The Network Challenge: As has been frequently and deeply discussed, the major players in the U.S. national security space are under increasing pressure to design, develop, deploy, operate, scale, upgrade, extend and share robust and secure networks and services.
These networks and services have to serve much larger and more diverse set of missions and users; across a larger number of global locations; with a wider range of services, capabilities and applications; and protect against an increasing number of hostile nation and rogue actors who are rapidly growing in sophistication and capability.
These national security players have to satisfy all these requirements in the face of budget which are at best flat and in the worst case significantly reduced.
The Virtualization Opportunity: In the face of all the challenges previously discussed, there are some strategies and technologies which can enable these national security players to satisfy current and future requirements within today’s flat and reduced budgets.
The most promising, and increasingly proven, of these technologies and strategies are the virtualized products and platforms which interoperate with other virtual and hardware assets on the network or in systems connected to the network.
Not only will these virtualized products and platforms enable initial success in this network transformation, but the cost, agility and capability benefits will actually increase over time.
The Virtualization Strategy: There are more obvious and easily achieved network locations and functions which can be virtualized. There are also some products and platforms which are more proven, easily integrated and deployed, and which offer more rapid and demonstrable cost, capability and agility benefits.
An effective and efficient approach towards virtualization is to select one area of the network which has the most potential to benefit quickly and significantly from a virtualized product, platform or architecture. Once that first virtualization project is successful, you can use the lessons learned, new skills and reduced resistance to take on larger and more impactful virtualization projects.
Practical Virtual Use Cases:
There are three practical and very compelling use cases for virtualization across the federal space:
Wide Area Network (WAN)
I have provided a high level description of each use case.
Data Center and Cloud: The data center and the cloud both have the technology footprint and business model which can benefit quickly and significantly when they leverage the strategies, capabilities and potential of software defined networking and network function virtualization. This enables the data center and cloud owners, designers, operators and users to virtualize and integrate many assets – storage, compute and networking, now. The process can be disciplined, evolutionary and safe. Once the data center or cloud assets are virtualized and integrated, processes can be automated and orchestrated.
Wide Area Network: The WAN is another domain which can benefit right away from the power of virtualization, automation and orchestration. One strategy which is currently being deployed by early adopters is the virtualization and automation of simulation, modeling and orchestration of the WAN. Federal programs can reduce hardware and labor costs while increasing agility and the time from requirement to deployment by using virtualization environments and platforms to simulate and model upgrades and build outs of wide area networks.
Tactical Edge: The third practical and currently actionable use case is to virtualize and automate the tactical edge for both defense and civilian customers. The initial use series of cases would virtualize key network functions – routing, switching, firewall, intrusion detection and protection, etc., for selected mobile and edge vehicles and platforms and load the virtualized payloads onto a generic .x86 servers. This would allow those vehicles or platforms to eliminate all network specific hardware and thereby reduce their space, weight, power and costs (labor, spares, travel, etc.).
Increased network agility, performance, reliability, auditing and security
Centralized intelligence quickly available to the tactical edge, branch and campus, and mobile user
Zero-touch LAN and WAN provisioning to reduce costs and increase agility
Reduced capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX) or flexibility in CAPEX and OPEX budget shift
Reduced hardware, bandwidth and labor costs from the WAN to edge
Increased agility and reduced cost to scale any network
Reduced time and cost for provisioning, trouble shooting and upgrading
Reduced time and cost to model and simulate new platforms, features, services or applications.
Taking the first step toward virtualization: Virtualization, like any other truly transformational technology or strategy, will require both strategy and execution which significant time, commitment and modification. The most effective path is to begin quickly and decisively with one well supported, potentially impactful and quickly completed project. This project, if successful, can be the first step towards a network which is more capable, more agile, more secure and more cost effective due to virtualization.
George Holland is the vice president of federal strategy and business development for Juniper Networks.