Virtualization technologies have helped shape the way many organizations do business. Virtual desktops are now a business consideration and almost every environment has some element of virtualization their data center. More recently, technologies around network virtualization, or software defined networks, have begun to become more prevalent. In working with network virtualization, many IT environments have seen the direct benefits of applying this type of technology. Granular network control and expanding networking resources are just a few of the benefits seen. One of the other big gains has been in the area of high availability and disaster recovery.
Virtual network components can span quite a few different devices. In designing a DR solution, administrators have to look at network virtualization as a viable option to help accommodate many DR needs. The beauty of a virtual network is that it can be extremely flexible. There are two ways to define a virtual network:
- Internal. This is where network functionality is provided to s single, internal system. This functionality is designed to mirror the features of a physical network.
- External. In this configuration, administrators may be combining multiple networks or parts of a network in to a cohesive virtual networking unit.
The biggest virtualization vendors are jumping on the virtual networking bandwagon to bring even more tools to the table. For example, recently VMware partnered with Stanford and Berkeley to create a new consortium called the Open Networking Research Center. Other partners include Google, Cisco, Intel, Juniper and several others. Similarly, Citrix has partnered with Vyatta to bring an even more robust virtual network environment to their Xen platform.
With all of these partnerships and new technologies, organizations have several new tools to leverage as they create and define their network infrastructure. A big project goal with many companies has been the DR component. This is where network virtualization can help.
- WAN Traffic Optimization. As environments become more distributed, data will have to travel longer distances. Still, there is a direct need for this data to retain its integrity and arrive at its destination quickly and without much latency. Organizations have spent millions of dollars on physical hardware components to help with the optimization task. Now, organizations are able to create entire virtual network architectures where traffic is handled at the virtual routing layer. This translates to a smaller hardware footprint, more business and data agility, and increase performance of remote applications and data. Furthermore, this can be used to optimize traffic to a DR or HA site.
- Using vNICs. The idea is simple – but it can have a lot of benefits. Instead of allocating one or two ports on a device, administrators are able to dedicate numerous virtual ports to a service that may be required. Furthermore, this can help with moving live VMs from one site to another and facilitating the HA or DR portions of an environment. A single virtualization platform can create numerous vNICs which can then be allocated to a VM or a service running on another platform. This process can help isolate applications and deliver them to the appropriate end-point. Aside from just vNICs, administrators can use vLANs to even further expand the power of their network. All of these are components of a virtual networking infrastructure.
- DR Testing and Development. Virtualization has already helped in this area. However, from a DR and HA perspective – SDN can help even further. Imagine having the ability to recreate an entire networking environment to mirror an existing infrastructure. The difference? Everything is network virtualization and completely isolated. SDN can help create connections between applications, services, VMs and numerous other workloads. Effectively, administrators are able to test their environment, DR plan, or HA methodology completely from a secured and isolated configuration. In many situations, you can even emulate the end-user environment to create a truly powerful testing platform.
- Utilizing load balancers. Load balancing has come a long way from just directing traffic to the most appropriate resource. Now, with network virtualization, new types of load balancers are helping not only with traffic control, but DR and HA as well. Tools like Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) not only port users to the appropriate data center based on their location and IP address – it can assist with a disaster recovery plan as well. By setting up a GSLB environment, users can be pushed to a recover data center completely transparently should an emergency occur. This virtual cross-WAN heartbeat would check for availability of a data center and push users to a more available one if there is a situation. This type of business and network agility can help reduce downtime and create a more robust environment.
There are clear benefits to working with network virtualization. Organizations are able to be more agile, control their networking footprint better, and scale their infrastructure in-line with the business needs. More network manufacturers are creating options for virtual networks. The software defined network market is expanding in large part because of the push around virtualization. IT goals are set around efficiencies and consolidation – and utilizing network virtualization technologies is helping organizations accomplish those goals. By reducing physical footprints and increasing the agility of a networking infrastructure by introducing SDN components, companies can continue to build robust, DR-ready, environments.
Source: Black Diamond Technologies Engineering Team and Virtualization and Cloud Design Industry Expert Bill Kleyman.