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Where the Cloud Touches Down: Simplifying Data Center Infrastructure Management

Thursday, July 25, 2013
10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET

In most data centers, DCIM rests on a shaky foundation of manual record keeping and scattered documentation. OpManager replaces data center documentation with a single repository for data, QRCodes for asset tracking, accurate 3D mapping of asset locations, and a configuration management database (CMDB). In this webcast, sponsored by ManageEngine, you will see how a real-world datacenter mapping stored in racktables gets imported into OpManager, which then provides a 3D visualization of where assets actually are. You'll also see how the QR Code generator helps you make the link between real assets and the monitoring world, and how the layered CMDB provides a single point of view for all your configuration data.

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SDN First Steps

Thursday, August 8, 2013
11:00 AM PT / 2:00 PM ET

This webinar will help attendees understand the overall concept of SDN and its benefits, describe the different conceptual approaches to SDN, and examine the various technologies, both proprietary and open source, that are emerging. It will also help users decide whether SDN makes sense in their environment, and outline the first steps IT can take for testing SDN technologies.

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SDN: From Slideware to Software in 2013?

Architecturally, the OpenFlow/MidoNet contrast illustrates two ways of implementing SDN controllers: centralized (OpenFlow, Nicira) versus distributed (MidoNet). OpenFlow's control architecture resembles a client-server application model where a centralized controller (the server) manages and distributes the network state information and configuration to edge switches, hypervisors and VMs (the clients).

In contrast, MidoNet uses fully a fully distributed database (Apache Cassandra) and configuration management service (Apache Zookeeper) to maintain and share network state and configuration across every node in the network. Each MidoNet client has an automatically updated copy of the state database, which fully describes the network topology, flow table, routing rules and network policies, that effectively turns each physical VM host into an SDN controller; a situation that greatly simplifies the virtual network topology.

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The obvious advantages of Midokura's approach are those that ascribe to any distributed architecture: scalable performance, fault-tolerance and resilience. But, by using commodity x86 boxes running the Quagga software router ganged together with commodity merchant silicon switches means, it's cheaper to build a MidoNet than traditional network designs. Furthermore, placing network controllers on every host offers the opportunity for tight integration between virtual network and private cloud infrastructure, something that Midokura is piloting via an OpenStack Quantum plugin and associated Nova (compute service) network drivers to expose virtual network services like every other compute and storage cloud resource to OpenStack clouds.fs

But such tight OpenStack integration is a double-edged sword because it means users of VMware or Hyper-V are out of luck. Although, as Hedlund speculates, since Microsoft's virtual networking code is somewhat less proprietary than VMware's, "in theory MidoNet could be a virtual networking solution for customers choosing to build their cloud with Microsoft." Another potential problem is host overhead, because the MidoNet client is definitely not lightweight. That said, overhead should be relatively minimal as there are more than enough CPU cycles on today's eight- to 12-core servers to go around, particularly when you balance any server performance loss against the benefits of a virtualized L3/L4 network.

2013 should be a year of turning SDN visions and trial balloon product announcements into viable product strategies and pilot projects. But look for the market to stratify as it matures, with this segmentation fueling another round of heady debate between proponents of centralized-versus-distributed controller topologies. Market maturation will also lead to a raft of higher-level SDN-based services, as Midokura's L3/L4 capabilities and Cisco's onePK network automation solutions give a tantalizing preview of the myriad ways software control can be applied to both virtual networks and physical equipment.

Kurt Marko is an IT pro with broad experience, from chip design to IT systems. He writes for Network Computing, InformationWeek and InformationWeek Reports.

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