Enterprise data centers are doing more than ever, from ever-expanding storage management to bandwidth-intensive virtualized and cloud applications. With CommScope infrastructure solutions, your data center is ready for all this and more. Here, JN Mylaraiah, Director, Enterprise Sales, India & SAARC, CommScope, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: What are the emerging trends for data center networking in 2020+?
JN Mylaraiah: 2020 will see the rise of edge computing, thanks to the promise of 5G. In 2020 and beyond, the first applications using 5G’s super high speed, low latency, machine-to-machine communications will be introduced. These new offerings – like high-resolution cloud gaming, industrial IoT process control and onsite augmented reality guidance for workers – will demonstrate the value that 5G can unlock.
While we do not expect such applications to be widely deployed this year, their potential will start reshaping industries, including data center networking. For example, with 5G’s ability to provide latencies of less than 10 milliseconds, it will soon become much easier to deploy low-latency 5G applications – and 2020 will see data centers preparing itself for their arrival.
For low-latency applications to be successful, we need more than just 5G. We also need to process these applications’ data close to their sources using edge computing technologies like edge data centers. With edge computing, we can avoid sending data back and forth from an edge device to a remote data center.
This significantly reduces latency and enables these new, low-latency 5G applications to fully realize their promise. As a result, we’ll see more data centers move to edge computing in order to bring these applications to fruition.
Next, AI will drive data center adoption of new technologies. The deployment of machine learning, deep learning and other AI technologies has become mainstream, powering many of the cloud and networking services used by enterprises daily.
We expect to see the use of AI accelerates, as companies increasingly use the data they collect to build and deploy AI models powering new services and generating new business insights. Data center networks hence need to respond to customer demand, not just with faster networks and servers in their core, but also at the edge to enable the deployment of AI models closer to end-users.
This represents both a challenge and an opportunity. If the right networking, computing and edge data center technologies are adopted to support AI, customers demand is expected to increase. That is why we can expect data center network operators to increasingly focus on how they can deliver the performance needed for AI-enabled cloud services.
We will also see the first applications of advanced technologies like 5G start to find their way in the data center, while the deployment of machine learning and other AI technologies will create new ways of learning and doing things.
DQ: How are you rebalancing your provision of data center services, colocation and capacity management?
JN Mylaraiah: Enterprise data centers are doing more than ever, from ever-expanding storage management to bandwidth intensive virtualized and cloud applications.
CommScope’s data center solutions, including a comprehensive portfolio of fiber and copper structured cabling, will allow data centers to enable a flexible infrastructure to enhance the delivery of new enterprise applications, including managing data explosion and minimizes cost upgrades.
DQ: How are CIOs looking at data centers in Covid-19?
JN Mylaraiah: The coronavirus has accelerated digital adoption with the emergence of a ‘new normal’ in business environment. The sudden shift to remote working has seen, for instance, virtual collaborative tools usage was taken to a new high. The latest data from Cisco’s webex suggests an increase in usage globally during the pandemic- 2.5 times in the Americas, four times in Europe and 3.5 times in Asia Pacific.
Before the current situation, we were already seeing that every 60 seconds, more than 38,000 hours of music on Spotify are downloaded, nearly 70,000 hours of Netflix videos are streamed and about some 150 million emails are sent. During the lockdown, we saw an increased consumption around home entertainment around the world.
Data traffic has become symmetric – both upstream and downstream; majority contributed by video conferencing and virtual collaborative tools. This would mean that users are expecting more from the data center – faster speed, lower latency, zero bottlenecks as volume of data traffic spikes.
Hence, we will see a faster adoption of cloud services and platforms as enterprise applications and workloads are moving toward cloud. Accessing real-time info (stock trading) and streaming (home-based learning, Netflix) are two examples where consumers are expecting a seamless experience because to the consumers, data is presumably ‘always online’ and this again, will rely on the data centre, which is expected to be optimized to meet the current needs.
We are expecting CIOs to invest in enabling new business models that are emerging from data centers’ growing role in all sectors, by leveraging cloud architectures, and embracing low-latency edge computing to accelerate digital adoption to lay the foundation and prepare ahead for post Covid-19.
DQ: Covid-19 may either kill the data center, or forever change storage. Elaborate.
JN Mylaraiah: Covid-19 has brought to focus just how crucial connectivity is in keeping our society functioning in the face of rapid and unpredictable change. It’s showing the industry the advantage of having forward-looking network design. Consequently, it’s also showing the data center industry where the opportunities for network innovation can lie.
