Getting From ‘Could’ To ‘Cloud’

May 26, 2021

In a recent email, an esteemed co-worker* typed ‘could era,’ when he/she intended to write ‘cloud era.’ Or perhaps they were the victim of another one of those unfortunate spell-check autocorrects like ‘covfefe’ may have been – or not. It’s best to leave that to the political pundits to try to decipher.

But that coworker’s innocent typo is food for thought. How many IT managers out there are still wrestling with maximizing the potential of private, public or hybrid clouds? What is keeping them from getting from a best-effort ‘could’ to a fully optimized, powerhouse ‘cloud’ that supports critical business initiatives while streamlining the network?

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) has been identified as an important step in full cloud optimization. However, a recent survey found several factors inhibiting the adoption of NFV. The leading factor cited was the lack of a compelling business case. Certainly it is hard to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of ‘soft’ benefits like reducing the time needed to deploy new services, achieve greater flexibility in network management, and to improve the end-user experience. However, many of these variables can be recast into pure CAPEX and OPEX numbers that will help prove the case.

We’ve also heard from numerous IT managers that implementing NFV, and SR-IOV in particular, is difficult to the point of hair-pulling frustration. On this and the previously mentioned concern, Array can help.

Array’s AVX Series Network Functions Platform is the first product of its kind to fully address the problems of deploying network functions virtualization, specifically in the realm of networking, security and application delivery virtual appliances (VAs) and virtualized network functions (VNFs).

In terms of building the business case, the AVX Series offers several capabilities that can be directly tied to CAPEX, OPEX and ROI. For example:

  • Consolidate the functions of multiple (and expensive) physical/dedicated appliances (such as next-gen firewalls, SSL VPNs, load balancers and WAFs) into a single, one- to two-RU platform – saving rack space, power, cooling and other costs
  • Deploy best-of-breed VAs or VNFs on the fly, with a streamlined configuration and the ability to service chain functions (more on that later)
  • Pay-as-you-grow – rather than investing all at once and up front, you can purchase Array licenses singly, or in 4, 8, 16 or 32-packs. (Depending on the model and instance sizes, the AVX Series supports up to eight, 16 or 32 instances.) So if you need just a few instances of networking or security functions now, you can easily upgrade later to support more instances
  • Choose the size instance that meets your needs, and receive guaranteed performance per instance. For example, you might select a small instance size for an SSL VPN VA that receives fairly light usage (like IT staff remoting in to a management console), but choose a large instance size for a NGFW function that is a main security measure protecting multiple servers and other assets
  • Select best-of-breed technologies. While there are a number of “combo” products available that combine two or more functions on a single dedicated appliance, typically two key issues arise: First, the manufacturer may specialize in one function, while others are afterthoughts that cannot really be seen as best of breed. Second, every physical appliances has limits on the amount of resources (compute, I/O, etc.) available. It’s not uncommon to see performance issues for the ‘afterthought’ technologies that can impact user experience, due to resource contention

Demystifying and streamlining NFV and SR-IOV deployment is another area where Array’s Network Functions Platform shines. As mentioned above, one of the factors that have slowed NFV adoption is the sheer complexity of deployment. Adding to the problem is that IT staff retraining and reskilling are costly and time-consuming.

The AVX Series abstracts and streamlines the complexity of NFV deployment and management, and offers an easy-to-use WebUI to further simplify set-up and deployment. VA/VNF licenses for Array and other best-of-breed products (such as Fortinet FortiGate NGFW and Positive Technologies’ WAF at present) can be ordered directly from the interface.

Instances can be created or modified size-wise on the fly. Set-up of SR-IOV for instances is similarly simplified. All required configurations are accomplished with just a click or two. Service chains or topologies can also be set up with just a few clicks. For example, traffic could first be routed through a next-gen firewall VA, then to one or more application delivery controller VAs for load balancing across multiple servers, all within the AVX Series.

NFV is a goal for many organizations worldwide. With the AVX Series Network Functions Platform, getting from ‘could’ to ‘cloud’ has never been easier.

For a brief overview of the AVX Series, see our corporate video. For a more in-depth discussion, see one of our recent webinars titled Consolidating ADCs on Next Gen Network Functions Platforms.

*Note: Identity withheld to protect my fat-fingered coworker

Michael Zhao