Enterprise network experts are familiar with the term Virtual Private Networks, but that term refers to the concept of making non-private networks seem “virtually” private. Now, we are seeing a new kind of virtual network, which is truly virtual as it is created entirely within software.
The birth of “truly virtual networks” has led to a new buzzword in the telecommunications world—“cloudbursting.” Cloudbursting allows an enterprise to move its workload on the fly from data center to data center. This approach has proved useful for moving applications out of the way of natural disasters or for allowing applications to follow the sun on a day-to-day basis.
To see why this is important, you have to understand virtual servers. Virtualization of servers is one of the biggest trends pushing enterprises toward cloud computing, due to higher ROIs and more flexibility. Along with the virtualization of servers came the virtualization of storage. Today, one can create virtual servers and virtual storage in a matter of minutes. But few enterprises can create virtual networks between those virtual assets, which is one of the main challenges to virtualization going forward.
Virtualization makes it easy to move applications around between virtual servers and storage. The problem is that the physical network infrastructure (with its hard-coded IP addressing scheme), requires that networks be manually reconfigured to accommodate changes. One protocol that has helped start to bridge that gap is OpenFlow, which creates a virtual layer on top of the physical layer, allowing the creation of truly virtual networks defined in software, not in hardware.
While cloudbursting is nascent and the caveats are many, the trend toward truly virtual networks is only beginning. It is the logical next step for the virtualization movement. The cloud-based applications themselves don’t care much whether the network they are running on is virtual or physical, which is another reason why cloud-based apps will win out in the long run. As enterprises think about applications going forward, understanding the benefits of “cloudbursting” will be important for future-proofing app investments.