Virtualization Technology News and Information
Smart Infrastructure Orchestration - What can we do with it?

Written by Ravi Rao, Principal Product Architect, Extreme Networks 

Networking is like a puzzle. To be successful, IT must bring together a lot of individual pieces to serve a broader function. Twenty years ago, IT may have been a 150-piece puzzle, but it's easily grown to a 500-piece puzzle in 2019. From multi-cloud to IoT to edge, IT teams are tasked with overseeing environments that are incredibly complex and dispersed and ensuring that all those elements operate together seamlessly and securely. One way to manage this  environment is to leverage infrastructure orchestration, which provides a full view of how things are connected across the network and allows for administrators to make adjustments in real time. But beyond unifying operations and streamlining workflows, what's the real value and purpose of "smart infrastructure orchestration"?

Think about it like this - in your daily life, such a platform could automate your coffee machine or ensure an application always performs optimally. But in the enterprise, a smart orchestrator can do much more. It can work across the IT silos to not only automate applications orchestration, server management, storage management, and network automation but to bridge these automations into an IT process workflow. In other words - it could make IT teams work better and more efficiently.

Part of what makes this so powerful and "smart" is that these orchestrators possess the heuristic nature of a human. In other words, the technology follows the same methodology that a human would follow to keep the operating environment in optimal state. Just as military has its adage of precision - "OODA" - meaning Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, the IT industry has its own method called "MAPE," or Monitor, Assess, Plan, and Execute. A smart orchestration system hits every step of the MAPE loop, by offering the following capabilities:

  • Monitor: Pervasive visibility across all domains
  • Assess: Data analytics
  • Plan: Intelligent remediation
  • Execute: Intelligent and intent driven cross-domain provisioning


With this is place, teams can orchestrate IT processes involving multiple IT domains, and string together a workflow that will not only automate the process across these domains but will provide a more efficient and optimized method to implement the process. The list of operations for which the smart orchestrator can be used is long, but here are a few key use cases:

Horizontal scaling of applications - The orchestration system, based on real-time monitoring of a mission-critical business application, spins off instances of the application server at the nearest location to the user, which allows teams to horizontally scale out the application. Through its intelligent provisioning, the system can even instantiate the service in a local public cloud. This is cost-effective for the business, provides the best end-user experience and ensures the data is secure. Similarly, the system also optimizes costs by reigning in the application when not needed.

Security management - The orchestration system analyzes the data of the operating environment in real time, as well as data from extraneous sources being fed to the data lake. Based on a set of initial access policies and machine learning algorithms, the system will regenerate the access policies to adopt to the current operating conditions. The security management can span the domains of physical, network and data security.

Traffic management - The orchestrator can be used to intelligently manage network traffic within the data center and ensure that all the applications using the network are allocated the right network bandwidth. For example, an IT team can ensure that a backup application that is backing up data during non-peak hours is allocated the right bandwidth from the source to the destination of the data.

Data center resource optimization - The orchestrator, in conjunction with other process control/monitoring systems, can optimize resource utilization of the data center as a whole. This means that the central smart orchestration system managing IT resources can monitor and optimize the environment by shutting down servers that are idle at non-peak hours and do this in an intelligent manner to consolidate all the active IT resources into one area of the data center. It can then interface with the HVAC system to power down the servers that are idle, and automatically adjust the cooling for that area of the data center. The smart orchestrator will not only place the workloads in an intelligent manner across the data center, but also perform similar operations across multiple locations and provide intelligent placement of workloads closer to the business need. The optimization will lower the cost of running the data center or the compute farms necessary for the digital business.

It's not hard to see the value of a smart orchestrator - the above use cases apply to any industry's data center, from healthcare to manufacturing to eCommerce. Depending on the industry, data center teams can customize the orchestrator to build the right policies for provisioning, analytics and remediations. It's too often that infrastructure is seen as an inhibitor for businesses - too complex, too messy, too burdensome. But if enterprises invest in making their infrastructure smarter, it can help drive the business forward.


About the Author

Ravindra (Ravi) Rao has been in the IT industry for over 30 years. During this time, he has worked extensively on application development and architectures, and data center architectures, as well as on the operational side of applications and data centers. He has also worked to design and implement data center and service provider networks. Prior to joining Extreme Networks, he held roles at Unisys Corporation, SUN Microsystems, Cisco Systems, VMware., Verizon, Equinix and Brocade Systems. He has spent the last 8-10 years in data center automation and has been working on integrating toolchains into a common user experience. He holds several patents on service provider and data center network automation.

Published Thursday, January 17, 2019 7:43 AM by David Marshall
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