Software Defined Networking Adds Efficiencies to Converged Infrastructure

by Mike Harding, NetApp

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IT professionals expect significant operational benefits from converged infrastructures. Respondents to a recent IDC survey, “Converged and Integrated Systems: End-User Survey Report,” expect to achieve 20% to 30% improvements in systems provisioning, IT staff productivity, and utilization of infrastructure resources. Because of this increased efficiency, survey participants plan to move nearly 50% of their compute, storage, and network resources and workloads onto these integrated systems within the next two years.

Software-defined networking (SDN) delivers a way to further increase the efficiency of converged infrastructures. SDN does for networking what the virtual machine (VM) did for servers—it treats physical network resources as a pool of capacity that can be consumed and repurposed on demand. Just as a VM is a software container that presents logical CPU and memory to an application, a “virtual network” is a software container that presents logical switches, firewalls, and load balancers to applications.

Learn about the benefits and cost savings of a converged infrastructure

SDN Meets Converged Infrastructure
The combination of software-defined technology and converged infrastructure is a natural fit for increasing IT efficiency. Converged systems are typically denser, require less rack space, and use less energy than legacy IT systems. The use of prevalidated building blocks enables the rapid integration of infrastructure components, reducing the time and cost to deploy new services.

Converged infrastructures also deliver improvements in availability and resource utilization. The IDC survey found that reduced downtime and improved resource utilization were among the most important efficiency benefits expected by those who had deployed or were evaluating integrated systems.

SDN adds labor-saving efficiencies on top of the physical system efficiencies that a converged infrastructure provides. As physical resources are virtualized, they are more easily automated with a software-defined architecture. Fewer physical systems need to be touched and more devices can be centrally managed with a minimum of IT personnel.

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure
The Cisco® Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) virtualizes networking resources for the application layer and provides infrastructure automation and policy-driven application profiles: Think of how Cisco UCS® service profiles can be dynamically created and associated with any physical server in a system within minutes, and extend the same concept across all network resources.

The benefits of this software-defined approach include:

  • An application-driven policy model that simplifies automation
  • Improved application health monitoring
  • Greater scalability
  • Support for multi-tenancy
  • APIs for partner integration

The first of the Cisco ACI-enabled switches, the Cisco Nexus® 9000 Series, will deliver new SDN functionality via two software components:

  • The Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) provides centralized access to all fabric information, optimizes the application lifecycle for scale and performance, and supports flexible application provisioning across physical and virtual resources.  
  • The Application Virtual Switch (AVS) for the virtual network edge provides feature support for the ACI application policy model, full switching capabilities, and more advanced telemetry features.

SDN-Ready Converged Infrastructure
NetApp and Cisco recently introduced an ACI-ready FlexPod system for enterprises and service providers. This is an industry-first, converged-infrastructure design that incorporates the Cisco Nexus 9300 top-of-rack switch for IT organizations that want to prepare now for ACI functionality that will be introduced later this year.

To learn more about your converged infrastructure options and to find out why the Cisco and NetApp FlexPod® platforms were ranked first in a field of 17 suppliers in the IDC survey, go to the NetApp FlexPod Community.

Mike Harding, Senior Marketing Manager at NetApp

Mike leads the marketing effort for converged infrastructure solutions at NetApp. You can find him on Twitter at @mhardi01 and follow his FlexPod blog on the NetApp community pages.

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