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Network Virtualization: A Look into the Profound Nodes

By CIOReview | Tuesday, June 21, 2016

At a Glance

The computer network and Internet perhaps is one of the most impressive creations of our generation with an incredible influence, making the present and future impossible without them. At the heart of these innovations is the basic network which allows computers to exchange data via a data links. Since the networks started to evolve and grow enormously, virtualization effectively manages and maintains them. Network virtualization (NV) opens up great potential for the evolution path to the future networks by enabling the deployment of different architectures and protocols over a shared physical infrastructure. The virtual machines communicating with each other via a virtual switch can be the basic example of network virtualization. The deployment of network virtualization imposes new requirements and brings in new issues in relation to how networks are provisioned, managed, and controlled today.

Exploring Technology

Virtualization enables the efficient utilization of network resources through logical segmentation of a physical network by combining hardware and software network resources and network functionality into a single, software-based administrative entity. In short, virtualization creates a logical software-based view of the hardware and software networking resources which includes switches, routers, and other networking components. The physical networking devices are responsible for the forwarding of packets, while the virtual network or software application provides an intelligent abstraction that makes it easy to deploy and manage network services and resources.

It’s important to integrate hardware and software elements that will all work together to support network virtualization while considering the mix of devices. NV requires network virtualization (VLAN) software on each virtualized server as well as within switches and other network components that support virtualization. Networking companies offers numerous solutions that preserve the benefits of today’s network design while introducing the capability of segmenting the network into secure virtual networks by overlaying VPN mechanisms onto the existing LAN. These include 802.1x, Network Admission Control (NAC), generic routing encapsulation (GRE) tunnels, virtual routing and forwarding (VRF)-lite, and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) VPNs.

Key Benefits

Even though the initial investment—depending on existing hardware—for applying network virtualization may be quite huge, the ROI in the long run will be in favor of the company. The advantages of switching to a virtual environment are plentiful, saving money and time while providing much greater business continuity and ability.

• Reduced Overall Expenses: For small companies with fewer employees, nearly half of the IT budget is spent on hardware like purchasing of multiple servers and components. Virtualizing the network requires only fewer servers and extends the lifespan of existing hardware that can also direct to energy savings.

• Backup and Disaster Recovery: Unexpected disasters like leaks, floods, power outages, cyber-attacks, theft, and even snow storms can wipe out data essential to your business in seconds. Virtualization makes recovery fast and accurate, with less manpower and a fraction of the equipments.

• Improved Business Stability: Having good business continuity is essential in the modern era. Without it, files become inaccessible, work goes undone, processes are slowed and employees are less productive. Virtualization gives employees access to software, files, and communications anywhere they are and can enable multiple people to access the same information instantly.

• More efficient IT operations: Going to a virtual environment can make jobs easier especially for the IT staff and network admin. Virtualization offers easy methods for technicians to install and maintain software, distribute updates, and maintain a completely secure network with less downtime, fewer outages, quicker recovery and instant backup as compared to a non-virtual environment.

• Security: A virtual network provides secure, customized access for individuals and groups to protect the Enterprise LAN from external threats.

• Centralized control: A virtual network offers centralized control of all the applications and security policy from a single machine. This makes work easier and efficient.

• Optimize network speed: When virtual machines on the same server exchange data, no traffic goes out onto the external network. This offers extremely fast performance for data transferred within the network.

 • Easier Troubleshooting: With network virtualization, you can have an analytics engine to monitor your networks and provide historical as well as real-time data. This data can be consumed by applications using the northbound APIs and can be used for improving the scalability and accessibility of applications that can result in reduced downtime for the applications.

• Stepping stone for building a cloud environment: Network virtualization allows the complete automation of the network infrastructure by allowing to program and provision the networks based on network policies. This helps in building a fully automated private cloud or a hybrid cloud environment.

Think Before Virtualization

Initial Investments: Depending on the existing network, investment in the virtualization software, and additional hardware might be required to make virtualization possible. This obstacle can also be more readily navigated by working with a managed IT services provider who can offset the initial cost with monthly leasing or purchase plans.

• Software Licensing: As more software vendors are adapting to the increased requirement of virtualization, this is becoming less of a problem today. Still, it is important to check with the vendors to clearly understand the software functionality in a virtualized environment.

• Technical Expertise: While implementing a virtualized environment, IT staff with expertise in virtualization is important. On the user side a typical virtual environment will operate similarly to the non-virtual environment.

• Complex Process: While compared with management of physical servers, setting up and managing virtual environment with high critical servers in a production environment is tricky. Special knowledge in VMware, Hyper-v or Xen server virtualization software is necessary for effective management.

• Not Supported by All Applications: Sometimes few applications or Operating Systems may face issues and act differently on virtual environments.

The seeming inconveniences are more likely to be simple challenges that can be navigated and overcome easily with an expert IT team or by outsourcing the virtualization process to a Managed IT Services provider.

The Upcoming Days

Virtualization is quickly being applied to every aspect of IT because of the cost savings and agility it provides. Network virtualization solves a lot of networking challenges for an enterprise datacenter from making the network agile, simple, and scalable to reducing the cost of managing a network. The future of network virtualization has passed from the implementation of clouds and is focusing toward innovative features and optimum security from the cloud sources. We are way beyond simple server virtualization and are exploring new avenues to make virtualization an even more powerful platform. Let’s now wait for the next epoch of ultra modern networks.