Combining these technologies can result in more agile and nimble data and networks.
Cloud has become standard. Government, industry and home users alike have come to depend on it every day. Most view the cloud as the end-state solution for data centers, but is it really a foundation for something much bigger? Here are the five core building blocks underlying cloud technology and a look at what we can expect as each matures:
Most would agree that virtualization was the driving force that jump-started cloud computing. It not only makes efficient use of hardware but also allows for a more resilient experience, scalability and automation when moving from one machine or location to another. Virtualization also enables rapid configuration, baselining and deployment of new systems, and results in cost savings and a more efficient data center and a smaller footprint.
Increasingly, we can expect cloud service providers to offer new service options—from application delivery and hosted/virtual/cloud desktops to network virtualization and storage virtualization through new technologies such as blockchain compute and storage.
Software-defined infrastructure has matured to a point of general market acceptance. Software-defined networking , the last piece that completes a software-defined infrastructure setup, is rapidly approaching this same level of maturity. SDN is already well-established among commercial cloud providers but is now taking a stronger foothold within private and hybrid data centers.
Complimentary to virtualization, SDN is designed to make the network as agile as the virtualized server and storage infrastructure of the modern data center. SDN represents a fundamental shift in how networks are configured, designed and maintained, enhancing security and enabling rapid response to changing business requirements and mission needs.
SDN provides a centralized view and management of the transport layer. With an increase in virtual machines and IoT devices, and looming security standards for smart devices, SDN brings improved security by providing automated control and distribution for network stacks. SDN minimizes the complexity of change management and reduces human error in configurations.
SDN can automate all tasks in large networks with wide area networks, virtual private networks, firewalls, routers, and numerous virtual routing and forwarding/virtual local area networks—previously too complicated to manage using traditional methods. For example, allowing a specific service to be stood up in a satellite office can be performed with a few clicks in an SDN GUI interface versus the traditional steps of creating firewall rules and routes, extending VLANs, and provisioning IP space. What is even more enticing about SDN is once in place and configured properly, it can make the implementation and migration to IPv6 significantly easier.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
Efficiency is usually the primary driver behind automation, but it’s important to understand that automation is not a technology: It’s a configured set of static “if, then” rules.
We are now seeing more automation out-of-the-box with commercial products. The next iteration will leverage artificial intelligence, as predicted by Gartner, and move beyond static rules and apply “fuzzy-logic” to solve infrastructure problems. That’s a significant step toward self-healing systems and self-improving technology.
The next iteration of virtualization and service autonomy is application containerization. Products such as Docker allow service providers to containerize complex applications and easily deploy them to multiple servers and even disparate operating systems, allowing for easy migrations and upgrades of services, and simpler scalability, high availability, and disaster recovery.
Developers have struggled to test in an environment that is identical to production. Because the development and production environments are one and the same with containerization, it’s easier to follow a development and operations (DevOps) model and leverage microservices.
Blockchain is a way to distribute data or computing in a secure yet decentralized manner. Similar to an older technology, BitTorrent, blockchain does more than just efficiently spread information across networks, maximizing efficiency. It decentralizes, encrypts and maintains a record of where the data has been, what’s been done to it and by whom. Blockchain isn’t just for storing data; it also allows for decentralized data processing.
Microservices, which refers to breaking down app code into sub-components and spinning up resources based on app demand, enhances application agility and distribution while also making applications more data-centric. Once broken down into much smaller pieces, code is more efficient and can process in distributed parallel, enabling maximum efficiency, faster and seamless automated recovery, and blockchain computing. Apps can run in a decentralized fashion across multiple data centers.
The beauty of blockchain is that data and compute are no longer tied to a specific system or data center; instead, it leverages a mesh of systems to remain operational and resilient. Blockchain technology forgoes the local resources requirement by design and can tap into a far vaster pool of resources restricted by technology or geographic location.
And, blockchain storage and compute is inherently more secure. By having your data encrypted and processed/stored over numerous physical locations and systems, it is much more difficult for a malicious entity to steal, reassemble, alter or otherwise harm your system.
What Does It All Mean?
The combination of these technologies enables vital networks and data to become more agile and nimble. Services will no longer be constrained by data centers, logical network or geographic location; instead, each service can self-heal, self-manage and self-improve through global mesh resources. These technologies improve as they evolve with the threat landscape and volatile user needs while being less resource-intensive and more secure. These components, rooted in the cloud, are the result of tech innovation and changing resiliency expectations for modernized products and services. With major CSPs like Amazon, Google and Azure growing rapidly, it’s clear the cloud is here to stay, and these CSPs are turning broad promises into customer-centric solutions. It’s our job as consumers to ensure we have the right CSP with the right services for our needs—at the right price.
Edris Amiryar is a senior systems engineer for NetCentrics Corp.