August 11, 2010

The Mandate for Network Infrastructure Automation

  • An Analysis by Jim Metzler, Ashton, Metzler & Associates
  • Webtorials Analyst Division
In the last couple of years, server virtualization has become very popular in part because it reduces cost.  Another reason for the popularity of server virtualization is that it enables IT organizations to provision virtual machines and to move virtual machines among physical servers, both within a given data center and between disparate data centers, in a matter of seconds or minutes.  As described in this white paper, many IT organizations already make regular use of the capability to move virtual machines between servers and the interest that IT organizations have in dynamically provisioning virtual machines is increasing greatly.

The ability to dynamically provision and to dynamically move virtual machines between servers is an important step towards the ultimate goal of elastic or on-demand computing.  When this goal is met, IT organizations will be able to respond to the demand for infrastructure resources with instant-on, real-time delivery of virtualized network services.  However, a complex computer system is more than a virtual machine and although compute cycles have become virtual and dynamic, the rest of the overall computer system is still largely physical and static.  As a result, while it is possible for an IT organization to provision or move a virtual machine in a matter of minutes, it can take weeks or months for the organization to implement the necessary changes to the rest of infrastructure.

This white paper identifies some of the challenges relative to implementing a dynamic infrastructure.  This includes VLAN proliferation, the loss of visibility into the traffic within virtualized servers, the need to transfer configuration state information along with a virtual machine as well as the network and storage support that is needed.  This white paper also identifies the progress that is being made relative to responding to these challenges.  This includes the evolution of dynamic infrastructure management, virtualized performance management, virtualized security management, distributed virtual switching as well as orchestration and provisioning.  This white paper concludes by highlighting the fact that just implementing new technologies will not enable IT organizations to realize the goal of elastic computing.  IT organizations also need to implement streamlined processes that reflect the reality of a dynamic, virtualized IT infrastructure.

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There's no doubt that virtualization is a top-of-mind issue for all of us. However, the move to virtualized servers, etc., does not necessarily make management easier. In fact, it complicates the tasks such as IP Address management.

In this generic paper, Jim Metzler, my co-founder of the Webtorials Analyst Division, take a detailed look at the challenges of implementing a virtualized infrastructure and the reasons that the case for automating management tasks is more critical than ever.

A "must read."

Clearly virtualization will ultimately place more demands on the network as it enters production environments and involves increasing numbers of applications and processes. The network will have to evolve and replace the manual processes (scripts, configurations, IPAM spreadsheets) in order to keep up with more IP addresses and more change. Network infrastructure automation and control are likely first steps to address these issues. Without automation networks will not be able to keep up with the increasing impact of virtualization in the data center.

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