I have my suspicion that “Transformers” use the same technology that currently is being advocated for the data center.
Yes, I know that Optimus Prime is science fiction. But, in a far more advanced form, the technology we see in Transformer movies looks a lot like the realized promise of software-defined networking (SDN).
Software-defined networking is all about flexibility.
The rise of server virtualization has brought a virtual revolution in how the data center operates, bringing not only more cost-effective servers but also dramatically more flexibility from the ability to create, destroy and move server instances as needed.
The problem is that this flexibility runs into a wall when it reaches the network hardware level. While servers have become highly flexible as a result of virtualization, the networking hardware that connects these servers has not kept pace. Into the breach comes SDN, which brings the same flexibility to the network through virtualization as the technology brought to servers.
Taken together—and given a little Michael Bay magic—with SDN and server virtualization you get something like what “Transformers” such as Optimus Prime pull off when their robotic bodies miraculously self-heal and adjust to combat. The robotic transformers seem to be machines that automatically adjust to combat, and that’s what data centers are starting to do with the combined use of SDN and server virtualization.
But can this promise be realized?
“Network virtualization technologies were initially received with great fanfare and billion-dollar acquisitions but have since moved from Gartner’s proverbial ‘height of over-stated expectations’ to the ‘trough of reality,’” noted Kevin Deierling, Mellanox (News - Alert)'s vice president of marketing, in a recent blog post.
But this is just a pothole down an inevitable road, according to Deierling.
“Network virtualization is the natural and necessary evolution of server virtualization,” he added. “It allows the entire data center to be managed as a single, giant (essentially infinite) compu-storage resource able to meet dynamic application workloads on demand.”
From this view, network virtualization delivers exactly the same utilization, operating expense and efficiency benefits that drove the success of server virtualization.
Instead of “if,” it is about when SDN catches on. And that question will largely be decided by how fast the industry can rally around standard APIs that deliver the flexibility to really make SDN shine. With SDN, proprietary APIs just won’t do.
Until then, we mostly have the promise of SDN—and the “Transformer” movies to whet our appetite for what network virtualization can bring to the table in the future.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson