Cloud News

The latest on what's hot in the Cloud. Cloud News

Can software-defined technologies improve network energy efficiency?

Software-defined networking's impact on network energy efficiency is unclear.

As cloud storage systems become more sophisticated, data centers may be set to use increasing amounts of power. Some organizations may regard software-defined networking as a possible solution to this issue, but it remains unclear what impact SDNs will have on energy efficiency. Other solutions include hardware-focused initiatives such as the Open Compute Project, which removes unnecessary components to minimize failures and power waste, and software tools like server monitoring.

Networks will require more power as cloud services expand
Enterprises are caught in an odd situation as data centers evolve. More specifically, it is not clear whether operations will require greater amounts of infrastructure or be addressable primarily with virtualized and/or remotely hosted arrangements that do more work using less equipment.

Writing for Enterprise Networking Planet, Arthur Cole argued that no matter how much growth there is in virtualized technologies, there must be an eventual expansion of physical facilities to keep up with rising pressures on storage and power. The key issue will be managing the costs of infrastructure, even as it becomes denser and more efficient. Workload demand and data requirements may outstrip the abilities of many current tools.

“If you look at how network technology is evolving, it does not appear that SDN and other solutions will produce much more efficiency than what we have today,” stated Jeff Lucket, director of engineering at MBX Systems, a Seagate Cloud Builder Alliance partner. “But as you project things out, it is clear that the network will be a lot more power-hungry than it is today.”

The impact of software-defined technologies
Still, many enterprises are turning to SDNs and investing more in Ethernet switches and security appliances. According to a report from Transparency Market Research, the global SDN market may top $3.5 billion in 2018, a sixfold increase in just five years. Cloud service providers will be the leading buyers of SDN technologies as they try to scale operations to meet customer needs.

Applications may continue to change and be less tied to underlying storage media and physical networks. Accordingly, SDNs and analogous technologies, such as software-defined storage, could spur a new category of applications that will require greater automation to be effectively scaled and delivered.

“The data center portion of the Ethernet switch market that sells into enterprises is plateauing,” stated Dell’Oro Group vice president Alan Weckel in an email interview with Networking World. “But the surge [in] cloud deployments is causing the overall data center portion of the Ethernet switch market to grow. It is likely that SDNs biggest impact over the next several years will occur in the cloud – both public and private – and not in traditional enterprise data centers.”

Along the way, SDS will be a key part of this software-defined overhaul. Enterprises will be able to leverage standard cloud storage hardware and custom software to further reduce IT costs and improve flexibility.

Hardware developments could result in much smaller data centers
The goal for many businesses is to retain the scalability of the cloud without over-investing in equipment or taking up too much floor space. Cole pointed out that hardware-oriented solutions are addressing this requirement even while so much attention is devoted to the software side.

For example, server core technologies are becoming more energy efficient. OEMs may integrate ARM processors or the newest Xeon chips into their appliances to boost performance while requiring less power and maintaining a smaller physical profile.

Researchers at the University of California – San Diego have even floated the possibility of a rack-on-a-chip as a solution to the data center power/equipment problem. Phys.org’s Doug Ramsey stated that these scientists think that optical networking can ultimately make much smaller data centers a reality