software defined network

Software-defined networking can help agencies get a handle on apps

Agencies are paying closer attention to application migration as they seek to derive greater efficiency from data center consolidation. And emerging technologies such as software-defined networking can help them better manage and build applications, according to industry and government technology managers.

“Software defined networking is a set of technologies that glue IT to the network for the first time in history,” said Ken Cheng, CTO and vice president of corporate development and emerging business with Brocade. SDN, which automates routine networking tasks, can instruct the infrastructure to do what is best to support an application. Moreover, SDN can support a standard set of application programming interfaces that “will help the government build [a variety] of applications quickly and to spec,” Cheng said Aug. 6 during a session at Federal Forum 2013 held by Brocade Communications and MeriTalk in Washington, D.C.

Wolf Tombe, CTO of Customs and Border Protection, noted that SDN could help move customized and legacy applications to consolidated data centers. For its part, though, CBP has been adding virtual networking and virtual local-area network capabilities into its technical architecture for several years. CBP has built a common, highly distributed infrastructure -- for commercial and customized applications -- wherein applications can be cloned and virtualized. This move helped reduce CBP’s data center footprint and maintenance overhead while positioning the agency for shared services. 

Meanwhile, the Interior Department, which has more than 2,000 applications, is paying more attention to application rationalization as it consolidates data centers, seeking to identify which applications are cloud-ready and Internet-enabled, said Interior CIO Bernard Mazer, who is also co-chairman of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative. Interior officials are also looking at migration costs related to moving older applications and determining if those applications perform functions that might fit into specific shared services or may be consolidated elsewhere.

“We are resurrecting what enterprise architecture is all about,” Mazer said. Interior has categorized applications into areas such as infrastructure (printing and file support), business (financial and human resource) and mission domain (law enforcement and energy). DOI officials are taking a look at all of the critical functions and technical requirements, with a view to eliminating duplication.  With the advent of the cloud, a scenario might develop in which Interior will have core applications and applets that link back to applications to provide services.  

Applications are increasingly placing more demands on networks. As a result, there are a core set of functions all network providers must address, according to Brocade’s Cheng.

  • Ensure that the infrastructure is able to move information from one point to the next.
  • Pick the most efficient path.
  • Give admins the analytic information they need to keep the infrastructure up and running, and utilize assets appropriately.
  • Establish a set of service parameters that can be applied based on the criticality of applications.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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