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Importance of Open, Standards-Based Architecture for Cloud-scale Networks

By June 16, 2014Article

Advances in technology are fundamentally changing how networks are architected, deployed and operated in the cloud. Technology changes generate new requirements and methods of building data center networks. Through this wave of changes, the industry is focusing on next-generation data centers with open, standards-based, interoperable architectures that are based on a software defined network (SDN) paradigm. The key is to understand how to build an effective data center network architecture and to innovate on top of those networks beyond automation and orchestration. 

Ingredients for a successful solution 

Basic characteristics in a successful network architecture include high-speed connectivity, low latency, multi-path mesh-type connectivity and high resiliency. In today’s cloud-first industry with highly virtualized cloud data centers, additional attributes include network and storage convergence and orchestration as well as the ability to quickly deploy new services — in an agile and scalable way. The services also include network and security functions that need to be inserted along with the compute, network and storage resources for a given service. This is the ideal point to introduce a software defined network architecture. 

Such a network can provide faster workload and service provisioning and improved management, visibility and control. By integrating with orchestration solutions like OpenStack or VMware vCloud, customers can also reduce operational cost substantially. 

An open and standards, community-based approach to SDN in data centers avoids vendor lock-in with specific technology, which can cost organizations more money. This is in part why the industry is transitioning to a new way of building networks and creating new models and tools to help build them. 

Open industry initiatives 

Since the industry has started to accept more open and interoperable technologies in the cloud, it is no surprise that open initiatives are gaining momentum and prestige. There are a few that stand out to the major industry players.   

OpenDaylight is a community-led, open, industry-supported framework for accelerating adoption, fostering new innovation, reducing risk and creating a more transparent approach to software defined networking. 

As a collaborative project under The Linux Foundation, OpenDaylight is structured using open source development best practices and is comprised of the leading organizations in the technology industry. 

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is a user-driven organization dedicated to the promotion and adoption of SDN through open standards development. The organization focuses on an open, collaborative development process and introduced the OpenFlow™ standard, the first southbound standard that can be leveraged to build an open software defined network architecture, which enables remote programming of the forwarding plane. 

OpenStack is a global collaboration of developers and cloud computing technologists producing open source cloud computing platforms for public and private clouds. The project aims to deliver a very scalable cloud operating system and is comprised of interrelated projects including OpenStack Compute, OpenStack Object Storage and OpenStack Image Service. 

It is clear that SDN and industry efforts can transform the networking industry with an open-source, industry-backed platform upon which innovative solutions can be built. 

What’s next? 

Virtualization, cloud, SDN and convergence are creating unique architectures and technologies in the data center. From these new technologies, scalable, agile, efficient and high-performance data center solutions can be built and deployed using open, interoperable and industry-accepted approaches, as open industry accepted solutions are gaining more traction in building cloud-scale architectures. 

Markus Nispel is vice president solutions architecture and innovation at Extreme Networks. Working closely together with key customers, his focus is the strategic solution development across all technologies provided by Extreme. In his previous role as the chief technology strategist and VP solutions architecture for Enterasys Networks, he was responsible for solutions portfolio and strategy.