Cloud-Network Coordination Demands Diverse Training
Reading guide: China's financial industry is digitally transforming. Technology enablement and innovation are leading to the creation and iteration of many new products and services. The industry is integral to national economies and people's livelihoods, so it must ensure the technologies it applies during digital transformation are secure and reliable.
China has prioritized construction of infrastructure and key information infrastructure domestically for its financial sector in recent years, and government departments, such as the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the People's Bank of China, China Securities Regulatory Commission, and China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, have implemented several policies to support this objective. In this context, China's leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) enterprises — such as Huawei — have grown rapidly and supported the domestic production of financial industry technologies.
China Everbright Bank, a national joint-stock commercial bank, first tried Huawei's network datacom products as early as 2015. By the end of 2020, we had applied Huawei-developed devices in most of our non-core production networks, newly built big data networks, and Software-Defined Networks (SDNs). China Everbright Bank is also the first joint-stock bank in China to introduce domestic products into our data warehouse system. We also launched Huawei Cloud GaussDB (data warehouse service) in our bank, and it's now an important support platform for our data warehouse system.
In the critical stage of upgrading network products, network engineers — as our technology development pioneers — need to improve their technical skills. Huawei's Huawei Certified ICT Expert (HCIE) certification and training system will undoubtedly help us train new talent for data center development and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) with IT infrastructure that's made in China.
From conversations with Huawei's experts, we learned that the HCIE certification is the highest level of Huawei professional certification, covering fields such as routing and switching and data centers, and is dedicated to training technical experts for medium- and large-sized data centers of enterprises.
Several years ago, the core switches and firewalls in our data center were all from foreign brands, and our technical personnel were more familiar with the networking mode, command line style, and troubleshooting concepts of these brands. Since 2015, more and more nodes on our bank network have used Huawei CloudEngine (CE) series switches and NetEngine (NE) series routers.
Banks have very high standards when it comes to data center networks, and network faults must be analyzed and handled as quickly as possible, so O&M teams need to determine how to quickly improve engineers' proficiency in using Huawei products. To better understand Huawei's new products and technologies for better planning and O&M, our O&M center encourages network engineers to prepare for HCIE certification.
The change is obvious: At the beginning, by learning HCIE-Routing & Switching, network engineers in the O&M center changed their minds about Huawei HCIE. They had originally thought that the certification merely had a different device command line format from others in the industry, but they learned that Huawei prioritized research investment in the datacom field and had a deep understanding of many common network protocols. Huawei has also proposed many self-owned standards, such as redefining administrative distances in the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) protocol. In the training process, our network engineers have learned that Huawei's strategy isn't to simply substitute products with similar ones; instead, it proposes a new data center network solution that features all of the latest developments in networking, which is reflected by the application of Virtual Extensible Local Area Network (VxLAN) and Ethernet Virtual Private Network (EVPN) technologies.
Huawei mainly promotes the overlay-based SDN, which uses the Spine-Leaf architecture, instead of the 752 architecture that is widely used in the industry, which controls the scope of the Layer 2 broadcast domain and works with the cloud platform to provide network resources flexibly.
"I can directly apply the next-generation network architecture and O&M ideas learned in HCIE to real network construction projects. Learning HCIE also strengthens my understanding of network routing and switching technologies, which helps me continuously improve my technical capabilities and broaden my horizons. It allows me to see the future evolution direction of the network and think in a more forward-looking way," a network engineer at the O&M center said.
In the future, banks' data center resources will be delivered by a combination of private cloud and hybrid cloud. Meanwhile, traditional service networks are also applying SDNs. This means that the future bank technology system will be stable and sensitive, which can meet the consistency requirements of typical financial services and provide deployment modes such as microservices, Active-Active (AA), and Development & Operations (DevOps) for Internet finance. So in the future, whether banks choose to adopt OpenStack, Kubernetes (K8s), or cloud-native technologies to build cloud platforms, SDNs will always be needed. As the correlation between computing, storage, and network resources strengthens, traditional delivery modes of different product technologies, such as servers, networks, and storage, will be overturned. Take the K8s as an example: The network running on the K8s must be capable of configuring Container Network Interfaces (CNIs), and producing containerized applications requires the interworking support of SDN software products. In this case, network engineers need to control hardware switches, master various network resources simulated by software products, and have some coding skills.
