Learn how Intel IT is using software-defined networking (SDN) and automation to transform Intel’s data centers.
As Intel’s business grows, demand for data center network capacity has increased by more than 25% annually. Additionally, business pressures require new capacity to be brought into production within 24 hours. As far back as 2014, we recognized the potential of software-defined networking (SDN) to help meet these challenges.
After evaluating SDN components and architectures, we selected an open, standards-based architecture instead of a supplier-centric solution. As our SDN architecture has matured, we have developed a standardized and scalable data center network architecture that takes advantage of automation. The open interface allows flexibility to integrate additional business-driven automation to meet our growth and timeline needs.
Our network architecture strategy relies on five pillars:
- Scalability through standardization. Maintain consistent switch hardware and OS, with strict naming conventions, topology, configurations and solutions to enable automation and rapid scalability at large data centers.
- Programmability. Allow our workforce to adapt to significant growth of network scale at improved velocity. It also enables full lifecycle provisioning of network infrastructure from Day 0 to end of life.
- Security. Ability to segment the network over common infrastructure to support different use cases and enhance data center security.
- Resiliency. Support continuous operations of network functionality, rapid recovery and the ability to maintain functionality in an impacted state.
- Supportability. Maintain the designed level of performance and availability of the network. Standards lead the way to improved troubleshooting.
Our adoption of SDN and automation architecture has provided numerous benefits to Intel:
- Network provisioning improvement. It used to take nearly eight hours to provision networks for entire racks of servers from top-of-rack switches. The new software-defined and automated architecture has reduced the provisioning time to less than two hours.
- Improvement in reliability and stability. In the last two years, we have improved the reliability of the data center and reduced the number of performance-related incidents by 70%. In 2021, we had over nine months without any network-caused incident issues across all of Intel’s data centers worldwide—amply illustrating the robustness of the solution.
- Efficiency. In the last two years, we saw 25% year-over-year growth in Intel’s Design data centers. Our network team was able to support this higher volume of work without increasing staff. This was only possible due to the direct value of SDN and automating Day 0 and Day 1 tasks. We have achieved greater than 20% efficiency improvements with the SDN architecture to date.
- Flexibility. We can now easily add custom network layers to meet unique business requirements. In contrast, a closed-loop, supplier-centric SDN solution offers very limited ability to make these types of changes.
Over the next 18 months, we plan to finish migrating the remaining 40% of the Access network of our data centers to the new leaf-spine architecture to fully realize the value of the design and SDN.