As more mid-sized companies virtualize the data center, it is vital to reevaluate network design to accommodate the impact of server virtualization architecture on the network.
Many larger companies have invested in data center fabric to create networks with any-to-any connectivity and tighter management to handle complex virtual environments. Now smaller companies will look to scale down these network fabrics to handle smaller, virtualized environments.
For companies of any size, having the right data center fabric in place can spell success or failure for virtualization architecture and cloud capability. Existing traditional three-tier network architecture wasn't designed for virtualized workloads and the increased demand on network I/O infrastructure. Flatter networks, on the other hand, are designed to simplify this type of data traffic flow.
It is vital for network specialists to understand current and anticipated
Are mid-sized companies ready to build virtualization architecture?
While mid-sized companies are beginning to embrace the idea of implementing a flatter network architecture, Mike Strohl, CEO of Entisys Solutions, a consultancy and integrator of virtualization solutions from the data center to the desktop and into the cloud, admits that some are more ready than others to actually make the transition.
Strohl explains that some companies haven't even begun virtualization architecture projects, while others show more signs of maturity in their virtualization implementations. "Even among companies that are 80 percent virtualized, only about one-third are down the path of adding desktop virtualization and cloud," he says.
The real leaders in data-center architecture transformation are those companies with a virtualization-first policy. "Any time [companies] provision new resources, applications or desktops, the first choice is virtualization. If it's not virtualized, someone asks, why not?" says Strohl.
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It's this latter group of mid-sized leaders that are on their way to a flatter data center fabric sooner.
George Miller, vice president of sales at TorreyPoint, an information systems consultancy, says that mid-sized companies that are more web-based and innovative are quicker to simplify the network fabric.
"In our experience, companies that rely on the network to drive new business are moving to a new fabric architecture to simplify running applications so they can deliver new services to the customer," he says. "For these businesses, it's all about the reliability, predictability and security of the network architecture."
Partners help mid-sized companies transition to virtualization architecture
While industry experts contend that the mid-sized market is ripe for adopting a flatter network architecture, channel partners shouldn't expect a rip-and-replace approach. "The mid-sized market will look for solutions that interoperate with the existing network infrastructure that can grow incrementally," says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research and affiliate analyst at the Yankee Group.
The majority of traditional mid-sized companies will look to their partners for guidance on the next generation data center. The initial move for the channel to get to that point is educating the customer.
The roadmap to a new network fabric will vary from customer to customer. However, this will be driven by virtualization architecture changes made to the compute infrastructure and the customer's mission critical requirements for increased elasticity, agility and predictability.
In most cases, industry experts expect mid-market companies to create mini-fabrics, testing them with several applications for performance and migrating additional applications as needed. With the help of partners, these companies can determine how best to implement a data center fabric without disrupting their current infrastructure.
Building and supporting the virtual infrastructure of mid-sized clients is a strategic solution sell for partners that presents the opportunity for on-going support services.
Both Entisys and TorreyPoint are well positioned to act on this new and growing mid-market opportunity. They both draw on cumulative years of data center experience to help clients through a successful and stable network upgrade and transformation. Today, these network specialists rely on their own best practices for guidance, gleaned from past and present implementation experience.
They also see the opportunity for long-term engagements with mid-market customers for managed services, ongoing network health checks, application validation, and knowledge transfer and training.
Kerravala points out that there's a lack of overall industry best practices in this area. Channel partners can step in and be responsible for pushing their network suppliers to offer lessons and practices for the appropriate education as more companies flatten the data center architecture.
Vendors prepare for mid-market virtualization architecture trend
Vendors are still jockeying for position and honing their data-center fabric strategies around the mid-market as this process is still in early stages.
Kerravala notes a number of vendors, including Avaya, Brocade, Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent, are good choices for the mid-market. These vendors allow network specialists to cascade fabric-capable switches to create mini-fabrics for incremental growth and testing.
Juniper is another alternative that partners are turning to for network fabric. In the near future, Juniper may announce moves related to configurations that will expand the reach of QFabric, which could be beneficial to the mid-market in particular.
This was first published in June 2012