Use case: Data center orchestration with Gen 3 out-of-band for digital service providers
The businesses in this use case provide digital services at a very large scale. They need to ensure constant availability and reliability because that’s what their customers expect, and it’s what their competitors promise. Some examples of large digital service providers include:
★ Music or video streaming services
★ Stock trading applications
★ Online banking portals
★ Cloud compute services
★ SASE and SSE vendors
★ Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom companies
★ Internet exchanges
★ Storage as a Service providers
These companies typically host their resources in private data centers or colocation facilities, so they have total control over the hardware and infrastructure. Because of the extremely large scale of their operations, they need to deploy, maintain, and administer many machines. And, since they typically provide global services, they have a large, complex, and highly-distributed network architecture.
There are several major pain points for network administrators in this environment. First, they need to maintain constant access to remote infrastructure, even during network outages. Second, they need the ability to scale up their infrastructure on-demand by quickly deploying new machines with the correct configurations. Finally, they need to be able to monitor, manage, and optimize their complex network architectures.
Let’s look at how these pain points are solved using data center orchestration with Gen 3 OOB.
1. Constant availability
People expect 100% uptime from their digital services, which is why it’s always major news when a big provider like Netflix goes down. To try and achieve constant availability, these vendors typically use their own hardware in private data centers and colocation facilities rather than relying on public cloud hosting. They host their infrastructure in many different facilities around the world, both for redundancy and to ensure peak performance for globally distributed customers.
Between hiring freezes and staff cuts at major companies like Apple, Google, and Netflix, many of these companies don’t have enough technical staff to maintain a physical presence in all of these data centers. Instead, their administrators and engineers access this infrastructure remotely, using tools like serial consoles, KVM switches, and jump boxes to connect to devices in the rack. However, if they lose network access to the management device due to an ISP outage, hardware failure, or configuration mistake, they’re left without a way to remotely recover. That means they need to either dispatch a technician from their home office or pay for costly on-site managed services from their hosting facility. Either way, valuable time and money are wasted on travel and other logistics.
Out-of-band management solves this problem by providing an alternative path to remote network infrastructure. Data center orchestration solutions with Gen 3 OOB use a secondary network connection (typically a cellular modem) that is dedicated to management and troubleshooting. That means administrators can configure, troubleshoot, and orchestrate remote infrastructure even when the primary network connection is offline or overloaded with production traffic. This gives digital service providers the ability to recover from outages and other issues much faster, bringing them closer to their goal of 24/7 availability.
Large digital service providers need to serve millions of customers who may live all over the globe. They also need to meet sudden spikes in demand without limiting the performance of their product. That means they need to deploy lots of machines to many different facilities, often very quickly. Plus, they need to do so without configuration mistakes, as these could delay deployment, create security vulnerabilities, or even require a truck-roll to fix.
Since deployments need to happen quickly, accurately, and repeatedly, that makes them a prime candidate for automation. There are two primary technologies used to automate data center deployments: zero touch provisioning (ZTP) and Infrastructure as Code (IaC). A Gen 3 OOB data center orchestration tool enables both.
Zero touch provisioning gives administrators the ability to deploy device configurations to remote hardware over a network connection. Earlier generations of OOB data center solutions often included ZTP for devices within a specific vendor’s ecosystem, but Gen 3 tools are vendor-agnostic. That means administrators can remotely deploy an entire data center of mixed-vendor solutions without risking security breaches and the potential for opening a backdoor through pre-staging or on-site configuration. Plus, Gen 3 OOB provides a dedicated network to use in the provisioning process, so if there’s an issue with the configuration that takes the new device offline, administrators can still remotely recover.
IaC decouples a device’s configuration from the underlying hardware, turning it into software code that’s executed according to programmatic playbooks. Gen 3 OOB data center orchestration solutions support automation through IaC, either by integrating with third-party IaC platforms or by directly hosting playbooks. This allows administrators to apply DevOps best practices to infrastructure configurations, for example running automated tests to verify the quality and security of the code before deployment. IaC also reduces the time and complexity involved in configuring new devices, because scripts are easily reusable and can be deployed as many times as needed.
Through automation technologies like ZTP and IaC, Gen 3 OOB data center orchestration platforms allow digital service providers to scale their infrastructure quickly and efficiently. Automation also reduces the risk of human error, which reduces the chances that rapid scaling will cause service interruptions.
3. Network complexity
Large digital service providers have complex and distributed network architectures. They may have dozens or even hundreds of remote sites connected to the WAN, each of which may have different vendor hardware, bandwidth requirements, and security risks. Plus, there are many thousands of users accessing those resources from all over the world. In this kind of environment, manual network management is too time-consuming and prone to error.
Once again, automation is key to overcoming this challenge. Network automation is enabled in much the same way as infrastructure automation—by implementing software abstraction to decouple the management plane from the underlying hardware. This is known as software-defined networking (SDN) or, in the case of WAN architectures, software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). Digital service providers use SD-WAN to virtualize their distributed networks, employing software network controllers and APIs to route and load-balance traffic.
The right data center orchestration solution centralizes management of the entire SD-WAN architecture, giving administrators a single pane of glass from which to monitor and control the virtual network. Gen 3 OOB platforms are vendor-neutral, which means they can dig their hooks into all of the various hardware and software solutions that make up an SD-WAN infrastructure. They enable end-to-end automation of network management workflows and provide orchestration capabilities to automate the deployment and execution of those automated workflows. This makes it possible for digital service providers to manage their highly complex network architectures efficiently while maintaining optimal performance.
Gen 3 OOB data center orchestration with Nodegrid
The need for constant availability, easy scalability, and efficient network management is what brings many major digital service providers to ZPE Systems. The Nodegrid data center orchestration platform is the first Gen 3 out-of-band solution that enables end-to-end automation and complete vendor freedom.
The Nodegrid Serial Console Plus (NSCP) is a high-density serial console for large-scale and hyperscale data centers and includes features such as 5G/4G LTE cellular OOB and network failover to ensure 24/7 remote access. Built on the open, Linux-based Nodegrid OS, the NSCP supports integrations with your choice of third-party solutions, or you can directly host your automation, security, and SD-WAN applications on the device itself. Plus, the ZPE Cloud management software provides a centralized, web-based orchestration platform from which to deploy, monitor, and control your entire network architecture.
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