As data center operators begin to implement these changes, they’re not only investing in solving today’s problems, they’re quietly laying the framework for a new connected world, as data centre growth continues to be spurred by the rapid pace of digitization and the surge in demand for cloud-based services. From the beginning of 2020 to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen the need for critical infrastructure, in essential businesses such as healthcare being stretched to the limit.
As the focus shifts back towards recovery and employees begin to return to their workplace, as students go back to campuses, as sports teams kick off a new season and fans enter stadiums and venues, that same “essential” infrastructure needs to be in place and will continue to be critical.
As we prepare for the next wave of evolution as the world shift back towards normalcy, the data center industry has to keep in mind three focus areas in order to thrive: simplicity, reliability, and adaptability.
A simple networking portfolio often provides benefits that are best understood when they aren’t there – a single network to support multiple applications, power and data on the same media, a solution that is easy to design and easy to deploy. These are the hallmarks of simplicity and are at the core of any effective infrastructure approach.
A reliable network provides the resiliency needed to withstand the unexpected. Performance guarantees above the industry standards provide bandwidth to support both today’s applications and the applications of tomorrow. Yet another layer of support and expertise is offered through a global network of solution providers.
Adaptable networks are flexible and expandable in all kinds of environments and with various types of applications. Indoors, outdoors, IT and OT networks – adaptable networks support them all.
DQ: How is the interest now for SDN-based networks?
JN Mylaraiah: Increasingly, fuelled by the strong growth in cloud adoption, we are seeing customers, especially from the communications service provider (CSPs) sector, transition to SDN and also NFV to jump-start agility and drive greater efficiency and savings throughout their networks. And accordingly, SDN remains top of the agenda when looking at networking investments for Indian organizations in 2020, according to a recent TechTarget study.
Realizing the benefits of SDN and NFV, however, creates unique challenges—chief among which is getting the various and diverse hardware and software components in the network to talk to one another in order to manage and deliver all these services and capabilities, seamlessly and efficiently. This is where Network Automation and Orchestration (NAO) come in.
To be clear, automation and orchestration are two separate functions. Automation enables the network to complete a single task or function without human intervention—increasing the efficiency and reliability of that task. While automation refers to a single task, orchestration defines the series of steps or tasks required to fulfil a service.
Together, they ensure that specific processes—like compute allocation or provisioning of compute resources—occur consistently each time with minimum human intervention. The two are indeed separate, but they must work together in order to create the network efficiency, flexibility, and value required to keep pace with the advancements of SDN and NFV.
For example, imagine you want to stream live video from a venue over a broadcast network to a service provider who then sells it. The process involves multiple systems, different networks, many locations, and various hardware and software.
To do this successfully requires communicating with every touchpoint to coordinate the various interdependent or non-dependent tasks (orchestration); but because of the increasing complexity of the network ecosystem and the vast number of independent policies that need to be administered and managed, that communication needs to happen without manual intervention (automation).
As enterprise networks continue to virtualize and the decoupling of control and data planes increases, the role of NAO becomes more prominent. In fact, a 2019 study by Research and Markets shows global NAO spending will increase at nearly 18% CAGR, reaching nearly $20 billion (USD) by 2023.
DQ: Would you be going for high-bandwidth switches?
JN Mylaraiah: Across India, we are observing a demand surge for Internet bandwidth from data center partners and customers, to facilitate home workers and consumers. For example, data centre operator Web Werks has seen internet traffic jump between two and ten times since the nationwide lockdown.
While the new Wi-Fi-6 in the short term promises to bring about dramatically-increased wireless bandwidth and network efficiency, and drive multi-gigabit networking that deliver exceptional wired and wireless connections for today’s increasingly demanding environments, Wi-Fi-6’s true benefits — and those of wireless connectivity for that matter — will only come when the technology is paired the right kind of wireless access.
Furthermore, beyond high-performance, multi-gigabit switching which enables great online experiences for remote workers in these unprecedented times, security and privacy are also critical pillars of superior user experience. The sudden switch to remote working has forced many businesses to streamline network on-boarding so users and personal endpoint devices can gain network access simply and securely.
However, the sheer volume and diversity of devices now that require network access have vastly escalated the cyber threat surface area, as each connected end device becomes a possible point of entry over poorly-secured home Wi-Fi, for an attacker to gain access to sensitive data held on the device, in the cloud, or in the corporate network. This means that remote security must now operate in sync with other security products.
We recommend deploying network switches that are not only high-bandwidth, but also dovetail secure network access for BYOD, guest users, and IT-owned devices, and ultimately unify wired and wireless network access. Undertaking this integrated approach to network infrastructure can allow even small-scale IT teams to remotely and easily add new users and devices connected with multi-gigabit switches; administer guest networks; and manage entire WiFi-enabled buildings and campuses or multi-site deployments.