to its data center with Nuage Networks.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has deployed Nuage Networks' SDN and network overlay technology in its two data centers.

The deployment is part of the hospital's multi-phase transition to SDN and network virtualization. The first phase, which was just completed, replaced a legacy Layer 2 network that was dedicated to sending backup traffic from servers to a tape library system, according to Bill Hanna, vice president of technical services for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). If all goes well in phase one, UPMC will expand the Nuage technology to its production networks in both of its data centers.

As part of the first-phase implementation, Hanna's team ripped out the legacy Layer 2 backup network and installed a leaf-and-spine network of Nuage hardware -- four 7850 Virtualized Services Aggregators in the spine and eight Virtualized Services Gateways as leaf devices. This hardware provides the physical substrate over which Nuage's network virtualization overlay product, the Virtualized Services Platform, operates. 

UPMC's 250 VMware hosts each have an instance of Nuage Networks' Virtual Routing and Switching (VRS), the virtual endpoint for the overlay network. Nuage's Virtualized Services Controller provides the centralized control plane for the VRS endpoints. The Virtualized Services Directory manages network services for the backup traffic that transits from the servers to the tape library via the Nuage leaf-and-spine hardware.

If phase one goes well, UPMC will migrate production traffic to the Nuage network, too, Hanna said. His team will rip out much of its legacy Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent switches and run production traffic over the Nuage hardware. Cisco Nexus 7000 switches will remain in place to route traffic in and out of the data center.

"We want to prove it out. When the time is right and everything works well, we'll start transitioning more traffic to [the Nuage] network for production," Hana said. "We'll take that Nuage network and hook it into the rest of our data center infrastructure -- mostly Cisco Nexus. We'll tie it into the Nexus 7000s, [which] will make routing decisions."

The Nuage network will require some retraining of network engineers and operations, Hanna said, "because they're command-line jockeys." Once that training is complete, he expects the provisioning time for network services in his data center to drop dramatically.

"From a provisioning standpoint, we have the data communications people, then we have the people who do hosts and the people who manage the address space and the DNS, and then we have people who manage the cabling," Hanna said. Provisioning network services for a new virtual machine [VM] on a VMware host typically took those individual teams two to three weeks to complete, he said. "Our hope is that … it will end up being an hour moving forward."

Hanna also believes his networking team will enjoy the flexibility of a virtual network and will appreciate regaining control over the edge of the data center network with Nuage Networks. Network engineers will have more insight and control over the virtualized edge of the network with Nuage's VSR endpoints on each VMware host.

"Once you hand off a port to a VMware host [in a legacy network], those network guys have very little insight into what's going on inside that box," he said. "[Nuage] allows multiple people to do provisioning in the network. Today we move VMs all over. That's one of the problems we're solving. It gives you flexibility. Look at VMware [vSphere]. It is very flexible. You can quickly move things around. The traditional network is not that flexible. We're solving that problem."

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