Cloud computing will power the largest network in the world: the Internet.
That's what Larry Peterson, chief architect of the Open Networking Lab, predicted in a keynote speech on the Internet's future at the Internet2 Global Summit on April 9. Cloudification, as he called it, will bring scalable, elastic technology to the Internet in a network built by service blocks.
"Cloudification says the services are the key thing," Peterson said. "Devices are just implementation choices."
A few key components will help make this transition: a content delivery network, software-defined networking and network functions virtualization. Let's look at what these components are and how they can work together for institutions.
This type of network connects computers on the Internet and helps them deliver content quickly to users. They do this by duplicating Web pages on a series of servers that are spread around different geographic locations. When someone requests to see a specific Web page, that user can see it faster because the server that's nearest to him or her can display the page.
Traditional networking software includes a control plane, which makes decisions about where to route packets, and a data plane, which passes on packets of information. These two planes typically are tied together, and the control plane runs on network hardware.
The software-defined networking architecture splits the two planes apart so the control plane can be programmed and managed centrally on software. With a vendor-agnostic interface called OpenFlow, the two planes can communicate on whatever networking devices they control. Software-defined networking can bring flexibility, elasticity and scalability to a formerly static network, according to the Open Networking Foundation.
Network functions including switching elements, mobile network nodes and tunneling gateway elements currently run on stacks of proprietary hardware. But virtualization allows these functions to be built on software modules that run on commercial off-the-shelf servers.
Ultimately, organizations that move to network functions virtualization will reduce their equipment costs, take advantage of economies of scale and have flexibility to scale and buy services, said Mike Hluchyj, CTO of carrier products for Akamai Technologies. If a new service takes up more space than anticipated, then network functions virtualization allows organizations to run more virtual machines. The reverse is true as well.
"If you fail, the failure isn't such a big deal," Hluchyj said. "You just try something else along the way."