DataCenterNews Asia logo
Specialist data center news for Asia
Story image

Opinion: Automating the data center with IBN

By Contributor
Wed 17 Oct 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Apstra CEO Mansour Karam says today’s hyperscale, leaf-spine switching data centers are so complex that established tools and techniques are no longer adequate to engineer, configure and manage their networks. In light of this, Karam explains below how Intent-Based Networking (IBN) adapts automation and AI to leap that gap between business intent and network complexity.

Joe Skorupa, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner Data Center Convergence, said: “I have known major financial organisations make multi-million dollar investments only to rip-and-replace them the very next day if a technology comes along that improves their competitive edge… However the network hasn’t really changed in the last few decades because network folk are conservative. The reasons are quite clear: if a server in a data center fails, your application goes down; but if your network goes down your entire data center goes down”.

Data Center operators are still looking for better ways to maximise uptime and increase operational agility while reducing operating costs. The good news is that there have been significant changes in the networking world, changes that I anticipated in June 2016 in my opening blog for Apstra.

A network is the ultimate in loosely-coupled highly-interdependent distributed multi-processor computing: anything, anywhere can affect anything else in ways that are far from obvious.

So I wrote: “The key to simplifying operations is to run the network as a system, as opposed to box by box. Networking systems are a distributed set of equipment running distributed protocols and routing applications. Network engineering requires complex control and visibility of this distributed set of equipment. Therefore, a distributed systems approach is required.”

The way networks work had not changed over the last 20 to 30 years. At Apstra we had to rethink the entire network concept in order to deliver order of magnitude improvements in capability and total cost of ownership.

The leaf spine advantage

Since then, there has been a major shift in data center architecture.

According to Joe Skorupa: “Anything being built today with very little exception is all leaf spine – I would say 90 percent of what is being deployed today is leaf spine. The reason for the move to leaf spine is a change in application architecture – in the old three tier architecture it was a very North / South traffic flow - very oversubscribed. The number of apps has grown hugely so there is a lot more traffic happening within the data center – East / West traffic - and leaf spine does a very good job of providing a very high bandwidth, low-latency relatively easy to manage network that does that”.

In leaf-spine (or ‘clos’) topologies – now the de facto standard – all east-west hosts are at equal distances. Applications behave more predictably because traffic between hosts on different leaf switches only has to cross the ingress leaf switch, spine switch and egress leaf switch. This is vital for organisations running multi-tiered web applications, high-performance computing clusters or high-frequency trading.

The traditional three-layer design uses spanning-tree loop prevention protocol. It detects loops and blocks links forming over the loop.

This means that dual-homed access switches only use one of their two uplinks. Alternative protocols, such as SPB and TRILL, allow all links between leaf and spine to forward traffic, so the network can scale as traffic grows.

Leaf-spine networks allow interconnections to spread across a large number of spine switches, obviating the need for massive chassis switches. Chassis switches can still be used in the spine layer, but many organisations are saving cost by deploying fixed-switch spines.

API wars

Another major shift we anticipated back in 2016 was towards Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

In that same blog I explained how more innovative customers were demanding that networking devices from leading vendors should be programmed through published APIs: “CLI wars are coming to an end and the landscape has shifted to a battle of APIs”.

For a very long time there had only been vertically integrated stacks of closed systems. Then the demand grew for open interfaces and disaggregation – hyperscalers were the first to realise the need for automated infrastructures.

Since then every vendor has responded. Now we have APIs that did not exist just five years ago – both to configure devices and to collect telemetry from devices. These APIs enable a programmable infrastructure so we now can automate our infrastructures using very powerful technologies, like machine learning and advanced analytics.

Intent-Based Networking

Intent-based networking is a method of automating your infrastructure in depth across the entire lifecycle: not just pushing out different configurations, but also bringing in advanced analytics and continuous validation to ensure that your network is behaving and continues to behave just as expected.

When you give a self-driving car instructions on where to go, that's your intent. The simpler the intent description – eg “take me back home” –  the more sophisticated the software needs to be to interpret the intent correctly and carry it out faultlessly. Intent-based networking means operating networks as a system the same way a self-driving car operates a car as a system, not a set of individual components.

In a network context, intent is the outcome the network engineer wants without going deep into configuring each specific network device. IBN systems automatically convert a high-level description of desired network behaviour (according to business-level rules) into all the necessary low-level configuration data – which is then applied to elements in the underlying network infrastructure.

