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Does software networking fit modern data center requirements?

Software networking can support modern data center requirements, private clouds and accompanying applications. But IT teams need to wade through components and suppliers to get there.

IT organizations will continue to rely on their internal data centers and private cloud platforms to support legacy applications and to run a multitude of apps that must be on private platforms for reasons that include privacy, compliance, performance and cost.

Software networking in the data center is essential to provide the agility, flexibility and integration needed for the network to support compute, storage and data center requirements of these private clouds. Network software enables new compute and storage resources to be placed where they're needed -- for example, edge computing resources to support IoT applications.

Data center networking challenges

A growing data center requirement for IT teams is the need to meet their users' and developers' expectations that private clouds can instantly support new applications and deliver the required performance with low latency. For private cloud deployments, network software and hardware must link the virtualized network and storage resources.

In addition, the data center must support a wide range of applications -- including legacy applications and those running on hypervisors and containers -- with appropriate quality of service and security.

Benefits of software networking in the data center

With software networking, underlying network hardware is abstracted, which enables the agility and flexibility needed to meet modern data center requirements. Additionally, software networking provides the following capabilities in the data center:

  • rapid provisioning of new data center compute and storage resources, with the ability to turn resources up or down as required;
  • scalable network performance to handle increased east-west traffic flows -- e.g., microservices;
  • ability to monitor and analyze traffic flows to ensure critical applications receive appropriate quality of service; and
  • enhanced security with microsegmentation and analytics.

Along with these capabilities, software networking uses open APIs to offer a programmability option. Open APIs also provide the ability to integrate with other data center software systems, including security, application delivery controllers and management platforms.

Software networking -- or software-based networking -- lumps together many modern networking technologies in a move away from more specific, somewhat limited approaches. For example, software networking combines components from SDN, network functions virtualization and network automation.

Software networking aims to attain many of the same goals from the technologies it encompasses. For example, it helps increase network flexibility, which allows organizations to more quickly respond to network and business changes. It also centralizes network control and management, while increasing security capabilities.

Data center software networking still growing

Most organizations -- with the exception of hyperscale cloud providers -- are in the early stages of software networking deployments in their data centers. IT teams face the challenge of piecing together a range of components and suppliers to deliver the software networking needed to meet modern data center requirements and design. Many data center network software options from suppliers are either tied closely to the hardware underneath, incomplete in their functionality or specific to a function, like security or application delivery.

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