Jun 18, 2018 Industrial

Maintaining Virtualized Networks the Easy Way

By Jeff Gowan

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Network virtualization gives critical infrastructure operators unprecedented flexibility and choice when it comes to selecting software-based networking solutions. The separation of software from purpose-built hardware frees operators from decades of vendor lock-in and reasserts their control over technology roadmaps. Understandably, the roll-your-own approach is enticing for network operators.

In the realm of enterprise networks, IT teams have been doing this for years and are well ahead in implementing, and benefiting from, virtualized networks. But there are important differences between enterprise networks and critical infrastructure. For starters, unlike critical infrastructure operators, enterprise networks come from a tradition of in-house development, which is supported by IT teams with requisite skills and cultural mindsets. In addition, telecom networks and industrial control systems have far higher reliability requirements than enterprise networks, which cannot be compromised in the transition to virtualization.

These considerations are especially relevant in the context of selecting the virtualization platform. The right software platform will contribute to the anticipated capex and opex savings, as well as the increased flexibility and productivity, that will be built into the network virtualization business case.

Operators can certainly opt for the roll-your-own approach for the virtualization platform by downloading the latest vanilla OpenStack distribution or choose a solution that was originally designed for enterprise networks. But these solutions cannot meet the strict performance and reliability requirements of critical infrastructure operators, and they do not optimize processes like installation and maintenance to maximize operational cost savings.

Just look at the implications for network maintenance. When network managers need to install a patch or upgrade, as they routinely do, newly virtualized critical applications cannot be more cumbersome to maintain than the legacy systems they replaced. The longer the process takes, the higher the cost to the business. And a single mistake during routine maintenance could cause a system-wide outage, which would add unexpected costs rather than reduce operating costs.

The right software platform should cost-effectively simplify and automate network maintenance, and thereby eliminate unplanned downtime. That’s just what Titanium Cloud virtualization platforms do.

Through in-service patching and hitless upgrades, Titanium Cloud enables systems to stay up to date without disruption to services. Whether it is a minor patch or a full system upgrade, an integrated wizard automates the entire process. For a system upgrade, virtual functions are live migrated from one server node to another; then, the operating system, OpenStack components, hypervisor, and virtualization infrastructure manager (VIM) are upgraded along with the rest of the Titanium Cloud package. Network managers also have complete visibility into the process through messages, logs and alarms while rollback points are also created for controlled fallback, if needed.

These maintenance capabilities ensure that the system and all its features are not compromised in any way during upgrades.

While network maintenance can be perceived as unremarkable and routine, it should not be overlooked as a potential area for significant operational cost savings in the transition to network virtualization. Titanium Cloud was designed to make maintenance easier for critical infrastructure operators. Leveraging open source software and virtualization technology, Titanium Cloud is optimized specifically for critical infrastructure requirements.

For more on how Titanium Cloud delivers operational cost savings, please see our recent video series and download the new whitepaper on this topic.

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