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Networking Data Center Networking
4 minute read

Modernizing the Data Center Network Is Not About Switches: Part I

Application availability for all users, anytime, from any location, on any cloud, is critical in meeting business needs. This article will cover the disruptors and industry transitions that must be considered in any data center network modernization project.

Businesses can no longer afford planned or unplanned downtime; applications must be available 24x7.  When a data center network has an outage, all servers and applications are affected. Statista.com reports that in 2019 survey of over 1000 companies, 25 percent of respondents worldwide reported the average hourly downtime cost of their servers as being between 301,000 and 400,000 U.S. dollars.

The pandemic of 2020 has changed how we live, shop, work and play, making it even more critical to eliminate downtime. Internet usage has surged; Forbes estimates that it is up 50 to 70 percent in 2020. Google has found that if a website does not load on a mobile device within three seconds, most users will move on.

Data center networking, cyber security and availability

The availability and security of applications is the single driving factor for data center modernization.  Many disruptors, including application development methodology, clouds, software-defined, micro data centers, automation and more must be considered when determining a strategy for modernizing a data center.

Application development is continuously evolving from a traditional "waterfall" approach to an agile methodology. Consider apps designed for mobile devices: there is a continuous development cycle where updates and new features are released on an ongoing basis. 

With hybrid clouds becoming the norm, applications need to move between on-premise private clouds and data centers to public clouds. Applications developed using containers, while more complex, support the ability to move between clouds. Containerized applications use microservices and must communicate with each other and allow outside users and services access.

With the rise of security incursions, minimizing attack surfaces is critical. A 2016 SDxCentral article states, “the threat from inside is bigger than ever before and is further exacerbated by the fact that around 80 percent of traffic in data centers is now of east-west nature — and largely unprotected. In such environments, once an attacker infiltrates the perimeter firewall, they can lie low, jump across systems with ease, compromise valuable assets and extract information at their own pace."

Segmentation and microsegmentation are a way to contain a breach or threat. Determining how applications talk within the data center, called Application Dependency Mapping (ADM), is critical to securing the intra-data center traffic. ADM is also is crucial when deciding which applications move to the public cloud. 2019 research by Fortinet shows that in a survey of 350 enterprise companies, 74 percent of companies move apps onto the public cloud and then moved them back on-premises.  

Big data is a growing market due to the value that it brings to enterprises. Data gravity is the desire to have applications and data attract more applications and data on a network. Large data sets are hard to move. The need for low latency and high throughput makes it necessary to keep the data and the compute nearby, increasing the number of micro data centers. Gartner predicts that by 2025 the number of microdata centers will quadruple, as explained by DataCenterNews.

Modernizing the data center network requires the network engineering team to examine the applications that drive the business, not just look at the switches' feeds and speeds. There are many additional factors to consider and most important is the business and the applications that drive the company. Planning for the data center network's future state requires input from teams that manage the network, security, applications, cloud, servers, virtualization, automation and storage.  

Begin with the future vision: where do you want to modernize the data center network in five to seven years? How can this network better serve the business and no longer be the bottleneck? Then work backward to determine what changes are needed to achieve the future vision. 

Software-defined networking, automation, orchestration, ADM, Single Policy and Single Point of Management across on-premises and cloud are tangible steps that can be laid out in a roadmap so that the vision can become a reality.

Part two of this series will explore the next steps, some of the barriers to the following steps and ways to overcome those barriers.

References

Alsop, Thomas, “Average cost per hour of enterprise server downtime worldwide in 2019.” Statista, March 2, 2020. www.statista.com/statistics/753938/worldwide-enterprise-server-hourly-downtime-cost/

Agrwall, Shiv, “Data Center Security Is an Inside Game,” February 26, 2016. sdxcentral.com/articles/contributed/data-center-security-shiv-agarwal/2016/02/

Ping Lew, Kai, “Gartner – The Future of Enterprise Data Centers – What is Next? DataCenterNews, September 23, 2019. datacenternews.asia/story/gartner-the-future-of-enterprise-data-centers-what-s-next

Beech, Mark, “COVID-19 Pushes Up Internet Use 70% And Streaming More Than 12%, First Figures Reveal” Forbes, March 25, 2020. forbes.com/sites/markbeech/2020/03/25/covid-19-pushes-up-internet-use-70-streaming-more-than-12-first-figures-reveal/?sh=207a50c03104

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