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Governments Find Cost Benefits, Efficiencies in SDN

Officials see networking as the next wave of virtualization to deliver IT value.

City governments have to examine every possible way to save money and run their networks more efficiently. So, when VMware offered to give the city of Avondale, Ariz., a demo of the VMware NSX virtual network controller, the IT staff was more than amenable.

Wesley Harris, IT system administrator for Avondale, says the VMware team came onsite in February and, within three days, convinced the IT staff that NSX was the way to go.

Harris deployed an NSX controller on a VMware ESX server for firewall and load balancing capabilities.

“Instead of buying two new firewalls and maintenance support on our load balancers, for a fraction of the cost we were able to spin up enough excess capacity to take care of our entire computing environment,” he says.

Harris describes the migration as surprisingly easy. After some minor configuration changes, moving 150 virtual machines to the NSX environment took only a few minutes.

>90%

The percentage reduction in time that organizations can expect for provisioning network services with SDN

SOURCE: Gartner, “Beyond the Hype: SDN Delivers Real-World Benefits in Mainstream Enterprises” October 2014

“Because all the intelligence resides in the NSX controller, over the next three to five years we’ll be able to replace our switches and routers with low-cost switches, which will be another savings for the city,” Harris adds.

Andrew Lerner, a research director for Gartner, says software-defined networks (SDNs) can help IT departments run more agile networks that are easier and less expensive to manage, but the technology’s real potential lies in its ability to set up the network as a center of innovation.

“There’s great potential for the networking market to innovate in a similar manner to smartphones, where IT departments set up a central SDN controller and run apps for functions such as authentication and security,” Lerner explains. “Whether that happens in the next three to five years is not clear right now, but the potential is there.”

SDN on the Horizon

E-government service provider NIC plans to work closely with some state government beta testers early next year to develop an Infrastructure as a Service offering utilizing SDNs to host applications on NIC’s private cloud.

Jeffrey Shaw, NIC vice president of information technology, says the company will base its SDN on the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) from Cisco Systems.

“Most of the vendors are talking about SDNs that develop network-based applications such as authentication and security,” Shaw says. “While we’ll do that with Cisco, ACI will take it a step further by letting state governments run all their applications over an SDN.”

The Cisco ACI fabric consists of three major components: The Application Policy Infrastructure Controller, spine switches and leaf switches. The platform simplifies and accelerates application provisioning through a common policy management framework, so NIC will be able to offer private cloud services and self-service applications for states to quickly provision services to meet user demand.

NIC deployed a Cisco ACI infrastructure operating on two Nexus 9396PX leaf switches connected to a pair of Nexus 9336 spines. Running on top is a Cisco Unified Computing Services platform comprising Cisco UCS M4 B200 blades.

Rawpixel Ltd/ThinkStock
Aug 03 2015

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