I talk a lot about how fabrics are helping organizations be more agile and chase the innovation that is the lifeblood for survival. While innovation is a business requirement, all too often technology is the blocker to faster and more attainable innovation.

In recent years, we have seen how cloud computing, and in particular the notions of storage and compute delivered as a service can greatly increase the pace at which organizations can innovate. Instead of being constrained by the physical requirements to “rack and stack” hardware, servers and storage can be delivered programmatically.

But the previously undelivered part of the puzzle is networking. It is networking, the provision of the connections between different computing resources, that enables the information superhighway to run. Without flexibility in networking, it is like having a finely tuned racing car with only dirt roads to drive it upon. It is only in the past couple of years that similar programmatic networking abilities have come to be easily accessible.

The rise of software defined networking (SDN) has been of great benefit to organizations – suddenly their networking can be as flexible as the computation and storage elements of their infrastructure. No longer are they constrained by proprietary technologies and inflexible approaches.

But in order to really deliver the benefits of SDN, another fabric is required. SDN relies on a software-driven overlay, a fabric that sits at the top of the underlying networking layer. This fabric gives organizations the ability to flexibly assign networking resources at will. At the bottom of the networking stack lies the underlay – the actual physical hardware which drives the network.

The magic ingredient that has been missing in the space is a readily available visibility and correlation between the overlay at one end of the stack, and the underlay at the other. This is increasingly important – as SDN moves on from simple test environments, and starts to make its way into production deployments, the lack of tight coupling between the underlay and the overlay becomes increasingly obvious.

So it is interesting to see Nuage Networks, the Alcatel-Lucent SDN-focused venture, tackle this problem space head-on. Nuage is announcing VSAP, the Virtualized Services Assurance Platform. VSAP connects the networking overlay, with the physical datacenter networking infrastructure.

VSAP does double duty. Firstly, it provides visibility for fault isolation, service and inventory management. It does so using open protocols to discover topologies and correlate services and analyze faults. It also offers control aspects in terms of maintaining topologies between the overlay and underlay and facilitating remediation of faults.

Instead of being tied to specific hardware, an approach that traditional vendors have had to give an illusion of open SDN while not really being open, with VSAP the underlying intra and inter-datacenter infrastructure can consist of any networking equipment that supports standard protocols. This gives customers both the freedom of choice that they demand but also, and perhaps most importantly at this early stage, the ability to apply SDN to their existing assets.

VSAP is a modular component that can be incorporated into Nuage’s Virtualized Services Platform – it’s promising to see these integrations between overlays and underlays and this move will help with the broader adoption of SDN – a positive thing all round!

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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