Fast, Flexible Network Deployment with Software-defined Networking (SDN)

By: In: Data Centers On: Jul 16, 2014

Iron Mountain Data Centers is pleased to showcase a guest blog by our business partner, Michael Bushong, VP of Marketing at Plexxi. On Friday, July 18 at 1pm EDT, Iron Mountain and Plexxi will present a solution demo on Software-defined Networking.  Please register for the event here

The primary service provider offerings in the data center colocation and hosting industry today are connectivity and remote hands management on-site. Increasingly, these services are becoming table stakes and not true differentiators – network connectivity is more a means, than an end for customers. The real customer objective is application experience, and that requires so much more than just moving bits between servers and the Internet.

Today’s IT environments are so much more demanding than even in the very recent past. Workers and applications are distributed. And they are both portable as well, moving across workspaces and datacenter resources as demands and conditions dictate. The issue is that the interconnectivity between them has always been a static network, and in an increasingly mobile world, static just doesn’t cut it.

When things are changing, the real service is less about connectivity and more about control. Users need the flexibility to operate under differing conditions, and the control to determine how to do so. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to this, applications have varying requirements depending on user, load, time of day, and any number of other inputs.

The only solution then is to provide increased flexibility, dynamism, and control. But that requires a new way of thinking about the datacenter.

The three hottest trends in datacenter networking right now are Software-defined Networking (SDN), photonic switching (or optical transport), and automated operations. Iron Mountain’s Total Network Services powered by Plexxi has combined all three of these to offer a truly differentiated, next-generation networking solution.

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That the network provides connectivity between resources is well understood. But what happens when those resources are separated by distance? What happens if those resources are virtual and move? If the underlying transport is fixed, it means that the application experience will vary. Unfortunately, an unpredictable application experience can lead to poor business outcomes.

By leveraging optical transport in their hosting facilities, Iron Mountain is enabling high-capacity, low-latency connectivity between resources – both within a datacenter and across multiple sites. But more importantly, because the transport is provided via a programmable optical fabric, that connectivity is dynamic, which means that bandwidth and performance can be dialed up on demand.

But how is the programmable optical fabric managed? Plexxi’s SDN controller provides a central control point with a global view of the network. It provides pathing information to the underlying switching infrastructure to ensure that traffic is implicitly balanced (meaning no need for explicit traffic control). This means that traffic is always well-balanced, which eliminates congestion and guarantees performance.

The controller itself is managed via application and tenant abstractions. Essentially, tenant or application relationships can be defined and tagged with relevant SLA controls (high-bandwidth, low-latency, traffic isolation, and so on). The controller uses these abstractions to adjust the infrastructure accordingly. Latency-sensitive applications, for instance, can be guaranteed single-hop transport across the optical fabric. What if the infrastructure changes? The controller can detect the changes, re-applies the abstractions, and automatically tunes the network to guarantee consistent performance across changes, without time-consuming, manual intervention.

Combined, these technological underpinnings—optical transport, SDN, and automated operations—allow Plexxi to extend Layer 2 domains across large distances while also removing much of the complexity typically associated with traffic management in distributed environments. In turn, Iron Mountain can provide high-capacity network services across a highly flexible infrastructure with SLA-level controls.

To see this infrastructure in action, check out the SDNCentral DemoFriday featuring Iron Mountain and Plexxi on Friday, July 18 at 1pm EDT. You can register for the event here

Michael Bushong is VP of Marketing at Plexxi. He has been with Plexxi since January 2013 after having spent 12 years leading product management, product strategy, and product marketing teams at Juniper Networks. For more information about Plexxi, see

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About the author

Carol Genis

Carol Genis is the Senior Product Marketing Manager for Iron Mountain Data Centers. In this role, she is responsible for the communication of integrated solutions that allow our customers to extract more value from their data center deployments. Prior to joining Iron Mountain, Ms. Genis served in similar roles at IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Follow me on Twitter @CGenis