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Issue Date: June 2007

Virtualise, centralise, optimise, manage

1 June 2007

New possibilities from advanced network computing platform architecture to enable transactional competitiveness.
The network has long served as the central nervous system of the enterprise. It is the circulatory system through which all digital information passes, from the local area network in the office, to the long distance links which connect every location worldwide.
But the modern network can be far more than just the mechanism for connectivity.
Given the limitations of historical computing technology architecture, most company managers find themselves with discrete technology assets and services physically located within each department and office branch. This distributed architecture, while serving its purpose in the years prior to the availability of high-speed connectivity, has the upshot of serious inefficiency given the requirement for duplication on a large scale. It also costs far more, not just in terms of the initial purchase price, but also in terms of the resources - manpower and otherwise - required to manage it.
With the availability of virtualisation, technologies and architectures leveraged within the network platform, it is today possible to completely change the view of the network from that of connectivity mechanism to that of a service delivery platform.
Since the network is the delivery platform, the implication is that the network and the services (which are typically created by information technology assets, such as hardware and software) must interact a lot more closely than they have in the past.
Before we get on to that, however, another important concept must be considered: that of virtualisation. With a network architecture which is designed to deliver the required technology services to the place they are required, it is necessary that these resources - such as processing power, storage resources or an accounting or any other application - are made available in a logical manner that they can in fact be automatically assigned to the location or nearest access point/medium of a service request on demand. Virtualisation enables this model by 'breaking' the barriers which traditionally, physically bound resources such as applications and infrastructure. Leveraging the network as a virtual service delivery platform enables the deployment of services and the resources that support them, as and when the business demands, This model introduces new levels of flexibility, ensuring optimal utilisation of all available computing assets. This lessens the need to build physical dedicated infrastructures, reducing complexity, duplication and cost.
With that achieved, it is back to the applications. With open interfaces, there is a drive to closing the gap between the network and the applications it carries through partnerships with leading vendors, eliminating the gap between applications and network. In this part of the evolution the network platform is able to interpret physical transactional requirements relating to everyday business process flows such as purchase orders etc, and process them without the need for complex bits and bytes level inspection with automated levels of security embedded within the network fabric. This equates to reductions in bespoke middleware integration - hence reductions in complexity and cost - when attempting to interface between differing application types. This scenario is available today with Cisco's services oriented network architecture (SONA), where the speed of transaction execution leads to competitive advantage.
Steve Midgley, general manager, Cisco South Africa
Steve Midgley, general manager, Cisco South Africa
With SONA, the network architecture components are combined with other network services and applications to create a solution far larger than the sum of the parts. With a centralised architecture capable of delivering on virtualisation, resources are used far more efficiently, capital costs are potentially reduced and the manpower required for support is centralised and optimised. It is a new way of delivering applications. It is powered by the network.

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