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Addressing east-west traffic challenges with HPE Aruba Networking CX 10000 switches: A game changer for modern data centers

By Dhiman Deb Chowdhury, Product Management, Distributed Services Switches, HPE

In the dynamic landscape of data centers, where every byte of information matters, the dominance of intra-server communications cannot be overstated. Recent statistics reveal a staggering truth: approximately 70% to 80% of data center traffic is attributed to server-to-server communication, also known as east-west traffic. While this internal data exchange is the lifeblood of modern data centers, a critical issue arises in how this traffic is managed and secured.

Traditionally, centralized services such as firewalls or other security appliances have been deployed to mitigate security concerns within data centers. However, the dilemma lies in treating east-west traffic with the same rigor as north-south traffic. Unlike external traffic entering or exiting the data center (north-south), which requires stringent security measures, east-west traffic flows entirely within the data center and does not necessarily pose the same security risks.

Figure 1. East-west traffic pinholing through a centralized services device.

Figure 1. East-west traffic pinholing through a centralized services device.

Routing all server-to-server communication through centralized services designed for north-south traffic introduces a significant performance bottleneck to localized traffic. This bottleneck is akin to diverting a stream through a narrow channel, hindering the flow of water—or in this case, data—and impeding the efficiency of data center operations.

The consequence of this approach is twofold: First, it compromises the agility and responsiveness of applications that rely on seamless intra-server communication. Second, it underutilizes data center network infrastructure, limiting capacity to handle the growing volume of east-west traffic efficiently.

However, a paradigm shift is underway in the way data center traffic is managed and secured. Forward-thinking organizations are re-evaluating their approach to east-west communication, recognizing that not all traffic requires the same level of scrutiny and control.

Rather than indiscriminately funneling all east-west traffic through centralized services, a more nuanced approach is emerging. This approach involves:

  • Segmentation and context-aware policies: Implementing microsegmentation strategies allows organizations to define granular policies based on application context, user identity, or data sensitivity. By segmenting the data center network into smaller, isolated zones, organizations can contain potential threats while allowing legitimate east-west communication to flow freely within trusted segments.
  • Distributed security controls: Deploying distributed security controls at the edge of the network enables organizations to inspect and filter east-west traffic closer to its source. This decentralized approach reduces the reliance on centralized appliances, alleviating the performance bottleneck associated with routing all traffic through a single chokepoint.
  • Visibility and monitoring: Enhancing visibility and monitoring capabilities allows organizations to gain insights into east-west traffic patterns, identify anomalies, and detect potential security threats in real-time. Advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms empower organizations to proactively manage and secure their data center environments, ensuring optimal performance and resilience.

How can HPE Aruba Networking CX 10000 switches assist?

The CX 10000 switch series introduces a revolutionary approach to data center networking, empowering organizations to implement segmentation and context-aware policies while leveraging distributed control to enhance security and optimize traffic flow. Here's how the CX 10000 enables these capabilities:

  • Microsegmentation and context-aware policies
    • Granular policy enforcement: With its advanced policy engine, CX 10000 switches help segment the data center network into smaller, isolated zones and enforce policies to govern east-west traffic flow between these segments. Additionally, the device will allow granular policies based on application context and user identity in the upcoming software release.
    • Dynamic policy adaptation: CX 10000 switches supports dynamic policy adaptation, allowing organizations to adjust segmentation and access control policies in real time based on changing application requirements or security threats. This flexibility ensures that organizations can adapt their security posture to evolving threats without compromising operational efficiency.
    Figure 2. Microsegmentation at TOR level.

    Figure 2. Microsegmentation at TOR level.

  • Distributed security controls
    • Edge based security enforcement: CX 10000 switches facilitate distributed security controls at the edge of the network, closer to the source of east-west traffic. By deploying security policies and enforcement mechanisms at the network edge, organizations can inspect and filter traffic in a decentralized manner, reducing reliance on centralized appliances and alleviating performance bottlenecks.
    • Secure inter-zone communication: With CX 10000 switches, organizations can establish secure communication channels between segmented zones within the data center. By encrypting and authenticating east-west traffic at the network edge, organizations can ensure that sensitive data remains protected while traversing the data center infrastructure.
  • Comprehensive visibility and monitoring
    • Real time traffic analysis: CX 10000 switches provide comprehensive visibility and monitoring capabilities, allowing organizations to gain insights into east-west traffic patterns, detect anomalies, and respond to security incidents in real time. With advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, network administrators can proactively identify and mitigate security threats, ensuring optimal performance and resilience in the data center environment.
    • Policy compliance monitoring: With built-in policy compliance monitoring features, CX 10000 switches ensure that segmentation and access control policies are enforced consistently across the data center network. By monitoring policy adherence and generating alerts for policy violations, organizations can maintain a robust security posture and mitigate the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches.

What’s more?

As an industry leading product, the HPE Aruba Networking CX 10000 switch series introduces groundbreaking capabilities that extend beyond traditional networking functionalities. With its on-demand programmability facilitated by state-of-the-art DPU (Data Processing Unit) technology, organizations can seamlessly introduce new services and stitch together existing ones, all with unparalleled ease and efficiency. This service chaining capability not only streamlines operations but also contributes to significant reductions in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), enabling organizations to achieve cost savings while enhancing their network capabilities.

Moreover, CX 10000 switches sets a new standard in the industry by offering a diverse array of services directly at users' fingertips. From providing robust DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection at the network edge to enabling multi-tunneling for Data Center Interconnect (DCI) and multi-cloud interconnects, this product caters to a wide range of networking needs, ensuring comprehensive coverage and protection for data center infrastructures.

By embracing these advanced capabilities, organizations can unlock a myriad of benefits, including heightened security measures, streamlined operations, improved operational efficiency, and maximized performance of data center infrastructure. In the ever-evolving digital era, CX 10000 switches stand as a testament to innovation and excellence, empowering organizations to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape while staying ahead of the curve.

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