The cloud takes the pressure off of server and storage resources in the hunt for more performance and capacity, but it places it squarely on the shoulders of network infrastructure.
But the more that enterprises rely on their networks (and other networks) to accelerate productivity, the more they come to realize the deficiencies of the proprietary network architectures that have evolved over the years. After all, limitless scalability and dynamic flexibility are only possible if data can smoothly negotiate the myriad pathways linking resources together.
It's for this reason that open networks may finally be ready for the big time. Open systems of all kinds have long been a desirable goal in the enterprise, but it seems that the cloud is turning them into a necessity.
To startups like Big Switch Networks, the need for open networking is allowing it to draw increasingly scarce seed money from investors looking to cash in on the next big thing in high-tech. The company recently drew $13.5 million for development of a network controller based on the OpenFlow protocol designed initially for telecom networks. The idea is to separate logical connections from physical infrastructure, much like virtualization did for the server farm. This allows admins to govern networks at the controller level, rather than through individual switches and routers, while at the same time forging broad interoperability with systems that adhere to the Open Networking Foundation platform.
This isn't to say that switch manufacturers aren't embracing open technologies of their own. Force10, for example, recently unveiled the Open Cloud Networking framework, a new design philosophy aimed at allowing enterprises to more easily integrate Force10 platforms into heterogeneous environments. The format features a new architecture built around the Z9000 core switch, the Z9512 chassis and new S7000 rack switch -- all linked by new additions to the FTOS environment, such as support for the Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL), Data Center Bridging (DCB), Ethernet Virtual Bridging (EVB) and Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregation (VEPA) protocols. New, more powerful automation is in store as well, driven by the launch of the ScriptStore online resource exchange and idea forum.
These are positive first steps toward the kind of universal open network environment that will be needed to take full advantage of the cloud, but it is only the beginning.