Brocade: Enterprises Hampered by Aging Data Center Infrastructure

Brocade's survey also found that IT professionals are turning to fabric-based networks and SDN to create more on-demand environments.

Even though most organizations continue to update their data center environments, many of those infrastructures are running on outdated resources, making them incapable of keeping up with the demands for a more virtualized, mobile and cloud-based world, according to a survey by Brocade.

At the same time, a growing number of organizations are deploying fabric-based networks—which offer greater flexibility, scalability and automation—and are looking to begin rolling out software-defined network (SDN) technology by 2015, said the survey, which was released July 9.

The picture painted by the survey is one of data center administrators who are trying to keep their aging infrastructures running while they look to bring in newer technologies they know will help them keep up with the rapidly changing demands on their networks.

"Many data centers that exist today are based on 20-year-old technologies, and the simple fact is that they can no longer keep up with demand," Jason Nolet, vice president of data center switching and routing at Brocade, said in a statement. "Virtualization and cloud models require greater network agility and performance, as well as reduced operational cost and complexity.”

Data centers are increasingly becoming more on-demand, software-based environments, fueled in large part by the virtualization of servers and storage products. However, networks have lagged behind, remaining infrastructures largely based on expensive, complex and proprietary hardware systems that have to be programmed manually.

The growing interest in such trends as SDN and network-function virtualization (NFV), however, has given promise to the hope for highly flexible, scalable and programmable networks that can rapidly be scaled and programmed. SDNs essentially call for network functions to be taken from expensive switches and routers and housed in software. Vendors big and small—from Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks to Big Switch Networks, Plexxi and Embrane—are pushing their SDN efforts.

There also are a number of standards-based efforts—from the OpenDaylight Project to the Open Network Foundation to the Open Compute Program’s work around networking—that are helping to drive the push for more dynamic, on-demand networks in the enterprise and among service providers.

Brocade officials in May unveiled the company’s On-Demand Data Center initiative to create scalable and programmable networks for cloud and virtualized environments.

There’s a lot of hype around SDN right now, with relatively few deployments. However, IDC analysts expect spending on SDN to increase rapidly over the next few years, from $360 million this year to $3.7 billion by 2016.

Brocade’s survey—conducted by research firm Vanson Bourne, which surveyed 1,750 IT decision makers and office workers in Europe and North America—indicates that while organizations may buy SDN technology over the next few years, they’re still going to have to deal with an increasingly aged infrastructure.

Three-quarters of enterprises have updated their IT environments over the last three years, but 91 percent of decision makers said their current IT infrastructures need significant upgrades to be able to handle the networking demands created by virtualization and cloud computing, such as video conferencing.

One-third of respondents also said their organizations go through multiple network failures every week, and 41 percent said network downtime has caused financial issues with their businesses. Sixty-one percent of data center professionals said their networks are not fit for their intended purposes.

That said, some IT decision makers are trying to make their networks more scalable. Eighteen percent already are using fabric-based networks, and 51 percent plan to deploy Ethernet fabrics in the next year, a key move to support virtualization efforts. In addition, many enterprises will deploy SDN by 2015.

More than two-thirds of the decision makers said they want an on-demand data center model that combines both physical and virtual networking capabilities for provisioning capacity and resources more quickly and efficiently.