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Pragmatic Data Center Networking

by Andrew Lerner  |  December 20, 2017  |  1 Comment

Building and operating an enterprise data center network is not easy, and I’ve done it. It requires experience, attention to detail, collaboration, and a little luck. Further, data center networking investments are expensive and long-term by default, so poor design/implementation/vendor choices are very difficult to rectify.

Along these lines, we’ve just published pragmatic research that provides data center networking guidance (kindof a do this, not that). We highlight several recommended practices for building/operating enterprise data center networks.  Many people know some of these practices, but very very few follow all of them. This is partially because data center networking vendors often lead with designs that are not optimal for enterprise needs, hence why you should treat vendors as suppliers, not partners.

One specific recommendation we make in the research is to “Build a rightsized physical infrastructure by using a leaf/spine design with fixed-form factor switches and 25/100G capable interfaces (that are reverse-compatible with 10G).”  No rocket science here but most of the proposals we see from our enterprise clients do not adhere to this (lots of chassis’ where they aren’t needed, lots of 10/40 switches, etc.).

Additional topics we cover in the research include advice on mapping network designs with business needs, changing/shortening planned refresh cycles, achieving vendor independence, optimizing availability by designing for failure, infusing analytics, where Intent fits into all this, how to better support public cloud networking, and even a contrarian view regarding on leaf/spine architectures.  We do make a specific prediction as well:

By 2020, networking personnel with experience in Ansible, Python and/or integrating systems via APIs will receive a 30% salary premium (on average) over those with only CLI-based skills.

So consider this some light holiday reading as you’re travelling and/or avoiding the in-laws.

Regards, Andrew

Building Data Center Networks in the Digital Business Era

Summary: This research describes best practices for I&O leaders seeking to build data center networks that are highly available and agile to support digital initiatives and cloud architectures over the next five years.

Category: intent-based-networking  just-published  networking  trends-predictions  

Tags: ansible  cli  data-center  red-hat  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
4 years at Gartner
19 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Pragmatic Data Center Networking


  1. Alex says:

    Hi Andrew,

    How on earth do I get key to access this content ?

    -Alex



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