Mar 09 2017
Data Center

Paving the Way to the Cloud Through SDN and Hyperconvergence

For small businesses, software-defined networking and hyperconverged infrastructure offer easy pathways to cloud storage and other services.

Software-defined networking, and virtualization in general, leads to the cloud and its wealth of services.

When Mark Kaplan, IT director for Barbri, was considering options six years ago for the Dallas legal e-training company’s infrastructure facelift, redundant data centers made the most sense. If tasked with the same project today, he says, he’d put everything in the cloud. And that’s Kaplan’s ultimate plan.

“If you’re a brand-new business, why spend all that money on a data center and capex equipment when you can ship it all to the cloud,” he says.

Mike Buchholz, network administrator for Wixon, ultimately would like to follow the same path for the food seasoning manufacturer in St. Francis, Wis. Wixon’s not ready yet to run its primary load in the cloud, but Buchholz says he pushing for cloud-based backup and disaster recovery.

Today, Wixon uses Zerto’s Virtual Replication to replicate data and back it up to an EMC Data Domain storage system, with integrated deduplication and compression technologies, that is located in a building across campus from the main data center. Once Wixon completes its current deployment of VxRail, VMware’s new hyperconverged infrastructure, it will be able to use a cross-cloud architecture plug-in to easily tap multiple cloud services, Buchholz says.

Use Cases Drive SDN Deployments

But how to proceed down the virtual networking and HCI path can be confusing given the newness of the technology and different manufacturers’ approaches, says EMA Analyst Shamus McGillicuddy. Before small and medium-sized businesses decide to move forward, they therefore need to know the direction in which they’ll take their business and IT environments in the next three to five years, he says. Then, using that vision, they can define use cases, he adds.

Take software-defined wide-area networks, which are seeing steady adoption as they address a specific network pain point for many businesses — managing a large environment with a small team. Even so, SD-WAN is not right for every SMB, McGillicuddy says.

In a 2017 EMA study, early adopters of SD-WAN solutions cited application performance improvements as their primary driver. Also high on the driver list: the technology’s ability to help an IT organization directly connect its branch offices to external cloud-based services. Those are two discrete areas for which a business could develop and test a use case, McGillicuddy points out.

“Deploying SD-WAN just because you’re refreshing isn’t enough,” he says. “It’s going to change how you do things, so you need a reason to do it.”

Making Sense of Software-Defined Acronyms

What exactly is SDN? Ask different people to define software-defined networking and you’ll get different answers. What about HCI and SD-WAN?

Here’s a quick primer:

SDN: Software-defined networking is an architectural approach that separates control and data functions via a programming interface. Software at the control layer offers intelligent routing and programmability, letting IT teams automate manual processes. Legacy networks usually have numerous physical devices, as well as newer virtual ones, so SDN approaches vary depending on network topology.

HCI: Hyperconverged infrastructure solutions combine compute, storage, networking and a hypervisor in a single box. Businesses can purchase HCI as a turnkey appliance or as software to run on a chosen hardware platform.

SD-WAN: Software-defined wide-area networks are architected to address common WAN.

For more on how SDN can aid small businesses, check out "How SDN Can Help Your SMB Manage Large IT Environments." And for more on how SD-WAN can help you future-proof your operations, visit this CDW white paper


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