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Signs of Trouble in the Network

Before Cloud- Bigger Fish to Fry

Static networks are already costing enterprises more on a per unit basis as they grow, per this Fall 2008 Computerworld survey.   Increasing network costs will only reduce funds available for network automation.  This recent TCO comparison between Google and Microsoft is just the beginning of the business case war to be fought on the network over who will have the new IT factories in their cities.

As networks get larger and more complex the manual labor costs escalate and they become even more brittle.  Ever higher levels of expense and delay are required for the simplest changes.  People become committees and committees develop checklists and policies.  The static network, the very transport fabric for the cloud, exacts ever increasing taxes on every change, like a bloated bureaucracy.  Imagine legions of IT workers manually tracking moving apps and endpoints, like the operators of yesteryear connecting callers with called.

Instead of evolution CIOs who continue to invest in the outdated status quo will experience revolution as the coming cloud TCO pressures (and eventually availability pressures) will force capitulation.

We’re not there yet because cloud for the enterprise has substantial technical hurdles.  Yet the business case for addressing those hurdles is so powerful they will be overcome.  The signs of network automation (from management to monitoring and dynamic intelligence) emerging to address the core of the cloud network disconnect are already here.

Critical Solutions Emerge and Gain Traction
There is currently a wild west of network monitoring and network management tools available (in addition to solutions for ip address management and integrated DNS appliances) for automating routine, yet often high risk manual tasks.  While many enterprises still rely upon network management practices that reflect the way that businesses worked before the network, some have started the innovation process.  As enterprises increase the adoption of network automation tools this wild west of solutions will consolidate into a handful of companies with robust products that address both current and emerging cloud challenges.

Then there is the promise of IF-MAP which is rumored to be part of a series of live demos at Interop later this month.  IF-MAP could unleash new levels of pervasive security for automated networks, as it could deliver an important part of the promise of connectivity intelligence required for the coming reinvention of IT.

System Innovation Drives Higher Velocities of Change
When systems and endpoints move, how will they be tracked?  If you’re thinking spreadsheets and larger populations of network administrators think again.  How many ports were used in the last week versus how many are available for use?  Is that data even tracked before switch orders are placed?

As VMware, Microsoft and Citrix break the VLAN barrier those still left managing networks with spreadsheets will face rapidly escalating costs and rising availability risks.  They will be the laggards most susceptible to cloudsourcing.

Network Innovation will have to Catch up with System Innovation
The deployment of enterprise-grade clouds will require as much innovation within the network as has been introduced into systems by the hypervisor and various virtualization/cloud partner ecosystems.  Yet until recently most CIOs have focused on the tactical gains of converting racks of servers into VLAN racks.  As those CIOs bump into network issues, including IPv6, accelerated change and the continued growth of endpoints (see Infrastructure 2.0 blog on “The Three Horsemen…”).

That is why I’m generally bullish on networking companies (and their partners) that embrace or promote automation as a way to enhance the business case for capital spending and make enterprise networks more powerful and economical.  These leaders, including Cisco and F5 Networks, along with VMware and IBM on the virtualization and system management side are starting a dialogue and offering new solutions.  Check out, for example, the recently announced Cisco UCS and VMware’s (eight blade) cloud OS.

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.