Accelerating the Deployment of the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) Through Active Visibility

By: Shehzad Merchant, Chief Strategy Officer at Gigamon Shehzad Merchant

The software defined data center promises to be a very dynamic environment. Micro-segmentation, network virtualization and on-demand virtual machine (VM) migration, all bring with them the promise of a highly agile, yet highly optimized data center. However, the move to the SDDC will not happen overnight and migration strategies that help IT administrators make the transition to the SDDC are going to be a key element in the transition to the SDDC and realizing its full promise.

One of the key elements of making the move to the SDDC is the ability of IT to manage, monitor and secure the SDDC while continuing to leverage their investments in their existing tools, as well as their human capital. This can be challenging at times. For example, network virtualization introduces the concepts of overlay and underlay networks. Overlay networks are typically virtual networks that provide tenant isolation as well as service isolation in addition to the separation of location and identity. The physical network infrastructure typically serves as the underlay network. Virtual overlays can be instantiated, extended and removed dynamically based on tenant subscriptions, service guarantees and VM mobility; all of which makes the underlying physical infrastructure more efficient. However, they also make the job of troubleshooting and monitoring more complex for several reasons. The dynamic nature of the overlays, the need to correlate and track traffic between the underlay and overlays, the existing departmental silos between the server and network teams – particularly when the overlays are instantiated in the server/hypervisor domain, but are routed over a physical underlay network – can all be barriers to rapid troubleshooting, performance optimization and security. Furthermore, they introduce multiple planes of traffic to monitor and secure. Similarly, VM migration can now occur over a segmented Layer 3 underlay network through the use of network overlays, thereby maintaining session continuity. This allows the underlying physical infrastructure to scale out through Layer 3 segmentation. However, it also poses a challenge from the perspective of application performance management (APM) and security monitoring. This is because the tools that depend on traffic visibility for analyzing application performance or for managing and limiting the threat envelope, can encounter blind spots when VMs move to different locations and their traffic is no longer visible to the tool at its original location.

In order to better address the operational aspects of managing, troubleshooting, and securing the SDDC, Gigamon and VMware have recently announced a new partnership that promises to simplify, and indeed accelerate, the migration to the SDDC through solutions that work in an NSX environment. The solutions extend the ability of IT Operations and Management (ITOM) to monitor and manage NSX environments while continuing to leverage their investment in their monitoring tools, as the data center evolves to a software defined model. Gigamon’s solutions will bring active, traffic-based visibility into dynamic virtual environments enabled by NSX, by automating monitoring policies to actively track VMs in an NSX environment thereby eliminating blind spots. The solution will bring visibility into east-west as well as north-south traffic flows in an NSX environment. In addition, Gigamon’s solutions will also enable active traffic- visibility into VXLAN-based overlays and physical underlays in the NSX environment, thereby simplifying and indeed adapting the traffic to the needs of the monitoring tools.

The role of traffic based visibility is only increasing as applications are virtualized and infrastructure moves to a software defined model. Looking at actual traffic provides a true assessment of real time conditions both from a performance monitoring perspective as well as from a security perspective. Gigamon, along with VMware, are committed to bringing solutions to the market that increase traffic visibility as the data center transforms into a more agile, software defined data center.

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