Right now, the driverless car that takes you from A to B at the press of a button, parallel parks for you and which never gets lost, seems more likely than ever. The next generation will be incredulous that people actually drove themselves; they’d also struggle with the notion of speeding since an autonomous car will always observe national speed limits, regardless of how much of a hurry you might be in, or how much you shout at it.
With various reported estimates for the number of connected devices and things – possibly including driverless cars – predicting exponential growth, network systems are only set to become bigger, more pervasive, and increasingly more complex.
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Everything at cloud speed
Even today, everything is about creating and delivering a rich user experience, at ‘cloud speed’. The need to innovate, build value and scale services has become critical for any organisation, especially when confronted by the ‘born-in-the-cloud’ start-ups blazing a trail across established markets and disrupting many businesses in the process. Inevitably, the sheer volume and velocity of data needed to support digital services continues to impact and stretch traditional networks. Creaking under the strain of the tremendous bandwidth and workload demands of applications and resources, the data centre network must be able to scale, perform tasks faster while anticipating and adapting to change.
While data centres have a long-established presence in many organisations as a technological and operational backbone, not all networks are made equal. Often built with overlapping generations of technology ‘sprawl’, adding layer upon layer of operational complexity; legacy networks typically end up constraining businesses with their rigid infrastructure, cumbersome operations, misaligned cost structures and inadequate, outdated security capabilities.
The evolved data centre
As data traffic, either from devices or other systems and ‘users’ continues to escalate, data centre infrastructure investments will have to focus heavily on a new network strategy, lowering costs while increasing capacity, service delivery and service innovation. The evolved data centre network has to adapt, scale and evolve to respond to changing market conditions, dynamically and quickly.
So what does the future hold for data centre design? Here are my top four suggestions:
1. OPEN: As businesses migrate towards network virtualization and the cloud, no single vendor will have a solution for it all. But an open, multi-vendor environment is an example of how the I.T. community is building flexibility and freedom of choice right into the heart of the network. And as networks experience a variety of changes, an open infrastructure not only provides best-in-class solutions but can mitigate risk, manage contingencies and be flexible enough to grow and evolve with the business.
2. SIMPLE: The promise of a programmable, virtualized platform that builds automation throughout the network and which can be tailored to manage service delivery across all environments is a key aspect in driving a successful cloud strategy. Highly scalable, secure and ready to adapt to customer needs, cloud platforms can provide significant agility for enterprises and service providers operating in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Applications and services can be re-configured, re-deployed and delivered on industry-standard hardware, with virtual devices programmed for building self-service, automated capabilities, at ‘cloud-speed’.
3. AGILE: Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is a network technology that provides the means to simplify complex, operational tasks through automation. By leveraging software control capabilities to automate key networking functions, SDN can minimize or entirely eliminate many labor-intensive tasks. Creating a highly agile network infrastructure, new services and applications can be rolled out quicker, more efficiently and with less risk, all at the click of a mouse.
4. SECURE: All organisations are threatened by a constantly-changing landscape with the surface area for cyber-attacks set to become larger than ever. Changing how and where to deploy security in the network becomes even more critical as threats exist not outside the network as well as the many that are more than likely already inside. The traditional ‘castle’ method of just relying on network security at the perimeter is no longer enough. To counter emerging and unknown risks, a fully automated approach is needed which embeds security (both physical and virtual) within the entire network at all levels, not just at the edges, and which dynamically adapts to new threats.
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