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Citrix: Predictions 2012 - Networking


What do Virtualization and Cloud executives think about 2012? Find out in this series exclusive.

Predictions 2012 - Networking

Contributed Article by Abhishek Chauhan, CTO, Cloud Networking Group, Citrix

The super-prediction for networking in 2012 can be summarized in one word.  Change.

The key drivers of this change - cloud and mobility - have steadily gained strength through 2011.  Now, the datacenter is changing.  The aApps are changing.  And so is the way these apps are delivered and consumed.  Underlying all of this is the network.  And change is knocking on networking's door.  As the crescendo of change builds up, 2012 promises to be a critical year for disruption and the transformation of networking.

Here is a complete look at some of the trends that stand out for us at Citrix.

Disaggregation Drives New Paradigms

"Let us bring all our traffic to one place and pipe it through a few centralized networked nodes.  This will give us better control over our network."

If you spot a problem with the above approach, give yourself a pat on the back.  For many years now, many network designers and many network designs have gone this way, failing to detect the problems you did.

The problems are many.  Forcing all traffic to take a "detour" for the sake of control is just plain inefficient.  This is increasingly clear with the new "flat networks" where there is no obvious choke point that could be repurposed to serve as the control point.  Bringing everything to one place means fatter pipes, fatter routers, more scale.

On the other hand, if the goal is control and visibility, can this be met without concentrating the traffic?  With centralized control, yet distributed enforcement, that goal can become a reality.  This question is starting to be asked, and answers will emerge in 2012.

This uber-trend is driving the thinking behind many new network designs - everything from the new distributed packet cores designs in LTE, to controller + vswitch designs at L2, to emerging firewall and ADC designs.

Software Defined Networking Gets Application-awareness

It is rubber-meets-road time for OpenFlow and software defined networking (SDN). The momentum behind SDN continues across the vendor community, with initial cloud scale deployments starting to happen.

The SDN paradigm allows for the separation of the "brains" of the network, via software defined policies, from the "brawn" of the network that actually moves bits and bytes across wires.  Since OpenFlow operates at layers 2-3 of the network, most SDN style schemes tend to be about providing more flexible ways to do routing and switching.

What we are seeing now is a desire to achieve a similar separation at layer 7, to separate the brain from the brawn and allow a flexible, software-defined policy pipeline that operates in an application-aware manner. At layer 7, a system that facilitates the paradigm of centralized control and distributed enforcement of application aware policies is a must.

The Move to Software

Networking is moving to software running on general purpose hardware.  Application delivery controllers (ADCs) from all major vendors are now available as software virtual machines, albeit with varying degrees of completeness.  More importantly, these soft ADCs have been gaining adoption.

But the move to software is also enabling new ways to employ these contraptions.  Instead of thinking of an ADC as a per-datacenter building-block, new architectures arrange these on a per-tenant and often per-application basis, which enable a larger number of finer-grained control entities.  These entities are made possible via the software.  As the software ADCs prove themselves, we expect this trend to tick up in 2012, and as a result, we expect better ways to manage these armies of tiny soldiers.

Consolidation Around Layer 7

Consolidation at layer 7 is not new.  "Upper layer protocols" have been all the craze.  WAN optimization folks have been talking about optimizing for applications, while firewall vendors have been talking about inspecting applications.  Mobile vendors have been talking about DPI at the application layer.  Joe the plumber has been plumbing applications... you get the idea.

What is new is the realization that some of these functions - which have all migrated up to layer 7 - have become prime candidates for consolidation. 

Load balancers and ADCs have been the primary location where a full functioning L7 proxy has resided.  Traditional firewalls have tried to be application-aware, but have struggled with fundamental architectural issues around the lack of a true application proxy.  New next-generation firewalls, built with application awareness in mind, have this capability.  But the duplication of application centric functions and policies make operations harder and drive the cost of front-end infrastructure up.

In 2012, there will be mainstream awareness and vendors moving to provide a "unified policy front-end" that streamlines common actions such as L7 parsing and proxying, to deliver a simpler way to configure and manage, and provide more scalable, front-end for acceleration, security and availability policies in the data center.

The start of this application front-end consolidation wave will begin with firewalls and ADCs being delivered from a common foundational architecture.

And finally, my last prediction:  Before the calendar rolls over to 2013, IEEE will have finalized a standard way for doing the kind of things vxlan and nvgre folks are dreaming up.

If your face took on the "ya right" look before breaking into a mild smile after reading the above, you're with me.


About the Author

Abhishek Chauhan is CTO for the Cloud Networking Group at Citrix, driving the company's technology vision for its networking products.  Abhishek joined Citrix through the acquisition of Teros, where he served as CTO.  Prior to founding Teros, Abhishek helped architect scalable network services and distributed systems at Sun Microsystems working on the J2EE blueprints.  Before joining Sun, he co-founded Vxtreme where he was the architect.  He studied Computer Science at University of Wisconsin and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Published Thursday, December 22, 2011 6:14 PM by David Marshall
Comments - Virtualization Technology News and Information for Everyone - (Author's Link) - January 4, 2012 7:06 AM

I'd like to personally welcome each and every one of you to the start of 2012! As we begin what will certainly prove to be a fantastic new year, I wanted to make sure to thank all of the loyal member's and readers of Once again, with the help

Software-defined: Quest for the perfectly browned toast | IT Briefcase - (Author's Link) - August 20, 2012 9:34 AM
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