Making sure your customer's datacentre has enough power and capacity is a daily struggle. You may want to take advantage of the additional opportunities on offer from IT initiatives such as cloud computing, but the datacentre cannot be allowed to become a black hole swallowing capacity and funds.
At some point, customers will have to stop looking at buying additional resources, and instead use what they already have in a smarter way. And since computing resources now often tend to be centralised, the work involved in monitoring, analysing and securing these resources is more important.
Network appliances are typically single-server implementations and few of them provide more than one application. It is not uncommon for several network appliances to access a single monitoring location.
Many require all the processing power they can get and cannot share processing resources with other applications. This is true of, for example, 10 GbE intrusion prevention systems or application performance monitoring systems.
However, some monitoring, analysis and security appliances run more slowly and require less processing power. They may be consolidated into a single server set-up.
If all appliances run on the same OS, you can consolidate them by using intelligent network adapters that can distribute data and share data between multiple applications.
If the appliances are based on different environments or require full control over available hardware resources, virtualisation can be introduced.
The choice of solution will depend on your customer's data-sharing and distribution needs. For less processing-intensive appliance applications, there is an opportunity for consolidation.
One of the advantages of using virtualisation for consolidation is that each network appliance can be largely reused with the same OS and environment.
This also means that it is possible to upgrade the physical hardware without needing to upgrade the supported network appliance virtual machines. As physical servers increase power and performance, even more appliances can be consolidated onto a single physical server.
As network interface speeds change, it is possible to upgrade the intelligent network adapter to support a higher-speed interface without changing the support network appliance virtual machines. This can also help upgrade existing network appliances to support higher-speed interfaces in a fast and effective way.
For example, a 10 Gbps network appliance can be upgraded to support 40 Gbps by porting four instances of the network appliance software to four virtual machines running on a single server, supported by a single 40 Gbps intelligent network adapter.
Four logical ports are created to distribute the data between the four virtual machines, ensuring that none of the virtual machines receive more than the expected 10 Gbps of data.
This approach can also be used to upgrade older network appliances supporting legacy operating systems, or where resources used to update the network appliance application software are no longer available.
Many high-speed, high-performance network appliances already make optimal use of their server resources, but there are a number of opportunities for network appliance consolidation that can be exploited, especially as we move to higher network speeds and ever more powerful physical servers.
Dan Joe Barry is vice president of marketing at Napatech
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