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Software is re-defining traditional infrastructure boundaries…

… for the better

Virtualisation has long been the darling of IT departments, heralding greater utilisation of hardware and workload mobility. It is also one of the key technologies underpinning the cloud revolution. However, infrastructure issues at the perimeter of many IT estates are constraining hybrid cloud strategies and the adoption of public cloud services.

Increasingly, CIOs and departmental IT heads are looking at hybrid cloud strategies as a way of:

  • moving non-critical compute workloads off-premise, reclaiming on-premise compute capacity for critical workloads
  • empowering development teams by enabling them to procure their own off-premise development capacity
  • providing elastic capacity by utilising public cloud services to to cope with bursts of demand (e.g. year-end processing) and/or to bolster older, less agile on-premise infrastructure.

Here are some constraints which exist today in many datacentres which present a barrier to adoption:

  • Access layer networking devices deployed top-of-rack or end-of row confine Layer 2 traffic (e.g. vMotion) in-rack or at best to a small number of racks.

In a hybrid cloud environment, workloads need to move not only between racks, but between datacentres!

  • Organisations planning to move workloads between sites often consider SAN-level replication or similar; the need to perform IP re-addressing of services in the second site is often overlooked.

Server IP re-addressing can be complex and costly, often precluding the movement of workloads between datacentres, let alone to an external service provider!

  • Security controls such as Firewalls, Intrusion Detection and VPNs typically require the deployment of specialist hardware components, usually in close proximity to core network infrastructure.

Hybrid clouds use public services delivered from third-party datacentres; it’s difficult to deploy your own firewall and IDS hardware into a datacentre you don’t have physical access to!

Fortunately, vendors such as VMware and Cisco are beginning to address these problems with innovative software-based solutions:

  • Cisco extensions to networking standards (e.g. OTV, LISP) and clever network overlay techniques (e.g. VXLAN) are allowing traditional corporate LAN environments to be extended between data centres in an elastic fashion, and even between private and public cloud infrastructures.
  • VMware’s recent acquisition of Nicira adds a software-defined networking (SDN) component into it’s portfolio that targets the OpenStack platform, often used in public cloud IaaS solutions.
  • Hardware appliance-based solutions for security, networking and storage are being offered as software-based virtual appliances. These operate in much the same way as physical hardware but may be deployed without requiring physical data centre access, and are configurable from simple user interfaces.

Commodity processing and server virtualisation coupled with automation, orchestration and service management tools have key enablers for private and public cloud infrastructure services. The emergence of network, storage, security and application services enabled by software are now allowing organisations to embark on hybrid cloud strategies without compromising security and operability. Thus if security and control were a barrier to you moving workloads into the cloud, perhaps now is the time to look again.