BIOS IT Blog
What is web-scale networking? Don't be left in the Ice Age
All organisations are moving their infrastructure to a private, public or a hybrid cloud environment (that's a given), but there are really intelligent organisations that have realised that web-scale networking provides them with mammoth cost savings, the agility of the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google; the ability to scale when they're ready in an open, disaggregated and modular architecture.
WHOA, Boy (Woolly mammoth slows up)...Did you say MAMMOTH cost savings??
I'm going to be very frank, the flow on effect of implementing of web-scale networking will lower an intelligent organisations TCO (total cost of ownership) by immensely reducing their CapEx and OpEx respectively.
You already want to be an intelligent organisation right and don't want to be left in the Pliocene? Then Let’s dive into what web-scale networking is!
Web-scale networking is a modern architectural approach to infrastructure. Organisations will gain the following by deploying web-scale technology:
- A flexible & open network - without vendor lock-in
- Intelligent software for maximum control & coverage
- Scale your network efficiently in a cost-effective manner
FLEXIBLE & OPEN NETWORK ( minus vendor lock-in)
Flexible & open network software is becoming widely adopted by mainstream enterprise customers, research institutes, universities and service provider clouds. Mainstream enterprises have begun using this new open approach to achieve the efficiency goals of web-scale data centre designs without building the networking stack themselves. Early adopters of these systems have been able to abandon the expensive and inflexible systems of that past. In doing so, they’ve increased the speed at which they can expand and modify the networks — delivering more applications quickly and at a reduced cost.
1/3 of the fortune 50 have invested in web-scale technology!
Open networking integrates so well with #DevOps. These complementary technologies provide the ability to configure and operate the network nimbly using automation and provisioning tools. The influence of DevOps on IT culture, tools, processes and organisational structure has resulted in the acceleration of application delivery and an environment of continuous R&D (research and development), causing organisations to rethink the way they deploy their IT.
Web-scale IT creates a more resilient architecture to support those applications (whether they be newly developed applications or legacy apps), enabling IT operations to implement and support leaner, efficient and more agile processes.
Intelligent software essentially means that businesses are able to standardise the stack with a smart operating system model that provides them with the leverage to choose any open application, hardware or optics. Intelligence in software allows a business to disaggregate the hardware and software providing unprecedented choice, flexibility and efficiency.
Similar to what is done with the PC industry today, where you choose the operating system (like Windows or Linux) and then choose your hardware to run it (from Dell, HP, Supermicro for example), the same can now be done with data centre network switches. If an enterprise prefers specific software, they are not limited to only one hardware vendor to run it on. If they prefer specific hardware, they are not limited to one software vendor. This provides the customer further choice, which can significantly reduce costs and opens the door to an array of applications and tools for automation, scale and efficiency.
SCALE EFFICIENTLY & SAVE
Building modular networks in the leaf/spine (otherwise known as Clos) architecture is exceptionally scalable and efficient. Clos architectures can be built to be highly scalable if needed as it acts like building blocks for the modern data centre. Leaf/spine architecture provides predictable latency as all hosts are equally distant from each other, and it natively provides utilisation of all links through Equal Cost Multipath Routing (ECMP) using standardised mature routing protocols. Using Layer 3 routing for redundancy and load sharing eliminates the constraints of MultiChassis Link Aggregation (MLAG). Since MLAG is not standardised, it is proprietary per vendor, which means both paired switches need to be from the same vendor. Additionally, MLAG limits redundancy to 2 switches — if one switch fails, you are down 50% of the bandwidth. By deploying routing with ECMP, you are able to customize and define the bandwidth and redundancy.
Open, flexible architecture is not only efficient for the new, larger east-west data centre traffic (server-to-server or server-to-storage traffic within the data centre), but it is also an optimal design for very small networks up to the largest mega-data centres. This is because any organisation of any size can benefit from cost-reduction and efficiency.
Web-scale networking principles can have a very lasting impact on an organisation. With web-scale IT, businesses usually find themselves completely rethinking their network design, operations and practices in a way that brings freedom and scale to the data centre.
Organisations will multiply the number of switches per engineer, reduce network complexities, standardise tools and programs, build automated methods to detect issues, improve time to market and — overall — build a better network. These improvements make it easier for an organisation to scale efficiently and affordably.
