After Interop I moderated a Future in Review (FIRE) panel and had the pleasure of asking executives from Infoblox, Cisco, F5 Networks and VMware about their perspective on infrastructure 2.0. The first part of the panel talked about the problems with today’s static networks, including rampant manual labor and outdated management tools; the second part explored the economic consequences of static infrastructure for business and jobs.
FIRE Infrastructure 2.0 Panel – Photos copyright © 2009 by Sandy Huffaker Jr
Infoblox’s Ness (blog author) and Kagan, with VMware’s Thiele, F5’s Giesa and Cisco’s Gourlay at the Future in Review Conference May 21, 2009
For application and infrastructure as a service (now forms of cloud) the cloud computing vine has indeed been fruitful. Yet with much broader and more complex enterprise IT services there are substantial barriers, which we’ve discussed before in 3 Major Barriers. How those barriers are tackled will mean all the difference to a community of public and private companies.
The Fire panel marked the first time that three leading networking and virtualization companies have shared the stage with the same lament: it’s time to automate network infrastructure.
Cisco’s Gourlay predicted that cloud deployed on ill-prepared networks could break the Internet. F5’s Giesa talked about the need to allow application delivery policies to follow mobile systems to ensure proper delivery. VMware’s Thiele discussed new demands on data center managers which will force network shortcomings into the open. Infoblox’s Kagan talked about the core need for core network service automation as a starting point for Infrastructure 2.0. You can view the entire panel discussion here via Vimeo.
During the introduction I commented that: “networks today are run like yesterday’s businesses and factories, with legions of …clerks…” I drew a parallel between the rise of automation and supply chain in manufacturing and the coming impact of cloud on IT service delivery. Cisco’s Gourlay coined the term “just-in-time IT services” to describe where cloud is taking IT and the parallel ramifications for companies, jobs and the wealth of nations.
The core cloud/network problem: There are layers of outdated practices that today are extracting volumes of micro-tolls from enterprise networks, simply because they’re usually informal, ad hoc and scattered among units. These practices need to be automated and integrated with each other or the fruits of virtualization and cloud will be minimized in darker clouds of expense, delays and outages. Networks need to be intelligent and able to keep up with the changes ushered in by the automation of systems enterprises are carrying out today. Simon Bisson summarized it well on this IT PRO blog:
Perhaps the most telling piece of the puzzle was one simple phrase: “We need to stop treating IT pros like Victorian file clerks”. It’s a statement that hit home – we do treat our IT pros as glorified clerks, waiting for them to do things by rote. What we really need is an automated infrastructure that flexibly configures itself to deal with the tools, applications and workloads we need to use every day.
Pull apart all the different definitions from all the vendors out there and that’s what Infrastructure 2.0 boils down to. It’s a world we really need to build – if only to show the world just what value IT really brings to business.
– Simon Bisson, IT PRO, May 27, 2009
Today I read about the Emerging Technologies Forum hosted by Integrated Archive Systems on June 24 in Mountain View, California. The list of sponsors includes Cisco, F5, VMware and Infoblox, along with NetApp, Microsoft and Sungard. From the looks of it, I think that the I2.0 herd is continuing to form as other voices join the conversation.
Public Companies in the Infrastructure 2.0 Mix
If someone was interested in following public companies well positioned for the evolution to infrastructure 2.0 one would naturally include Cisco, VMware, F5 Networks, Citrix, IBM and Juniper. Notably, Cisco and VMware recently won Best of Interop awards for their infrastructure 2.0 innovations. Amazon, Google, and numerous service providers (including Sungard) could transform the IT services (especially for small and medium businesses) if they can drive the evolution of cloud services and applications and minimize unplanned downtime.
A Not-So-Wild Idea: OEM Netbooks from a Network Player
As the lines blue between traditional networking players and servers and services I think it is very possible to see a networking player (or even a phone handset player) enter the netbook space. Imagine a netbook with logos from network vendors rather than processor vendors; after all, isn’t that what cloud is all about? It’s the network and service “inside” that really impacts performance, availability, security, etc.
Netbooks could generate brand visibility and help drive more bandwidth demands for network vendors.
A Private Player of Interest
At Future in Review I also saw a cloud application from SIMtone that garnered its fair share of enthusiasm. SIMtone demonstrated a kind of cloud-based portable desktop that can be easily transferred (on demand) from one device to another. I’m tempted to call it a virtual desktop service, for lack of a better term. According to CEO Mario Dal Canto a virtual desktop can be accessed via hyperlink or even a widget.
Cloud computing may still be years away from strategic implementation in large enterprise data centers, but it is already casting a long shadow. Its impact across IT is about to elevate a new crop of startups and perhaps invigorate a few familiar names in the tech industry. And it is likely to rain on the fortunes of still others.