Cloud First and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) have become mainstay modernization initiatives within the Federal Government. As the number of efforts increase, IT managers are gaining a better understanding of how cloud implementations and SDN can solve real-world enterprise problems.
Government professionals are seeing clear improvements in the time required to make new services available by leveraging these technologies, and many are starting to see a reduction in the operational expenses involved in delivering new applications. With the addition of automation tools, managers can make better use of their technical talent, moving network engineers out of routine trouble ticket management and applying their skills to tougher engineering problems that have a more significant impact on agency business operations.
To accomplish these objectives, IT managers must re-think how they are building and delivering networking services to the users. To truly enable a seamless cloud experience, network and security provisioning processes also must be automated.
From a technology perspective, there are networking tools and capabilities available to allow for the implementation of an architecture that is simple, resilient, high performing, and open. Taking advantage of these tools provides the seamless connectivity between infrastructure elements that is required for the cloud to work as envisioned. And network services need to be delivered in an automated fashion, aligning with the service models enabled by the cloud.
Juniper’s MetaFabric, for example, is an architecture that delivers an agile and efficient network designed for data centers. It is based on the Juniper EX and QFX switching platforms, and MX routing platforms, to deliver a cohesive networking service that is simple to manage, automated to accelerate service delivery, and open to avoid vendor lock-in and deliver a future-proofed, agile approach.
Moving to the cloud and SDN likely will have bumps along the road, although the majority of deployment problems are people- and process-related, not technology. The underlying technologies to support cloud are rapidly maturing, however, the organizations and processes often are not ready to take full advantage of them.
The traditional approach to infrastructure is to consider the server, software, security, and network as separate silos. Unfortunately, many times there is a serious lack of communication between the teams that manage these silos. We are starting to see the silos break down in some areas, but what is really required is establishment of a “DevOps” culture, where development and operations teams are merging, developers are empowered to deploy their own resources on-demand, and operations teams are leveraging modern automation tools and practices to keep up with these demands.
In organizations that have adopted cloud computing, applications are being rapidly developed and are expected to roll-out through operations to production very quickly. If the operations team’s processes are not tightly synchronized with the development team, this velocity breaks down. There is a practical rationale for creating a DevOps environment. This kind of culture shift does not happen automatically—the network and security teams must coalesce, which requires buy-in from leadership, and a commitment to information-sharing and communication.
Customers who have experienced the most success in leveraging cloud and SDN are not focused solely on their technology challenges. They also are working to create more collaborative environments by looking at the organizational and cultural challenges to ensure the “people and process problems” are addressed—with executive support—in parallel with technology evolution.
The Web-scale companies are excellent models to study—especially how they have implemented a DevOps culture within their organizations. Several excellent books have been written on this topic, including The Phoenix Project, a novel by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford.
Along with my Juniper colleagues, I am interested in learning more about customer experiences and would welcome the opportunity to share insights about how others are navigating the migration to hosted and SDN computing environments.