As computer networks continue to grow designers are faced with the challenge of catering for an ever increasing range of business requirements without blowing out the cost of the solution. Businesses today are placing more of an emphasis on security and converged [voice, video and data] as well as a more efficient use of computer resources across expensive links.
Fortunately for network designers, network virtualization technologies such as Virtual Router Forwarding (VRF), Virtual LANs (VLAN), Virtual Device Context (VDC) and Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are providing the flexibility that modern networks demand. How?
The short answer is that virtualization technologies allow one piece of hardware to be split into a number of logical devices. This way, technology can adapt to evolving organizational changes such as restructures, mergers and growth without compromising the existing network. This can reduce the risks associated with network changes, reduce the need for large scale capital investment in infrastructure and make the most efficient use of existing network resources.
Take an organizational merger as an example of a changing business landscape. Conflicting IP address schemas can delay the sharing of network resources due to the complexity of renumbering servers and other critical infrastructure. But using virtualization technologies, designers can run the conflicting network IP ranges in parallel across the same wire without the need to renumber either organization's infrastructure. Central translation points can then be configured to provide access between the networks completing the interim solution and making resources available across organizations quickly and inexpensively!
Buying more time through this type of solution means that the more permanent consolidation activities can take place over time without the pressure from the business who are happily accessing each other's resources over virtualized network components. Remaining consolidation activities can then also be aligned with existing network hardware refresh projects (typically network hardware is replaced every 4-5 years) further streamlining costs due to the reduction of scope in the initial consolidation work.
This is just one example of the flexibility that network designers have through the use of network virtualization technologies. Of course, virtualization also lends itself to permanent network design solutions as well. VPNs, for example can be used to save money by utilizing public or third party network infrastructure as opposed to commissioning costly private infrastructure to provide connectivity. VLANS are another example of virtual segregation on a network.
For Directors, CIO and CEOs knowledge that there may be alternatives to additional links and hardware when growth or organizational flexibility is required may come as an oasis in a sea of ones and zeros. Virtualization technologies excel in delivering innovative solutions and should be given due consideration on any network design.