Network Mind Meld
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L4 – L7 Network Appliance vs. Application

by Juniper Employee ‎09-13-2012 10:11 AM - edited ‎09-18-2012 01:14 PM

In my household, we enjoy reading. We read a variety of topics, such as history, science, travel, business, etc. Naturally, we bought books. Overtime, the number of books in our collection grew. As you can imagine, space became a constraint. We also have to maintain these books. The oldest book in our collection is from 1895, and it is wrapped in a rubber band so that it doesn’t fall apart. When e-readers were launched, things changed. We no longer have to maintain the new books, find space for them, and build reinforced bookshelves. Best of all, we can easily find the books with either the e-reader or through the cloud interface. This simplicity and agility is a time and space saver. It is something that you have to experience before you realize the full value and potential. Now, what has this got to do with networking?


Figure 1: Library




Let’s look at one sliver of a typical day in the life of a global enterprise’s network depicted in the image below. An employee in the branch office at Brazil updates the price list to the database. Another employee in China updates the inventory information. A third employee in India places a VOIP call. Meanwhile, another employee in Alaska’s remote office downloads reseller information. Yet another employee in UK watches a video on company’s earnings report. A hacker in Australia attempts to collect customer information from the data center in Greenland. Each of these activities requires a number of services to come into play.



Figure 2: Activities in a Global Enterprise




Network operators are meeting a variety of needs for their constituents. In this example, we have video, VOIP, data, security, etc. In order to efficiently manage these applications and provide optimal quality, network operators employ a variety of appliances such as load balancer, application delivery controller, WAN optimization, firewall, IDS/IPS, etc. These appliances have to be set up and maintained. Each device comes with its own interface for management. As the number of devices grows, this becomes a management nightmare. These appliances consume space, energy, and have a limited lifetime. Cabling is another issue to deal with. A network with so many tethered appliances does not offer flexibility. What is the economic impact of continuing this course? Well, let’s talk some numbers:


Energy: It is estimated that the world’s data centers will consume 19% more energy in 2012 compared to 2011. However, 44% of data center operators surveyed expect the energy costs to impact their operations. Mismatch in supply and demand for energy is another cause of concern.


Appliances: A load balancer in the value market costs $2,500-$10,000 per unit. According to Frost and Sullivan, the firewall market is forecasted to reach $4,630.2 million in revenue by 2016, with a 6.7% CAGR. These are just two examples of the many appliances needed for a network.


Just like how e-books helped our situation at home, what if there was a way to have software versions of these appliances. In other words, what if we have an application for each one of these functions instead of an appliance? And what if we have the equivalent of an e-reader to let us centrally access and manage these applications? And more importantly, what if each of these applications were intelligent? What if they knew what else is on the network and communicated with each other automatically? Now we are saving space, hardware maintenance issues, and energy costs.


What we need is the ability to go beyond deploying appliances. We also need the ability to host and deploy applications. More importantly, we need to dynamically provision these applications as needed. (There are some applications available in the market, more on this in another post.)


When network operators can rapidly provision applications, they can keep pace with the growing business needs of their constituents. In this world, IT is no longer a limiting factor, but a business enabler. In this world, it is history that IT is a cost center. In essence, the networking industry needs the equivalent of an e-reader.


Now, if I could get e-wardrobe and e-shoes, I can save more space at home. Let me know if you know a solution to this problem! In the mean time, tell me how many appliances do you have in your network? How much time do you spend managing them? How often do they break? Also, tell me your budget woes.


by Juniper Employee
on ‎09-13-2012 11:04 AM

Hi Priya - nice blog, really like the book and ereader analogy and the tie back to networking. In my house, I wish I could get a set of e-tools...

by Juniper Employee
‎09-17-2012 06:19 AM - edited ‎09-17-2012 06:20 AM

Hi Priya,


Nice blog post! I like the analogy with the e-reader. That analogy touches on two points:

(a) Selling virtual appliances instead of physical appliances (e-books instead of paper books)

(b) Hosting multiple virtual appliances on a single physical server using virtual machines (many e-books on the same reader)


--  Bruno

by Juniper Employee
on ‎09-17-2012 06:02 PM

Hi Brendan, I added e-tools to my wishlist Smiley Happy


Hi Bruno, Thanks for your feedback!

Juniper Networks Technical Books
About the Author
  • Priya is responsible for product line management of virtualization and security products for firewall. She has held leadership positions in strategy, product management and marketing, and engineering in various companies including Cisco. You can follow her on twitter @NatarajanPriya