Currents That Will Shape the Network Landscape in 2013 - Executive Viewpoint 2013 Prediction: Net Optics

Bob Shaw (Profile)
Friday, January 25th 2013

In 2011, after a search that lasted years, global satellite images finally pinpointed the true source of the mighty Amazon River: a modest little spring high in the Andes Mountains. What does this have to do with networking? It serves to illustrate that:

  • A current that begins unobtrusively can become a torrent shaping the entire landscape; and
  • Despite our best efforts, it can be difficult to envision which of many forces will emerge as the defining one.

With that metaphor in mind, I’m going to address five currents which I believe will gain momentum and shape our business and technology environment in the year to come.

1.  Forty and 100-Gigabit Network Deployments Will Create New Performance and Security Scalability Challenges

Network data continues to gain speed, leaving tools increasingly hard-pressed to keep up. We demand nothing less than always-on availability, zero tolerance for latency, and expansive scalability to include new user groups and remote sites with no significant impact on network performance, security or level of service. This means organizations must maintain the resources that enable it to take potential failures in stride: a high density, low-latency, and scalable data center architecture. Watch for the newest, higher-performance networking tools to increasingly displace legacy solutions (but those legacy solutions needn’t lose their investment value given the right transitional resources and strategy).

2.  Virtual Infrastructures Will Continue to Be a Prime Target for Security Attacks

This fact is already well-publicized that many companies remain unaware of preventive measures they can take when deploying virtual networks—and these companies are among the largest and best known in the world. The worrisome power of malware perpetrators to corrupt VMware machines was underscored last August with the emergence of the Crisis Trojan, capable of infecting images, Windows Mobile devices and USB drives; recording Skype conversations, tracking Web sites in Firefox or Safari, capturing traffic, keystrokes—and even cursor position when the mouse is clicked. As our reliance on virtual systems grows, we are well-advised to make the necessary investments in our security arsenal to stay ahead of these ingenious threats.

3.  “Software Defined Network” (SDN) Will Continue Heating Up as an Industry Buzz Term

SDNs answer the need for hardware programmability—which has driven companies like Cisco, HP and Juniper and VMware to ramp up their SDN strategies. In particular, as we know, VMware has committed to Nicira technology, a bold move which bolsters VMware leadership and helps address virtual and physical network equipment. But as always, visibility into inter-VM traffic remains a concern as traffic moves among data centers or between various vendors’ SDNs. GRE tunnels intended to allow interoperation of the SDN exacerbates these visibility concerns. As we move into 2013, organizations—most still in the early stages of their SDN strategy—should factor in the potential impact of respective vendors and solutions and architect for visibility across the network. Net Optics’ Phantom Virtualization Tap™ installs at the kernel level for VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Oracle—sitting between the virtual NIC and the virtual switch and replaying all packets into the GRE tunnel through the network to a central collection tool. Residing at this level in the stack delivers total visibility of all traffic running on any virtual machine anywhere.