While it should seem like someone else’s concern, no other group within IT should want software-defined networking (SDN) more than the storage administration and virtualization vAdmin groups. SDN’s promise to all the storage and vAdmin teams is to perform their jobs more efficiently and with less time spent waiting on network resource provisioning.
Network Infrastructure Critical to Storage and Hypervisors
Scale-out storage systems, hypervisor clusters, and hyper-converged clusters are all built from a collection of servers networked together to create a single entity which delivers the storage and compute services the organization needs. The network is the circulatory system for these clusters. It does more than move data in and out of the cluster. The network makes sure that each node is performing the right function and storing the right data at the right time, in the right location.
The Criticality of Network Visibility
The problem is the network is now a more critical part of storage and virtualization infrastructures than ever. The likelihood of there being a network problem and the likelihood of that problem impacting production applications is much higher than ever. Insight into that network and how it is interacting with storage and hypervisors is vital to troubleshooting and proactive problem elimination.
The network team is, of course, busy as well. It doesn’t have time to prove that the network is working correctly every time a problem arises. SDN allows the network team to delegate network monitoring and management safely and directly to the storage and virtualization teams. SDN provides tools to enable visibility for these groups into not only how the network is functioning in their environment, but also how it is interacting with storage and virtualization components. SDN has also improved user interfaces, no longer requiring command line syntax and complicated configuration settings.
The net effect is that the storage and virtualization teams can better support themselves with better visibility and usability. The result should be faster and more accurate problem resolution. At the same time, the network team has complete oversight and can keep changes that the storage and virtualization teams make isolated to their domain so they do not impact the rest of the organization.
SDN Powered Storage and Virtualization
In theory, the storage and virtualization teams could get by without SDN but having SDN enables them to deliver a better quality of service to their users. Storage and virtualization teams empowered with SDN can provide additional capacity and compute faster. Node expansion requires network configuration changes and SDN can automatically apply those changes as the node connects to the network without any storage, vAdmin or network admin interaction.
The first blog covered the specific cost savings advantages of SDN. Storage and virtual cluster architectures will benefit even more so from those savings. Each of these cluster types quickly consumes network resources typically driving further, and often unplanned, investment in the network. Expanding network resources via the generic white box switch, instead of proprietary switches keeps network expansion costs to a minimum.
Storage and virtualization teams should be at the forefront of moving an organization to adopt SDN. Organizations that adopt SDN should see a measurable increase in provisioning speeds and a decrease in troubleshooting. Adopting SDN, however, does not need to be an all or nothing proposition. The networking team can move the storage and virtualization departments to SDN gradually learning as they go.