By Nicholas Greene
Data centers have long formed the backbone of our increasingly digital society. Without them, the technological lifeblood of our civilization essentially vanishes altogether. The fact is, we’re already incredibly reliant on computers and networking, and that’s not going to change any time soon. What will change – what is changing – is that we’re using the Internet for more and more, putting greater strain on and making increasingly difficult demands of the infrastructure that supports it.
That’s the problem with a vital technology – it tends to experience extremely rapid growth.
As a direct result, data centers are starting to grow at exponential rates simply to keep up with all the computing requests. This poses a very specific problem: it’s extremely easy for this rapid expansion to careen out of control, leaving an organization with a convoluted mess of poorly-implemented hardware and an application infrastructure that would frustrate most IT professionals. Coupled with this is a considerable increase in the cost of operations. Data centers now require more bandwidth and use more energy than ever before.
That’s where VPNs come in. Powerful tools for efficiency in the business world, VPNs are equally valuable in the data center market for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a data center is typically either a self-contained business or one tendril of a larger organization. Proper implementation of a VPN vastly improves the productivity of an organization’s staff in either scenario.
As I have discussed before, ease of communication, constant connectivity and increased mobility all lead to a marked increase in productivity, while the security offered by a VPN can help ensure that sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. A properly configured VPN can allow staff to regularly monitor their facility and, when combined with automation software, actively manage it. The end result is a more efficient workforce and data center.
Additionally, VPNs provide a means of connecting IT resources to one another. Load balancing through a site-to-site VPN can help data center operators deal with periods of peak activity, offloading any traffic that a facility is incapable of handling to a different site. Customers of a particular facility can make use of a built-in VPN in order to access any resources or data they may have stored on the server. Not only that, when coupled with server virtualization (one of the most game-changing technologies of the 21st century), it can essentially provide each customer with its own private data center.
If it’s starting to sound like we’re broaching the subject of software-defined data centers, it’s because we are: VPNs and SDNs actually share a great deal in common, though they differ in a few areas: VPNs provide a secure, isolated means of connecting resources to one another without actually incorporating the functionality of an entire network. Virtualized networks, on the other hand, are exactly what they sound like: completely virtual networks that provide a full range of resources and services. In spite of these differences (or, perhaps, because of them), connecting a VPN to a virtualized, software-defined data center can provide a powerful and efficient end-to-end service.
Furthermore, VPNs also play a vital role in data center consolidation – where an organization downsizes, upgrades and combines the facilities it controls in order to streamline its computing resources, reducing both the cost and complexity of its data operations. While shifting its infrastructure around, it can utilize a VPN to ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum.
The basic technology behind VPNs has been around for a while, and with good reason. They still serve as great tools in the portfolios of business professionals the world over, and as solutions for improved data center agility and efficiency. Their prevalence in the data market all but confirms this.