Not only is less time spent planning the necessary configuration of hundreds of devices, the resulting changes can then be rolled out over the networks’ control plane. This removes two levels of opportunity for human error. Recent figures suggest that 75% of data center downtime is still due to common human error.

Of course it is then essential to monitor the resulting changes to make sure that they conform securely and reliably to the original intent – without compromising other functions on the network.

IBN does this in real time: using streaming telemetry and real-time analytics to continuously validate that the current network state remains consistent with the specified intent. It can then report exceptions or automatically reconfigure according to company policies.

Conclusion

Organisations today are embracing digital transformation in many forms, including IoT, virtual reality, 5G, and machine learning. Every one of those technologies depend upon having a scalable, reliable and agile network at its heart.

IBN is a new technology with only a handful of companies selling solutions but it is attracting wider attention now that Moore’s Law has delivered the necessary compute power to drive its engines.

It is the way to go, as Joe Skorupa explains: “The strength of intent-based networking is that finally we can generate a network design that is mathematically provable to be correct and to continually monitor the network to ensure that it remains mathematically correct. Then at the very best you get notified if something is wrong and at the very worst mediation kicks in and you’ve got a closed loop."

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Sustainability
Intel unveils new investments for data center sustainability
Intel has announced two new investments, continuing its efforts to create more sustainable data center technology.
Story image
Digital Transformation
The Huawei APAC conference kicks off with digital transformation
More than 1500 people from across APAC have gathered for the Huawei APAC Digital Innovation Congress to explore the future of digital innovation.
Story image
Sustainability
Legrand unveils Nexpand, a data center cabinet platform
Legrand has unveiled a new data center cabinet platform, Nexpand, to offer the necessary scalability and future-proof architecture for digital transformation.
Story image
Disaster Recovery
Kacific launches emergency connectivity offering, CommsBox
Kacific has announced the release of a new emergency connectivity offering designed to rapidly provide broadband service in emergency or disaster zones.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils adaptive accessories for disability access
Microsoft is introducing an expansive Inclusive Tech Lab to give people with disabilities greater access to technology through new software features and adaptive accessories.
Story image
Digital Transformation
EdgeConneX enters Indonesia, plans for data center campus
EdgeConnex has announced it is expanding its presence in Asia with the acquisition of GTN Data Center in Indonesia.
Story image
Data Center
CBRE finds record levels of investment in APAC data centers
CBRE's new report finds direct investment in the sector more than doubled in 2021, surpassing investment volumes for the past four years combined
Story image
Tech Data
Tech Data to use Pluribus Networks’ cloud solutions in APAC
Tech Data says using Pluribus Networks' Unified Cloud Fabric solution will be a "game-changer" for its data center infrastructure customers and partners.
Story image
Cloud
Colt connectivity with AWS increases services in Asia
Colt Technology Services expands cloud connectivity to AWS Direct Connect Hosted services, with speeds of up to 10 Gbps in Asia.
Exabeam
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
Sustainability
Siemens showcases new automated solutions for data centers
Siemens has implemented new automated solutions and AI in the Baltic region's largest data center, providing insight into the future of data center management.
Story image
Colocation
Digital Edge chooses Nortek’s StatePoint for new data center
Digital Edge will use Nortek's StatePoint liquid cooling technology in its new data center, the first commercial colocation operator in Asia to do so.
Story image
Red Hat
Red Hat expands capabilities to provide streamlined application development in cloud
"Application development is undergoing significant change and developers need tools to support this transformation."
Story image
Power / Energy
Keysight Technologies introduces new next-gen DPT solution
Keysight Technologies has announced its new next-generation Double-Pulse Tester (DPT) with the PD1550A Advanced Dynamic Power Device Analyser.
Story image
APAC
Odaseva expands in APAC and UK with more security features
Odaseva, a data platform for Salesforce, is establishing new headquarters in London as well as a new data center in India.
Story image
Data Center
Sime Darby Berhad to use Equinix APAC data centers
Equinix has expanded its digital infrastructure services, including its International Business Exchange data centers, to Sime Darby Berhad
Story image
Data Center
Tier III Ready Datacenter solutions shortlisted for major awards
"These designs will accelerate data center clients' own Tier III certification, reduce the cost, and fast-track their time to market."
Story image
Sustainability
RDA and MVGX partner for sustainable data center development
Red Dot Analytics (RDA) and MetaVerse Green Exchange (MVGX) have entered a strategic partnership to make Singapore's data center development and operations more sustainable.
