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Huawei unveils its vision for a true agile network(Computerworld UK)

Nov 19, 2013

The Chinese networking giant unveiled a new set of switches in Barcelona this week

By Derek du Preez | Computerworld UK | Published 08:31, 12 November 13

Huawei has unveiled its strategy to deliver a true agile network to the enterprise – one which looks at the enterprise as a whole and is able to adjust easily depending on a user's need, location and device.

The Chinese networking giant unveiled a new set of switches at Gartner's Symposium in Barcelona this week to support this vision, which use a fully programmable fabric architecture and supports rapid customisation

Huawei enterprise architect Steven Harrison was speaking at the event and explained that most enterprise networks won't be able to deal with the disruptive changes that are happening in the IT industry – thanks to developments in mobile, cloud, big data, social and the internet of things.

“Are your networks ready for this? Most of the networks installed today are not, they are woefully unsuited to dealing with this new kind of traffic,” he said.

“We think it's time to redefine the network – this is what we call the agile network. What we are talking about here is that the campus [an enterprise as a whole – regardless of location] has a big role to play in the future of networking.”

He added: “We can have a great cloud data centre, we can have fabulous connectivity, but ultimately this needs to drill down into the campus network if it's going to work. The funny thing with the cloud, is that the cloud doesn't work unless the network that brings you to the cloud does.”

Harrison described the future agile network in three layers. Firstly enterprises will need a 'network brain', which is an intelligent controller that will manage all of the network resources, or services. The 'brain' will be able to distinguish the difference between a video conference and a laptop back-up, for example, and allocate network resources accordingly.

Secondly, the network needs agile switches, according to Huawei. Harrison said: “Why do we need switches to be agile? Because we are going to start encountering new types of traffic, new protocols, new technologies, which we have never seen before.

“Do we want to forklift the network every time a new app comes out? That's not very efficient, we need to manage our total cost of ownership better.”

Finally, Harrison argued that companies need to have a 'zero configuration edge'. Huawei defines this as a network that allows employees to access services on any device they are using, at any location – whether that be on a mobile, on a laptop, on a tablet; in the office, in a car, or at home.

Huawei believes this vision for an agile network requires a number of innovations. The first of which is allowing administrators to look at the network as a whole – one logical device. “What if I could have one point of administration? One point of configuration for my entire campus, one wireless access point, that's one of the innovations behind the agile network,” said Harrison.

An agile network also requires better service quality, according to Huawei. It claims that networks today are tested point to point, but rarely reflect a real service. “[What we need] is the ability to monitor individual services end to end on the network so that we can have real awareness of what type of quality of service and experience the network is delivering,” said Harrison.

He went on to say that innovation is also required to improve the user-experience. “Let's imagine a remote worker on vacation in Brazil, but he's logging in to do work. The question is – how do I optimise his experiences when he's normally working from the Netherlands?” said Harrison.

“In an agile network, the cloud resources he needs will automatically be moved to a data centre closer to where he is. All of the security policies and access rights will be made aware that he is logging in from a different location, in a different continent, and everything will adapt dynamically.”

Finally, an agile network requires security to adapt to this agile experience. “If we look at today's security model – traditional firewalls – they are fixed points of security. Particular rule sets that occur at one spot,” he said.

“That's just not going to cut it for this type of an agile network – instead we need to take a big data approach. We learn from the network, from the users, what's happening. We monitor all the traffic end-to-end so that we can track things like time of day related to the user, related to the resources.

“End-to-end security awareness,” said Harrison.

Huawei, in part, aims to deliver this agile network through a new set of switches – switches that support a fully programmable fabric architecture – called SI2700.

Huawei SI2700 switches provide a real-time network traffic detection function to help customers locate complicated network faults quickly and integrate the forwarding of wired and wireless services and unified user management mechanisms to help deliver a consistent user experience.

The switches use Huawei Transformer series Ethernet Network processor chipsets, which Huawei claims can accommodate future network requirements while maintaining high forwarding performance.

Huawei claims the switches support the “smooth evolution of enterprise networks into the next-generation campus networks”.