Think Facebook, Amazon, Netflix & Google (to name a few - better known as the FANG's), who have led the way in realising the breadth and depth of benefits that traditional models simply could not deliver. The same model can also be applied towards organisations of every size and every industry so they can also reap the benefits of these new, agile environments.
How will adopting web-scale IT benefit my organisation?
Moving to a web-scale IT architecture provides many benefits to an organisation. Primarily:
- Ability to scale efficiently
- Ability to automate easily
- Cost reduction on both Capex and Opex
- Complete IT agility — deliver internal and external applications in record speed
- Freedom to choose any combination of vendors based on your needs and your budget
ABILITY TO SCALE EFFICIENTLY
It is easy to scale a web-scale network as your business grows. The leaf/spine architecture is effective for administering three racks to hundreds of racks. Simply add additional racks with leaf switches as the need arises and connect them to the spine switches. If this gets too large, an additional tier can be added to the network. It is a very simple modular design that is optimised for both east-west traffic (inter-server communication) as well as north-south traffic (accessing the data centre from outside). This model allows expansion without having to touch the existing network.
ABILITY TO AUTOMATE EASILY
When you standardise your network with Linux-based switches, you can leverage all of your existing automation tools and DevOps practices. You’ve probably heard the term NetDevOps — this is exactly what the term is referring to.
Cumulus Networks enables a consistent experience between the network and compute. You can automate the complete operational lifecycle of network devices from configuration and provisioning to policy-based change management. By employing a web-scale networking approach to automation with Cumulus Linux, you can reduce costs, improve efficiency, improve your operator to switch ratio, and reduce complexities and issues.
COST REDUCTION ON BOTH CAPEX AND OPEX
Ask any CFO (or CEO) if they would like to significantly reduce CapEx and OpEx while dramatically improving operational speed and agility in the data centre, and they will be interested. The numbers don't lie. You simply cannot achieve the same cost-savings benefits with the old, traditional architecture.
The web-scale IT model is an open one. It allows the use of commodity hardware with chosen software. In terms of CapEx, this can dramatically reduce the cost of infrastructure by promoting competition between hardware and software vendors. This often results in a reduced cost of switches, cables, optics and even applications.
No enterprise needs to be locked into any one vendor for anything anymore. If the hardware needs to be upgraded, the vendor can swap out the hardware and keep the same software — thus not requiring any re-training of engineers. Alternately, if the software has issues, it can be changed without physically unracking and re-racking switches.
Use of DevOps tools such and Ansible, Puppet and Chef also reduce operating expenses. Network automation enables your organisation to scale from one network admin controlling 30 devices all the way to one network admin controlling hundreds of devices. Cumulus Networks have customers with up to 400 switches controlled by a team of two. This results in a dramatic reduction in OpEx.
COMPLETE IT AGILITY
Since web-scale IT is based on automation, deploying a new rack, and thus the applications and services on that rack is much quicker than the traditional model. ONIE (Open Networking Install Environment) is used to automatically load an operating system, ZTP is used for initial configuration and DevOps tools are used to configure and maintain all the servers and the switches on the rack. This means the server and the switches connecting the servers can be brought online simultaneously, thereby reducing the time needed to deliver the applications. That means your IT team can deliver applications with higher SLAs and vastly reduced deployment times.
Similar to DevOps, whose influence in combining knowledge and processes within software development, QA and IT professionals has led to a newer, more collaborative and agile method of developing and testing software, resulting in it becoming GA faster. Bringing this methodology into the network is often referred to as NetDevOps.
With this NetDevOps mindset, the IT organisation is transformed into an organisation that is viewed as a trusted partner rather than a 24/7 support team being called only to put out fires when software and hardware systems fail. The IT department takes its rightful place as a proactive partner rather than a reactive disaster recovery team.
This mindset has naturally flowed into the web-scale IT architecture that is being increasingly adopted in data centres around the world today.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE
An enterprise's ability to independently choose software and hardware, all the way down to the optics, provides not only cost reduction, but also the ability to choose which aspect is best for your organisation's needs.
What technology is available for web-scale networking?
