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The Future Of Networking On Display At Interop

Saying there is a lot of change in networking is like saying the sun is hot. Virtually every aspect of networking in the LAN and the WAN is developing new core protocols and technologies to meet growing demand. Networking isn't just about bigger, faster, denser. The changes are about smarter networking that discovers optimal paths from point to point, ensuring zero packet loss. The changes are being driven by and are driving server, storage, and network virtualization. And the changes are about converged networking where data loss is unacceptable, and the emergence of flatter, faster networks that break the N-tier model. There is quite a round-up of networking sessions and demonstrations at Interop. Here is a taste.

One of the changes brought about by cloud computing, virtualization, and mobility is that there is more demand placed on the WAN than ever before. Before you can use public or private cloud computing, IT has to get the data to the servers that will process it and that is adding to the load on the WAN. Additionally, demands compete. Bulk file transfers, which need capacity, compete against real-time voice, video, and desktop virtualization, which are time sensitive. "WAN is one of the few aspects that don't follow Moore's Law. We aren't getting a doubling of price/performance every 12-18 months. WAN traffic is increasing 20% to 40% per year, but the price drops are miniscule," said Jim Metzler, chairman of the Interop Networking track.

There aren't any breakthrough layer 2/3 WAN technologies on the horizon--we are still using MPLS, SONET, TDM, or business-class broadband. On the client side, there are steps you can take such as load balancing Internet connections to minimize cost and improve performance by picking a dynamically balanced path that has the best delay, packet loss, BPS, or other characteristics you define. Making most of those technologies are top of mind. On the server side, there are technologies and techniques like deduplication, application acceleration, caching, and others that can improve WAN performance. Tuesday's What is the Impact of Cloud Computing on the Network?, Wednesday's Breakthrough WAN Technologies, and Thursday's The New Age of WAN Optimization are must see sessions.

No surprise, there is a lot of new technology and excitement around LAN in general and data center networking in particular. Look at the changes--converging data and storage networking into a single network, lossless Ethernet, faster speeds from 10 Gbps to 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps--which means purchasing new equipment to support the higher capacities and the new feature sets. This also is a good time to examine network infrastructure vendors offerings to see if there is a better fit for you now and in the future. Tuesday's How Should You Redesign Your Data Center LAN?, Breakthrough LAN Technologies, and Understanding Data Center Bridging, and Wednesday's Making Sense of Multi-Path Ethernet Networks conference sessions cover the relevant data center networking topics.

IPv6 is coming. Everyone knows this. It's time to start thinking how you are going to implement IPv6 and how various strategies will affect your business and IT. While IPv6 just works, as evidenced by the relative ease with which InteropNet implemented an IPv4/IPv6 dual-stack network, transitioning to IPv6 will take some planning. Any Internet facing service like email, DNS, and websites will have to support both protocols for the foreseeable future. While you can expect to see plenty of discussion on IPv6 in the networking tracks, the dedicated How Do We Finally Get to IPv6? session headed by John Curran should be a good starting point. Also be sure to take a tour of the InteropNet where the guide, one of the show engineers, will explain how InteropNet designed and deployed a dual stack IPv4/IPv6 network and then go check out the dedicated IPv6 InternetLab areas. Thursday morning, check out InformationWeek Analytics--IPv6: Moving to the Next-Generation Internet where our own analytics contributors will discuss their experiences with IPv6 migration strategies.

What's in store for the future? Check out the OpenFlow demo. OpenFlow is a protocol that allows a centralized controller to configure and update OpenFlow edge switch forwarding tables. With OpenFlow, the controller can determine the optimal path through the network based on shortest distance, access controls, bandwidth, or other constraints. While OpenFlow is still a research tool, NEC has recently announced edge switches that make use of it and other networking vendors are going to be supporting Open Flow it in the lab. In addition, Wendesday's The Real Next Generation Network is a deep dive into OpenFlow.