After passing the HCIE-Routing & Switching certification, our next goal for our staff is to work toward gaining a HCIE-Data Center qualification, so that their knowledge is up-to-date, preparing them to meet the challenges of our industry. Some banks select staff from their system and network teams to set up cloud technology teams to build and maintain the private cloud platform. In this way, they can work with cloud specialists to achieve automatic resource delivery. However, learning the HCIE-Data Center course can broaden our engineers' expertise, help them better understand the running of the cloud network and the whole operation process from application to basic architecture building on the cloud, facilitating cross-department collaboration.
As a cornerstone of finance institutions' growth, the financial cloud data center helps them improve system user experience, develop their computing capabilities, restructure data values, and reduce operating costs, so it's become the preferred technology platform of many enterprises in the industry.
In the traditional financial data center architecture, computing, storage, and network resources are separated from each other, and their asset management, device rollout, operations, service changes, and O&M are performed by different business departments. Meanwhile, different computing, storage, and network resource pools are also built by different vendors. This IT architecture has worked for many years in the financial industry and in many enterprises. This means the cloud data center development of banks and other financial institutions in the future will face a series of challenges, and technology departments will need more cloud-network coordination specialists.
Meanwhile, the emergence of the cloud also redefines the rules for training specialists. As a key component of the cloud computing architecture, the cloud platform realizes unified management of computing, storage, and network resources — meaning the traditional separated architecture will move toward convergence from the technical level, greatly changing the function of technology departments in finance institutions. For example, technology departments typically focus on planning service architectures and hardware resources based on service requirements. But after cloud computing is applied, they need to design the architecture of services on the cloud and plan resources such as cloud networks, cloud storage, and cloud computing. In this context, technology departments need to train employees to develop more diversified skillsets.
As the financial cloud develops and financial services are launched in the production scenarios, the commercialization of the financial cloud begins. Cloud computing has advantages — such as unified resource management, agile service deployment, Auto Scaling (AS), and on-demand self-service — but it also makes the system more complex, which is demonstrated by technology convergence. Take the network as an example: In a traditional data center, the network boundary is between servers and access switches, while the cloud network boundary extends to virtual switches inside servers. So how can we maintain and operate a network with virtual network topology inside its servers? And who is responsible for the O&M?
A more complex system also raises the requirements for the technical skills of FinTech professionals. The network, computing, and storage of the cloud cannot be separated anymore, so once a problem occurs, it's difficult to independently define and solve. For the financial cloud data center, there's an urgent need to build a team of specialists that understands convergent technologies.
In more complex O&M scenarios, brought by cloud-network coordination in financial data centers, network engineers need to master traditional routing and switching protocols, data center SDNs as well as digital technologies — such as virtualization, cloud computing, and storage arrays — and distributed storage to respond to challenges brought by that complexity.
To meet the skills needs for the financial institutions for data centers, Huawei created a HCIE-Data Center Facility Design course that helps trainees learn data center's planning, consulting, and service processes, such as using evaluation models, preparing the site selection and feasibility study report, and planning and designing the power supply and distribution system, cooling system, and Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) system, helping them gradually become experts in the data center infrastructure field to meet financial institutions' needs for customized data center development.
With technologies continuously evolving, Huawei says that it will continue to upgrade knowledge related to the data center certification to ensure that trainees can stay up to date and meet the requirements of financial institutions for skill and capability improvement.
China Everbright Bank will continue working with Huawei to train more technical specialists with diversified skillsets. While operating the financial cloud data center and ensuring service security, continuity, and stability, we will protect our network security and data security and help to develop a unified, collaborative, shared, and agile finance industry supported by an intelligent ecosystem.