In 2002, virtualisation transformed the world of IT by abstracting applications from the underlying hardware. Now, the same effect is happening at the network, as the network virtualisation gives the ability to create logical networks that are decoupled from the physical infrastructure. There are several business benefits to network virtualisation. One is reduced time to market to deliver new applications – orders of magnitude faster than was possible before. Today, the process of provisioning an application can take weeks or longer. Network virtualisation skips the step of provisioning a network; instead, it becomes an automated push-button solution. If you include that in an application blueprint, you can deploy a multi-machine solution in seconds.
Secondly, network virtualisation reduces the risk of a security breach by providing logical isolation, also known as micro-segmentation, of all east-west traffic within your data centre. Instead of having all applications sitting on a layer 2 network, organisations can deploy workloads on different hosts and isolate those virtual machines from each other to provide damage limitation in the event an attacker finds a weak point in your perimeter, or an employee has inadvertently provided access. Physical segmentation that puts firewalls between file servers protects against unfettered lateral movement in your data centre. Think of it as the difference between a castle and a hotel; with a castle, you have a strong perimeter but once someone gets past the drawbridge, they have unlimited access to what’s inside. Segmentation is more like a hotel. You may be allowed in, and you can wander around the lobby, but your access is limited to the floor you’re staying in. If you think about trying to replicate an environment like that physically, you would need to have separate hosts and firewalls, and management on top. It’s expensive from a capital perspective on buying firewalls and operational perspective from having to manage them. Instead, network virtualisation can do all of that logically in software.
Savings brings us onto the next benefit; network virtualisation automates all these mundane tasks that system admins and network engineers have to perform, which should result in less time spent in managing the day-to-day running. Organisations can then either reinvest those savings in having those network admins do more high-level tasks such as improving architecture of the network or deploy them elsewhere within the business.
The final business benefit is to reduce the risk of disaster recovery failover. By having everything running on software, it simplifies the process of creating and maintaining security policy for the primary protected site to the secondary backup site. It makes failing over from one site to the other much easier by avoiding any name spacing overlap and eliminates the hassle with IP addressing.
If you’re thinking about how network virtualisation could address your organisations needs, we recommend working with a partner that has the skills in this space. We can assess, provide pilot service, production plan and design and consultancy, around security, business continuity and automation.
We work with VMware which has a fantastic reputation as a game changer since the earliest days of virtualisation. Its network virtualisation is not just a product but a platform and the interaction with various automation and security solutions stands out against competing offerings. With network virtualisation, the deeper you go, the more you realise the value. This technology is fast becoming mainstream, so now is the opportunity to get ahead and gain competitive advantage.