The Private Cloud Has a Silver Lining, and It’s Called SDN

For some CIOs, the idea of being able to offload their computer processing needs to third-party providers like Microsoft and Amazon and Google is heavenly. Their IT departments don’t have to procure, manage, or upgrade hardware. It’s all done magically in the cloud.

For other CIOs, the idea of sending mission-critical data off beyond the boundaries of their data center is like bungee-jumping for the perpetually queasy – something that makes their stomach do flip-flops just at the thought of it.

So how can CIOs get that infrastructure-as-a-service agility without an IaaS vendor? By using open source cloud capabilities in conjunction with software-defined networking. It’s actually not a big leap to make – virtualization forms the basis for both cloud computing and SDN, and they work better together.

As Jonathan Brandon noted in an article last month posted on Business Cloud News, “SDN works by separating and abstracting the network’s control plane, often thought of as the ‘brain’ or ‘director’ of the network, and the forwarding plane, responsible for sending packets of information to where they need to go, from the networking hardware itself. … It enables the centralisation – and automation – of these processes, and the simplification of their management, through software, which means the digital services increasingly soaking up all that network bandwidth become equally scalable and flexible. It also makes it easier for enterprises to govern which networks are used by whom for different kinds of information, making it (theoretically) easier to deploy and managed enterprise data handling policies and data security procedures.”

If that doesn’t sound like the scalability the private cloud provides, I’ll make Thanksgiving dinner for both sides of the family this year.

The linkages don’t stop there. At this month’s Open Stack conference in Paris, Time Warner vice-president of cloud engineering and operations Matt Haines, quoted in a Data Center Knowledge article by Yevgeniy Sverdlik, talked about his company’s transition to both OpenStack and SDN. The goal: an OpenStack cloud that would “live in multiple data centers but have a single global identity management system; they wanted automated resource deployment, a high-availability and disaster recovery control plane, geographically redundant object storage, and overall operational maturity to provide enterprise applications at service-provider scale.”

That’s why – no surprise here – the very same cloud services providers offering IaaS are deploying SDN technology. As Ben Rossi noted in Information Age last month, “The technology has already been embraced by some of the largest enterprises in the world such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, creating a real buzz in the networking industry. Since Google is the largest network operator in terms of traffic, its adoption of SDN marks a major development in uptake of the technology by enterprise-level organizations. If large-scale Internet data centers run by these enormous companies adopt SDN, public and private cloud providers are expected to adopt SDN at a faster pace.”

Coincidentally, around the same time as the Open Stack conference in Paris, Paris-based hosting provider OVH, committed to SDN from Nuage Networks for deployment within and across its data centers in order to enable dedicated cloud services, according to a release in Converge Digest. By delivering "OpenStack as a Service", OVH customers can access dedicated servers within its private cloud infrastructure “while leveraging OpenStack to define both network and data center resources for a better performing, more programmable, and operationally efficient cloud environment,” OVH executives noted.

In another Data Center Knowledge article from last month, entitled How Cloud has Changed Data Center Technology, consultant Bill Kleyman also fills in the dotted lines. “When convergence around network, storage and compute intersect with software-defined technologies – you create the building blocks for a commodity cloud data center,” he wrote.

Kleyman adds, “SDN can create very intelligent, globally connected, environments. Furthermore, SDN can help with load-balancing cloud and data center infrastructures. SDN already helps with global traffic management by logically sending traffic to the appropriate data center. Moving forward, SDN will strive to create even more fluid data center traffic flow automation. These types of efforts will help with downtime, data resiliency, and disaster recovery planning.”

This is where everything starts to get exciting, because for one of the few times in the history of enterprise technology, we’re talking about new technologies (i.e., cloud and SDN) that actually have the ability to cost less than the technology they’re replacing. At the same time, they’re bringing more functionality to CIOs’ menus. There may be clouds on the horizon, but the technology forecast is for sunshine.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.