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Data center networking describes the integration of a range of networking resources — including routing, switching, analytics and load balancing — to facilitate the processing and storage of data and applications.

Essentially, data center networking is the plumbing that connects all data center hardware together, via copper wire or fiber optics cable. The data center network switches are configured via software to provide optimal prioritization, security, and traffic routes for business applications and mission-critical services. 

Data center networking platforms

Modern data center networking platforms leverage software to execute all the network services needed to support traditional enterprise applications. They enable the automation of resource provisioning tasks — something that is largely inefficient and error-prone when handled manually.

Data center networking and Day 2 Operations platforms should deliver 360-degree visibility into all networked resources by visualizing data center storage, server and network infrastructure. A holistic view of data center networks ensures that technicians are fully aware of all dependencies. Such complete visibility is essential when it comes to identifying performance bottlenecks and issues within a data center network. 

A robust data center platform should also de-provision policies associated with decommissioned applications. This prevents the sprawl of obsolete policies that would degrade compliance, connectivity, security and manageability.

Components of a data center 

There are three core components of a data center:

  1. Server
  2. Storage
  3. Network

These components must seamlessly sync together for reliable delivery of applications and services that the business depends on. The server is the engine of any data center infrastructure. It hosts various services and applications and provides the processing power for compute workloads. It's the core component of the data center since the entire network infrastructure is designed and configured to facilitate top-notch server performance.

Storage may be found within the physical server or as a separate type of hardware called a storage array or disk array. The storage arrays use multiple drives to store large amounts of data. The arrays are optimized for efficient Input/output operations per second (IOPS) and are managed by a centralized system.

Resources such as routers and switches within the data center facilitate the smooth, efficient movement of data traffic flowing into and through the data center which can be on-premises, in a public cloud, or at a collocation facility. These devices are essential components of the data center infrastructure and can provide up to 400 Gbps transmission speeds per port.

The shift toward virtualized and edge architectures

Today's data centers handle so much more data than even five years ago, hardware must be refreshed to provide for the increased load.

Accommodating the massive flow of data from analytics, data processing tools, and other data-intensive applications requires well-designed data center network architectures. Modern data center network architectures incorporate security through segmentation. Networking virtualization platforms, called software-defined networking (SDN), support a robust set of data services and enable centralized management, automation and granular security controls. 

According to Gartner, 91 percent of today's data is created and processed in centralized data centers. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 75 percent of all data will need "analysis and action at the edge."

Most organizations are using both private, on-premises clouds and public clouds, a combination known as hybrid cloud. If real-time collection and analysis are desired, adding edge computing is a great addition to the hybrid cloud. Edge computing adds computation, network and data storage geographically closer to the source of the data, which improves bandwidth and latency.

Core capabilities of modern data center networks

Your organization's data center networking platform should provide critical services for data and applications, including granular security via micro-segmentation, consistent operations and automation. It should also adjust dynamically to meet the ever-evolving needs of users and business applications.

Modern data centers achieve speed and agility by automating the provisioning of networking services for applications. This automated provisioning allows data center networks to respond dynamically to variations in usage and balance workloads as needed. This reduces the daily administrative task of network engineers and optimizes the performance of the network. An automated approach delivers increased reliability, speed and efficiency to data centers.

Modern data center networks should also incorporate consistent policies to ensure seamless integration of resources across the board. Beyond this, they should have centralized management to allow the control and governance of connected resources located in the cloud, on-premises and at the edge.

Getting the most out of data center networks

The modern data center network is a complex environment that must be carefully managed if you want it to consistently deliver high-level performance. 

To ensure zero or minimal downtime of mission-critical business applications and services, organizations need to leverage Day 2 Operations platforms to monitor utilization, policies, errors and traffic flows. By doing so, they can proactively make adjustments and corrections. 

Day 2 Operations platforms also can integrate with application monitoring tools to provide complete, end-to-end visibility of data center traffic.