BIOS IT's partners Cumulus Networks develops intelligent software and web-scale technology to provide solutions that are designed for automation and scale. Cumulus's network operating system (NOS), Cumulus Linux, works with more than 50 vendor platforms and offers a flexible open architecture, faster IT delivery and, of course, automation and scale. They're continuously expanding the technology to optimise the web-scale networking approach with features they've innovated in-house like PTM, EVPN, NCLU and more. Learn more about Cumulus Linux.
Cumulus Networks understands that the NOS is just one piece of the puzzle. They also offer a range of services, products and informative boot camps to get your web-scale data centre network up and running quickly and easily. (I've recently completed the boot camp & wow, mind blown)
When building your web-scale data centre, you should consider what types of technologies you'll want to leverage for efficiency, power and your overall organisational needs. Cumulus offers information on several of their use cases and solutions, but they also believe that the beauty in web-scale IT is that it allows your network to be built precisely to the needs of your organisation. Here are a few use cases to consider.
Network virtualization involves separating the network layer from dependence on the underlying hardware. For example, a VLAN (virtual local area network) is layer 2 virtualization that divides the local network into separate subnetworks — often used for separating traffic across the same hardware cable. Additionally, network virtualization can entail running layer 2 segments over a layer 3 network. In the same way that cloud provisioning works, virtualization enables network provisioning so you can create as many instances as you need, supporting scaling as you grow.
Cumulus Networks interoperates with network virtualization tools from vendors such as VMware, Midokura, Akanda and others through Cumulus Linux, so you don't have to worry about which model and architecture to choose. Cumulus Networks has made the networking component simple and seamless under the hood — ready for you to reap the benefits!
Automation is a key component of web-scale networking as it reduces resource demands, mitigates errors and helps operators manage more switches. By choosing an open networking model, a business can leverage existing automation tools as well as DevOps practices.
Many of the automation tools that have been used in the compute world for years have been migrated into the networking world. Using Cumulus Linux, you can automate the complete operational lifecycle of network devices from configuration and provisioning to policy-based change management. Automating a network results in ease and speed of configuration and operation, eliminating inconsistencies and misconfigurations contributed by human error, and version control.
Until open networking became an available methodology, OpenStack clusters were only as flexible as the top-of-rack switch. Customers could take advantage of the open compute and storage standards, but networking remained a bottleneck.
This completely changes with web-scale networking. With Cumulus Linux, the entire stack can run Linux. With the data plane and control plane speaking the same language, there's no need for complex compute APIs or networking CLIs.
How do I build a scalable network?
Organisations of all sizes contact Cumulus Networks when they want to build a private cloud environment and leverage web-scale IT principles. They're seeking the architectural approach once only available to cloud giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix. These organisations have demonstrated the value of web-scale IT by achieving ultimate scalability and agility at minimum risk and cost.
Organisations want to embrace the open, modular, scalable, efficient infrastructure offered with web-scale IT, and the cost reduction opportunities make the technology an ideal fit. But many organisations don't quite know how to start.
New cloud projects often present the ideal opportunities to transition to web-scale IT and then spread the principles into other parts of the organisation.
Cumulus Networks & BIOS IT provides the knowledge and experience to help you through the journey of moving from traditional networking to web-scale networking. With a support team made up of industry experts and with the most flexible network operating system available, we can help you develop a web-scale data centre network that is designed to fit your budget and your needs.
How Cumulus Networks supports web-scale IT?
Cumulus Networks is the leader in web-scale networking and are making a massive impact in the Australian market. They enable a web-scale IT architectural approach in the network — a critical part of the data centre that has traditionally been a bottleneck for rapid deployment of applications.
With Cumulus Linux, customers can run their data centre networks the way Google and Facebook have done for years — highly automated — without all the development time or expensive, specialised hardware. However, for customers that don't wish to automate, they have also developed the Network Command Line Utility, which provides a modern command line interface to configure the switch.
Hardware can cost as little as a sixth of what it did in legacy IT models, but the operational difference is even more dramatic: one admin can oversee 500 switches, versus 20 previously, and provisioning takes hours or minutes instead of days or weeks.
Cumulus Networks provides training and helps make you comfortable with the move to open and web-scale networking, with the ultimate goal of helping you accelerate performance and cost-effectively scale IT operations.
Using a web-scale IT approach helps your organisation dynamically scale cloud-based resources as needed and have better agility, ultimately increasing your organisation's data centre power, flexibility, efficiency and scalability.
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