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Cloud Computing: Article

The Power Potential of Virtualization and Cloud Computing

The networking industry's biggest hope is dynamic infrastructure

The "speeds and feeds" mantra of the networking industry is about to be replaced by a new "dynamic infrastructure" mantra; and Cisco, Infoblox, and F5 Networks are taking the lead in shaping this new vision of a more flexible, more available, and easier to manage network. New enterprise initiatives, from RFID/wireless to virtualization and even cloud computing, will require more network innovation as network infrastructure supports more fluid systems and endpoints, more complexity, and yet increasingly larger portions of business operations.

Wake-Up Call: Rising Costs, Increasing Outages, and Flat Budgets
Over the last three decades the network has grown to a point of exhaustion for many enterprises, with critical projects being slowed by the demands of manual IT labor, from core network services like DNS/DHCP and IPAM (IP address management) to the new dynamic processing power potentials unleashed by virtualization and cloud computing. A report last fall by Computerworld showed large enterprises already experiencing diseconomies of scale (rising per unit IP address management costs as IP addresses are added), before even more endpoint and system movement and change is enabled by new initiatives designed to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

When you combine rising (manual labor) costs on a per IP address basis with the ongoing expansion of the network (more IP addresses) within the context of a global recession, you have the makings of a wake-up call for vendors and CIOs: a wake-up call driven by rising operations expenses, increasing outages, and fixed or even declining budgets as networks become more operationally significant.

Those who embrace the power of automation will crowd out those who fail to see the implications of new demands.

Automation Is at the Core of Much-Needed Network Evolution
If the network doesn't evolve, it simply won't be able to keep up with more complexity and higher rates of change without sizable and escalating investments in manual labor in a down economy. I think this is part of the reason that core network service automation was highlighted by the CNET Top Ten Predictions List for Networking in 2009:

"With all of the networking activity in the past few years, these core services have been a virtually ignored kludge leading to unplanned downtime, security vulnerabilities, and manual operations."
- Jon Oltsik, Enterprise Strategy Group, Dec 30 2008

Network vendors who continue to focus on static infrastructure "speeds and feeds" and CIOs who embrace a dying status quo of networking manual labor empires will be replaced by more innovative and strategic approaches that embrace automation as much internally (within the network) as they deliver externally (systems and operations). Networking pros will be thusly rewarded for embracing policy tools versus reactionary configuration as ad hoc policy in response to higher rates of change within increasing complex networks.

The Four Horsemen of Dynamic Infrastructure
As the Infrastructure 2.0 meme spreads, there are four companies that are destined to lead: Cisco, F5 Networks, Microsoft, and Infoblox (my employer). Within a couple of weeks, Cisco and Infoblox will share a stage at the San Jose Fairmont to talk about the biggest revolution in networking since TCP/IP. In a few months, Cisco, F5, and Infoblox will address FIRE attendees on the dynamic infrastructure revolution. I mention Microsoft because it is the leader in endpoint operating systems and has been very vocal about its virtualization and cloud solutions.

Dynamic infrastructure will unleash new potentials in the network, from connectivity intelligence (dynamic links and reporting between networks, endpoints, and applications) to the rise of IT automation on a scale that few have anticipated. It will unleash new consolidation potential for virtualized data centers and various forms of cloud computing. It will enable networks to ultimately keep up with increasing change velocities and complexity without a concomitant rise in network management expenses and manual labor risks.

Further down the road there will be even more capabilities emerging from Infrastructure 2.0 as virtualization and cloud payoffs put more pressure on brittle Infrastructure 1.0 networks. The evolution of cloud (James Urquhart calls it a maturity model in his recent CNET piece) will drive new demands on the network for automation.

Cisco is looking to address end-to-end IT automation and virtualization with a combination of partner technologies from the likes of VMware, and our own successes in the Catalyst and Nexus lines (e.g., the Nexus 1000v). Stay tuned on that front for some eye raising announcements.
- James Urquhart, Cisco, December 7, 2008

Without dynamic infrastructure enabled by automation, the payoff of virtualization and cloud initiatives will be muted in the same way that static security muted the virtualization payoff into a multitude of hypervisor VLANs. Think static pools of dynamic processing power that will eventually be consolidated into ever larger pools, enabling greater consolidation, greater efficiency and bigger payoffs free of the churn and risk of ongoing manual intervention. This is the vision of Infrastructure 2.0.

Looking Forward: Winners and Losers
As networking vendors fight against stable or even declining enterprise IT budgets, the automation of otherwise mundane, manual tasks that are driving up the expense of the network will stand out as the critical chasm between extinction and ongoing growth. The larger the payoff promised by dynamic systems and endpoints, the greater the pressure on static networks managed by kludge and CIO shell games.

For static network hardware vendors, enterprises will simply stop upgrading their networks at their former pace because they won't have the operations budgets to properly administer the new gear. And those CIO buyers will be squeezed by increasingly eroding business cases for their strategic network projects as peer companies continue to evolve and exploit the power of new initiatives. They will experience new initiative diseconomies as they throw more bodies at more changes and outages.

This "dynamic or dead" scenario will start with core network service automation, as Oltsik predicted, and will enable breakthroughs in other areas, including IF-MAP and Service-Oriented Network Architecture (SONA ala Cisco) and Data Center 3.0. This is just the beginning.

Leading networking and application delivery vendors, from Cisco to Juniper, to leaders in virtualization and cloud computing, including VMware, Citrix, Amazon and Google will depend on the emergence of dynamic infrastructure for steady growth in an otherwise weak IT economy.

Trumpeting the savings of substantial consolidation and even cloud computing while only delivering static pool payoffs will undermine growth and market caps. In short, he (or she) who automates the network, the underlying foundation of the computing industry, wins. Infrastructure 2.0 is inevitable.

More Stories By Greg Ness

Gregory Ness is the VP of Marketing of Vidder and has over 30 years of experience in marketing technology, B2B and consumer products and services. Prior to Vidder, he was VP of Marketing at cloud migration pioneer CloudVelox. Before CloudVelox he held marketing leadership positions at Vantage Data Centers, Infoblox (BLOX), BlueLane Technologies (VMW), Redline Networks (JNPR), IntruVert (INTC) and ShoreTel (SHOR). He has a BA from Reed College and an MA from The University of Texas at Austin. He has spoken on virtualization, networking, security and cloud computing topics at numerous conferences including CiscoLive, Interop and Future in Review.

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