The federal government is modernizing its enterprise architecture so that it can harness innovative technologies tied to cloud computing, big data analytics and Internet of Things applications — but to do so, the current networks need an overhaul.
Brocade, a networking solutions developer, described the solution as the “New IP,” during a FedScoop-produced conference in Washington, D.C.
“I think the first question is how you get started. And I think everyone has similarly pointed out that you need to develop expertise in-house and foster champions for the new technology,” said Michael Bushong, vice president of product management for Brocade’s networking software division.
Central to the development of a New IP — which enables infrastructure to be modular, software defined and OpenFlow — are two emerging networking technologies known as software-defined networking, or SDN, and network functions virtualization, also known as NFV, according to a panel of private sector experts and government executives who spoke at Federal Forum conference, presented by Brocade, on Tuesday.
The adoption of this New IP could help federal agencies reduce their data center costs while being more flexible to new software and data feeds, Bushong told FedScoop.
The panel — which aimed to answer the question of how to design and establish this New IP — comprised Jean Schaffer, chief of enterprise connectivity and specialized IT services at the National Security Agency; Defense Information Systems Agency Electronics Engineer and SDN Technical Lead David Stern; AT&T Assistant VP Mike Satterlee; and Bushong.
All four representatives on the panel said their organizations were using SDN and NFV to make networks more agile, responsive and scalable.
In broad strokes, SDN works by separating the part of the system that decides where data packets are headed from another framework that jointly forwards traffic to a specific destination. SDN is commonly associated with the OpenFlow protocol. Meanwhile, NFV essentially translates into a virtual network architecture — transforming data center hardware and putting it into the cloud.
Stern and Satterlee spoke about why it’s important to start with “working code” and a “proof of concept” early in the adoption process.
“Nothing trumps working code. The idea is that if you can build a demo, if you can show people what they are looking at instead of having PowerPoint than you can involve them more quickly. By pushing to working code you can iterate much faster and find the problems more quickly,” Bushong said.
“I think people are surprised by how fast things are moving. The SDN, NFV transition is well underway … defining the metrics to success, like frequency of turn and what you’re learning from the proof of concept, are interesting indicators,” he added.
The panel also talked about expanding the scope of accepted vendors who are selling New IP software products — considering companies beyond the traditional, larger players like Cisco and potentially looking to startups as development partners.
Satterlee said AT&T, specifically, was rethinking how they evaluate vendors, understanding that a collaborative relationship between the developer or vendor and the client in this case is important.