One of the things that is really changing data centres is software-defined infrastructure, and specifically software-defined networks (SDN). For example, in a traditional data centre infrastructure, where you can quickly deploy virtualisation, the network has often been the least flexible part of the infrastructure. Although you could provision a virtual machine very quickly, it might take days or weeks, and in some cases months, for the network administrator and operations team to log into every single data centre device and make the requisite changes in the network so that virtual machine could become available to the business.
Now with SDN and automated network configuration, a virtual machine can be ready for service almost as quickly as it is provisioned. Exacerbating this ‘network bottleneck’ problem is the pace of data centre technology modernisation with the advent of containers, flash storage and hyper-converged infrastructures that need ever faster connectivity and dynamic configurations. Although SDN is often thought of as a tool for connecting assets in a public cloud, the same SDN technology works in private clouds and in on-premises data centres. This enables organisations to get more out of their network infrastructure by building a hybrid data centre with optimum locations for different workloads, and to quickly reconfigure the environment to meet business needs.
SDN makes it possible to manage this level of complexity by adding intelligence to the network, so that it can orchestrate and secure applications and data. Many security controls that were handled by appliances attached to the network, such as firewalls, intrusion prevention, encryption and authentication, are now delivered in concert with the network itself. In a highly distributed hybrid data centre infrastructure, it is critical that SDN and cloud-based security controls are consistently applied across the entire infrastructure.