What it means to simplify data center operations with MetaFabric
Dec 1, 2013
In conversations with customers across the Asia Pacific, one recurrent topic has been the constant uphill battle they face in managing the complexity of their IT environment with limited IT resources. As their organisations grow, the traditional approach to connecting more users and servers and rolling out more applications, has been to deploy more ports and switches. This has inevitably led to a proliferation of interconnected devices resulting in more devices to manage and troubleshoot.
One customer I spoke with, who oversees IT and infrastructure for a newly-established university in Singapore, is grappling with the task of ramping up infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing faculty and student population. And he has just four people providing IT and networking support for the entire organization.
The MetaFabric strategy, which Juniper Networks announced on 29 October, is aimed at addressing challenges like this.
A key thrust of MetaFabric is to ensure that the network is simple to manage, and there are two ways to do this: simplified architecture and simplified operations. Simplified architecture involves building the network with fewer interconnecting devices. Unfortunately, many companies overlook this when building up their data center.
For now, let’s focus on simplified operations. Simplified operations goes beyond management; automation plays a key role too. This is even more critical in today’s environment where the physical meets the virtual in the data center, with the coexistence of physical and virtual servers, and physical and virtual networks.
MetaFabric provides the necessary enabling technologies for this. Some of these technologies have been inherent in our software Junos for some time. Junos runs Juniper’s switching, routing and security devices. The power to write and run scripts to automate many of the networking tasks helps eliminate human error, which has been the cause of many outages. In addition, at the device level, Juniper supports Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) which reduces the time taken to deploy new switches.
At the network level, Juniper’s Network Director provides a unified view into the entire network allowing IT to manage it through a single pane of glass. With its integration with VMware’s VCenter, Network Director delivers unprecedented visibility into both the virtualized and physical environments. One can easily visualize how virtual servers are connected to virtual switches and to which physical ports on which physical switches, are the connections are presented in a graphical manner. This helps reduce the amount of time needed to isolate network issues in a complex environment.
In addition, Network Director provides the automation needed to configure the ports on physical switches when virtual machines are moved from server to server. For example, when a virtual server belonging to one VLAN is moved to a different physical server connected to a different physical switch, Network Director will automatically configure that switch to create the necessary VLAN so the virtual server is ready to go once it is moved. In the past, the configuration would have been a manual and time-consuming task.
Not only that, very often, it is useful to have a historical trail of which virtual machines were moved from which physical servers, and which physical ports those servers were connected to. One large utility customer in Malaysia, for example, specifically looked for such a feature for both compliance and troubleshooting purposes.
Working together with Network Director, Juniper’s new line of switches the QFX5100, which was also announced during the launch of MetaFabric, further simplifies operations and troubleshooting by allowing greater visibility into what goes on inside the network. The ability to support greater analytics allows for better intelligence and more granular monitoring of network traffic to detect micro-bursts and other network issues.
Finally, simplified operations also means that the network is “open”. We support open standards so that there is no vendor lock-in and there is investment protection. Also, rather than trying to provide every single component in the data center and not being able to do them well, Juniper believes in working with our technology partners. What this translates into is that customers get to choose the virtualization, automation or orchestration tools and the platform that best suits their environment and skillsets.
Do check out our MetaFabric vision and share your thoughts with us. I look forward to hearing from you.