The Web-Scale Effect and the Future of Networking

July 29, 2015

There’s no doubt that Internet Content Providers have fundamentally changed the way we find and consume content. Here’s a great article from Ciena SVP and CTO Steve Alexander on how these “web-scale” companies are changing the way we architect our networks as well.

How do you scale your network to the size of the web? How do you prepare your network when today’s dynamic and on-demand world means you can no longer predict traffic patterns? How do you build a network that can support applications, content, or business models “going viral”? It’s a growing challenge for both service provider and enterprise network operators.

I call it the “Web-scale Effect.”

Originally popularized by market research firm Gartner, ‘web-scale IT’ refers to a modular approach to designing, building, and managing data centers. A concept pioneered inside the massive cloud data centers owned by Internet content providers (ICPs) and now spreading to the mainstream, web-scale IT incorporates concepts like virtualization, openness, integration, automation and massive scalability, all in an effort to accelerate performance and cost-effectively scale IT operations.

Gartner predicts that by 2017, web-scale IT principles will be found in 50% of global enterprises, up from just 10% in 2013.

Now the Web-scale Effect is driving changes to the WAN.

It’s clear that the massive growth of data centers, cloud and virtualization are overtaxing today’s network infrastructures and exposing their inflexibility. But these challenges also provide a blueprint for where networks must evolve. The Web-scale Effect that is transforming data centers and IT is now being applied to WAN networks so they can support applications that require expansive bandwidth, efficiency and agility.

In essence, networks must be built for a world gone viral.

They must scale to massive numbers of connections and to massive capacity. They must be fast to expand to new locations where connectivity is needed. And they must be agile, programmable and reconfigurable in all dimensions.

This means openness and automation via concepts like SDN and NFV. This means massive scalability via programmable coherent DWDM. This means more efficient networks and simpler network architectures.

This article originally appeared on the Ciena Insights blog.

There’s no doubt that Internet Content Providers have fundamentally changed the way we find and consume content.

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