Roy Amir, Alcatel-Lucent's Senior Director CloudBand Strategy, introduced me to his company's CloudBand family of products and explored why a virtualized network infrastructure could really help provide their customers better service, provide higher performance, and improve the manageability of the network infrastructure. Amir clearly advocates making the network infrastructure smarter.
What is Network Virtualization?
Network Virtualization is the use of excess computing and networking capability to build an artifical environment upon which network workloads can operate. Below are some of the reasons this technology is important. (Taken from my O'Reilly Media book, Virtualization: A Manager's Guide.)
When organizations have the following goals, network virtualization technology is the best solution:
- Improving network reliability — When the organization needs constant network access in a data center, two or more physical networks supplied by different providers are typically installed. Network virtualization makes it possible for network communications to fall over from one network to the other in the case of a failure.
- Improving network performance — Increased network throughput can be achieved if several, or perhaps all, outside network communications links are used simultaneously to improve overall network performance as well as to increase network scalability. The bandwidth of available network links can be segmented to prioritize network traffic so that important activities will be served first.
- Improving network security — If network security is a key requirement, the data center network can be configured as several secure zones. Only specific network traffic may cross from one zone to another or from the internal network to the external network. This reduces the possibility of clients or servers being infected by worms, viruses, or other malware. It is also possible to allow clients to only see servers they are allowed to access, even though other network resources are available.
Here's how Alcatel-Lucent describes the components of its CloudBand family of products.
- The CloudBand Management System brings together the wide area network (WAN) and the data center resource pools to provide global visibility and control over the cloud environment.
- The CloudBand Node is a pre-configured, all-in-one cloud platform that allows service providers to immediately implement CloudBand and begin offering cloud-based compute and storage resources across the cloud. It includes hardware and software that can be delivered in a central office or data center-deployable rack. The CloudBand Node is designed to greatly streamline the service launch process and accelerate time to market.
Alcatel-Lucent's CloudBand claims to help service providers orchestrate distributed data centers, manage application life-cycles, better leverage their network infrastructure, automate management of network nodes, and support open and multi-vendor environments. The goal, of course, is helping service providers simplify how their environments work, making it easier for them to scale up and down network-based workloads, and reducing overall costs, all without impacting services.
Amir's introduction to CloudBand was filled with comments about the benefits that service providers and end user organizations can receive through the use of virtualization technology in general, and through network virtualization in specific. Alcatel-Lucent, along with many other IT hardware and software suppliers, including Brocade, Cisco, HP, IBM, and Juniper, are all pushing the concept that the proper and careful use of virtualization technology can offer organizations greater flexibility, reduced costs, and the ability to acquire and use new technology without facing disruption of their current infrastructure.
While the technology could most certainly benefit large and medium-size companies, Alcatel-Lucent's CloudBand is targeting only the needs of service providers. This, I think, is a bit short-sighted.
While cloud computing is certainly an important part of the market's future, many organizations are going to continue to implement and support their own internal network rather than outsourcing everything to cloud service providers. Some of the other suppliers that are also offering network virtualization products appear to have a broader focus.