Virtualization has transformed the twenty-first century datacentre, delivering unprecedented agility and efficiency to a fixed IT environment. Sixteen years in, server and storage virtualization have become commodities and the focus has shifted to service and application orchestration via tools such as Puppet, Chef, Microsoft System Orchestrator and others.
With orchestration tools, IT can pull together and deploy diverse server, storage and now network resources automatically, in minutes, to deliver new applications and test beds or to scale resources automatically as application loads grow and shrink over time. Orchestration tools excel at spinning up and down virtual servers and storage. Until recently, networks and network functions such as firewalls, IDP, and load balancers were more manual affairs. With the rise of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV), these functions have also become virtualized, atomized and spread across the public and private cloud as software, rather than physical appliances.
As with servers and storage, virtual network functions cry out not only for management tools, but for tight integration with orchestration and automation tools, so they too can be orchestrated automatically to deliver, scale and protect applications in a prescribed, compliant manner.
Such integration must be a two-way street, using APIs that allow load balancers to, for example, direct the orchestration solution to deploy new servers and storage when they detect failing servers or can’t deliver the performance for peak loads; or to deploy firewalls and IDP as required to stay secure and compliant. Conversely the orchestration tool must be able to direct the NFV management platform to deploy or take down load balancing, firewall, IDP, and other network functions as required when new applications are deployed and scaled up and down.
With the right management tools and orchestration APIs, applications can not only perform, but stay secure and compliant in a constantly changing virtual environment.