Let's Play Server Networking Buzzword Bingo - InformationWeek
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Bobbie Artistain
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Letís Play Server Networking Buzzword Bingo

Understanding more about server networking infrastructure and the buzz around software-defined networking can make life easier for systems administrators.

Are you ready to play? Today there are tons of buzzwords related to server networking flying around -- server networking virtualization, software-defined network (SDN), and many others. I want to focus on the buzzwords that will relate to your job as a systems administrator and discuss how understanding more about server networking infrastructure and the buzz around software-defined networking can make your life easier.

In today’s world of the Internet of Things (IoT), it’s easy to get lost in all the new buzz terms flying around such as cloud or SDN. Our customers want things faster, and they want them to be more agile and more efficient. The key foundation to any platform is the network. If your network isn’t up to snuff, no one will even make it to your server farm.

As a systems administrator, you probably know just enough about networking to consider yourself a danger; but in reality, understanding the new concepts emerging in network infrastructure -- especially in today’s highly virtualized world -- can make your job easier. We virtualized servers years ago, but only recently has the concept of network virtualization come into play in the IT arena. This was the last frontier for virtualization, and it became a necessity with the emergence of cloud computing and the need for capacity on demand (COD).

COD Requires Server Networking With SDN

Cloud vendors like to say they can push a button and instantly increase capacity for your server farm. No doubt this is attractive to many companies, particularly e-commerce sites that need large amounts of capacity during the holiday season and less during the rest of the year. But what is capacity on demand and how does it work?

COD relies heavily on virtualization, including both servers and server network infrastructure. Most systems administrators understand server virtualization already, but SDN is less understood. Software-defined networking is relatively new but is already essential for agile operations.

Here’s what SDN really means in a nutshell: It is an abstraction of overlay networks from the underlying physical network. This means you can make changes virtually risk-free because you aren’t replacing hardware or moving cables, just updating via software. Network controllers and agents being software instead of physical hardware translates into more innovation because updates can be more frequent.

You can also deploy network devices more easily because they are software-based. Otherwise, you have to buy more hardware and cable the new devices to your current infrastructure. It’s always a little scary when we send folks onto the data center floor to unplug cables and rearrange network equipment -- for me, at least. One bad move can create a very long, bad day for everyone involved.

Server Network Virtualization Makes My Life Easier?

Understanding SDN also helps you understand how it can evolve your DevOps management of your server farm. The goal is to stand up your systems so that you can focus on stability and innovation. Keeping folks off your data center floor is always a bonus. This paves the way to add new automation to your systems, which translates into less work for you. Remember: Work smart, not hard.

Now you are ready for network buzzword bingo; may the odds forever be in your favor.

A results oriented information technology leader, Bobbie Atristain has successfully managed infrastructure for major national retailer. She has led technical teams to transition to new technology, including cloud services to support multisite deployment. She has served as a ... View Full Bio
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