Story image
Data Center
Equinix enters Africa, closing US$320 million acquisition of MainOne
The completion of the acquisition augments Equinix's long-term strategy to become a leading African carrier-neutral digital infrastructure company.
Story image
Sustainability
ABB unlocks sustainable energy upgrades for data centers
ABB says its new microgrid solutions will get data centers ready for the green revolution and use their own energy sources with a reduced carbon footprint.
Story image
Infrastructure
Report - Data investment the key to better business growth
New research from Digital Realty has revealed that almost half (47%) of IT leaders globally believe their business investment in data systems and infrastructure is a key obstacle or concern.
Story image
Data Center
Preventing downtime costs and damage with Distributed Infrastructure Management
Distributed Infrastructure Management (DIM) can often be a lifeline for many enterprises that work with highly critical ICT infrastructure and power sources.
Story image
SD-WAN
Orange moves Siemens AG’s entire operations to a SD-WAN
Orange Business Services has migrated Siemens AG's entire global operations, 1168 sites across 94 countries, to a SD-WAN
Story image
Sustainability
NTT launches IoT Services for Sustainability offering
"We know what actions are needed to build a more sustainable future and have a robust suite of technologies available to help deliver this impact."
Story image
Research
New strategies for cloud-native attacks - Aqua Security
New research from Aqua Security reveals attackers are using more sophisticated techniques to target cloud-native environments.
Story image
Microsoft
SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure to deliver 204% return - study
The Forrester Total Economic Impact study finds SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure brings a 204% return on investment over three years.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Databricks
Databricks grows in APAC market, expands into Korea
Databricks officially launches a local office in Seoul, Korea, building on existing partnerships with Cloocus, Megazone and the Weverse Company
Story image
Power / Energy
DigitalBridge makes $30 million equity investment in LEDC
Leading Edge Data Centres (LEDC) has announced it has secured an AUD$30 million equity investment in its regional edge network from an affiliate of DigitalBridge Group, DigitalBridge.
Story image
Data Center
Digital Edge to build South Korea's largest commercial data center
The project will be the largest commercial data center project in South Korea with total IT power of 120MW and a capital investment of more than KWR$1 trillion.
Story image
Sisense
Data and analytics could be key to higher selling prices in APAC
Sisense's latest report has found that almost half of data professionals in APAC think customised data and analytics can create better selling prices for their products.
Story image
Storage
Energy storage demand momentum continues, says BYD
BYD has announced an expansion of its production capacities and will deliver 250,000 units of its energy storage system, BYD Battery-Box Premium.
Story image
Sustainability
AirTrunk boosts Japan presence with West Tokyo data center
AirTrunk is planning to build TOK2, a new hyperscale data center in Japan which will strengthen the company’s presence in the country.
Story image
Sustainability
YTL unveils development of solar-powered data center campus
YTL Power (YTL) has announced the development of a 500MW data center campus in Johor, the first data center park in Malaysia to be powered by solar energy.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Multiplex, NEXTDC making strong progress on S3 data centre
Multiplex has made a significant achievement on Stage 1 of NEXTDC’s S3 data centre, ‘topping out’ the structure in the Artarmon on Sydney’s lower North Shore.
Story image
Talend
Talend introduces new data health solutions for businesses
Talend has announced its latest version of Talend Data Fabric, with the release of Talend Trust Score enabling data teams to establish a foundation for data health.
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Akamai
Akamai announces new products across security, computing
Akamai has announced a series of new products and updates to existing products across its security and compute product lines, including its entry into the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market.
Story image
Hyperscale
SpaceDC partners with Aofei for data center sales in Asia
SpaceDC has partnered with Aofei Data International to sell Aofei's data centers, CDN and SDN in China.
Story image
Surveillance
Genetec launches new enclosure management system for data centers
Genetec has released a new enclosure management solution that will give data centers the ability to secure, monitor and manage access to racks and cabinets remotely.
Story image
SaaS
Cisco reveals new tech, intends to prevent network issues
Cisco has revealed new technology intended to mitigate costly disruptions by aiding IT teams in learning, predicting and planning.
Story image
BitTitan
Why tenant consolidation is critical to cloud success
Consolidating tenants can improve cost management, security and engagement after a flurry of reactive activity following the widespread shift to remote operations.
Story image
Sustainability
AyalaLand and FLOW partner for data center development
AyalaLand Logistics Holdings Corp (ALLHC) and FLOW Digital Infrastructure have entered into a framework agreement to bolster the development of carrier-neutral data centers in the Philippines.