One of the big IT trends today is the evolution of the user computing environment—shifting from fat client to thin client. In the thin-client computing environment, the small traffic that smart devices generate when sending a service request will trigger huge interactive traffic among servers. So there will be fundamental changes in the traffic flow pattern.
The following diagram shows the shift from high-volume, “north-south” traffic patterns to high-volume, “east-west” traffic:
The north-south direction arrow illustrates the transaction traffic flowing between user and server applications across customer and public service networks. This is the typical communication pattern in a client/server or fat-client computing environment.
The east-west direction arrow illustrates the interactive traffic among the application servers, which are normally contained within the data center network. This is thin-client computing, where a single transaction request from the user will trigger large communication traffic between servers.
Changes in the user computing environment—shifting from fat-client to thin-client computing, or from traditional desktop computers and notebooks to smartphones, tablets and other smart devices—have triggered tremendous surges in “east-west” traffic!
So how are these changes influencing the data center design? How are we accommodating this growth of “east-west” traffic?
The above changes at the user end have triggered new types of demand on IT services, including:
- Cloud computing, which means moving from static to dynamic networks to support virtualization and “pay as you go” IT resources
- Big data, which means sensor-based data collections that increase the number of network devices astronomically and produce nontraditional traffic patterns
- Mobile and distributed users who expect round-the-clock availability to often traffic-intensive and latency-sensitive applications
- Virtualization from server and storage to network devices and services
- Converged infrastructure and integrated systems that will place different demands on the network
All these IT trends are driving the importance of having a high performance, flexible network that is integrated and designed for scale. The typical network deployed in enterprises today is based on a tri-tier spanning tree architecture developed 10 to 15 years ago, in the days of client/server computing. This kind of network is no longer able to meet the demand caused by these new trends in computing.
So what is the new network solution going to look like? The following diagram shows the changes of networking technologies from end to end:
Endpoints: Users have been using more handheld smart devices than traditional desktops or notebooks. The local area network (LAN) speed will no longer be the main connectivity medium; it has been replaced by wireless, 3G and 4G connectivity.
Network: The internet service provider (ISP) has become the main network connection between the endpoints and the data center. An ISP now offers various reliable and secured connections, which allows users to access data center services at any time and anywhere. At the same time, nowadays a single user will have more than a single Internet Protocol (IP) device (desktop, notebook, smartphone, tablet), and these all require an IP address for identification. Because there are so many devices, ISPs are running out of IPv4 addresses to allocate to these devices. As such, IPv6 is a key service that has been enabled by ISPs.
Data center: This piece of infrastructure is owned and managed by the user. In order to support high-transaction traffic that communicates among the group of servers, we have to use new technologies to construct an infrastructure that is capable of delivering high performance, availability and secured services to our users.
As you can see, the way our networks operate has evolved drastically because of the changes in how users and their computing devices access them. If you aren’t prepared for the different types of demand that this puts on your servers, you might run into trouble. IBM Networking Strategy and Optimization Services can help you to understand how the changes in the user computing environment have affected your network’s performance and how to optimize your environment for better performance. Please leave your comments below or connect with me on Twitter @StevenYeoky.