New data center and WAN architecture. How to choose?

Cisco ACI or VMware NSX? What to automate? How to integrate private and public clouds? We helped an international bank choose the next-gen data center and WAN infrastructure.

When selecting new IT infrastructure, many organizations end up at a crossroad. Reliable guidance is buried under a pile of vendor-influenced resources and trustworthy opinions are hard to find. Answering a public vs. private cloud question typically involves complex analysis and decisions, based on business and workload requirements, people, and processes. Selecting the right path, therefore, requires serious analytical expertise and experience, needed to produce guidelines and designs for the next 10-20 years, as well as transfer best practices to enable new ways of thinking related to future data center operations and management.

Our client, an international bank with over 10,000 employees and headquartered in the United States, came to such a crossroad.

Challenge: the optimal data center considering workload and staff availability

The bank’s data center infrastructure was built using static, non-flexible technology, and couldn’t optimally support their operations and business requirements any longer, so they decided to modernize their approach to data center computing. They were soon faced with complex technology choices that exceeded their knowledge of the next-generation data center architectures, and they became concerned about staff scalability. Specifically, they wanted trustworthy answers to the following questions:

  • Which approaches and innovations would work best in our environment of the future? (How to choose the future data center and Wide Area Network (WAN) design; overlay networking; cost-efficient business continuity; vendor – VMware NSX vs. Cisco ACI – benefits and limitations; (micro) segmentation and data center firewalling; compute and storage integration; multitenancy; service chaining etc.)
  • How do we use automation most effectively to run our future data center? (using Python, Ansible, PowerShell, Chef, Puppet, REST API, NETCONF, etc.)
  • How do we change our operation’s mindset and gain knowledge and experience in network automation?
  • If we choose Cisco ACI, how do we migrate our current network architecture to support it?
  • How do we integrate public and private cloud infrastructure for consistent manageability and user experience?

By answering these questions, the bank would select specific blueprints and directions for risk-free and cost efficient migration to the next-generation data center infrastructure.

Solution: it infrastructure audit, next-generation data center blueprint and knowledge transfer

Based on previous collaborations and high satisfaction, the bank again turned to NIL for advice on their future core infrastructure architecture and design. Our experience in IT infrastructure automation and expertise in a wide range of technologies, allowed the bank to gain an unbiased view of architectural options for their environment and technology lock-in-related risks. The comprehensive consulting project consisted of the following steps:

  • First, NIL performed a detailed audit and analysis of the current bank’s data center and WAN infrastructure: technology, processes, and people. Based on the results, we were able to accurately gauge customer operational maturity as well as the current automation possibilities.
  • In the second phase, we developed and delivered a series of expert-led workshops, during which we equipped client’s engineering departments with network automation best practices and knowledge to operate their future infrastructure. Through practical exercises and deep-dives in network programming with tools like PowerShell, Python and Chef, the engineers gained skills to dynamically program their infrastructure.
  • And lastly, our infrastructure design experts created detailed next-generation infrastructure blueprints for a specific bank’s needs and a clear road map for implementing their next-generation Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) and SD-WAN, with a specific focus on public-private cloud integration.

Armed with the detailed infrastructure road map, the bank now clearly understands the pros and cons related to technology and vendor choices. They are able to proceed with infrastructure procurement without lengthy internal architectural debates, and without vendor-influenced, opaque information stirring the pot.

The second significant benefit that the bank has gained was a shift of the mindset and attitudes toward automation. Armed with best practices and concepts, their engineering teams are now actively working on their scripting skills and thinking of ways to automate their current and future tasks. There are already several production projects underway, which will significantly reduce the human effort and risk in the bank’s current VPC and EVPN environment.