As I ranted about how networks today resemble yesterday’s factories I think I inadvertently stirred up an even larger issue. My buddy Doug Gourlay pushed the implications a bit further in his Network World blog, suggesting that the network could be at a kind of turning point:
My fear, that may be unfounded – but worth discussing, is that the next wave of IT value will not be delivered by the network but instead by software and virtualization platforms. Systems vendors, such as HP, are moving to reduce the network to dumb plumbing. Budgets seem to be shifting to projects that directly influence the business top/bottom-line, and away from ‘plain ol’ infrastructure’.
Doug Gourlay, “Implications of Virtualization and Cloud”, Aug 19, 2009
That was quickly picked up on by Omar Sultan at the Cisco data center blog, suggesting that virtualization will make the network sexy again. This is the essence of the notion of infrastructure 2.0, or the evolution of the network to empower enterprise virtualization and cloud initiatives.
Lori MacVittie at F5 then commented at www.infra20.com that VM density is becoming the new IT efficiency standard. Increasing the density of VMs produces short term gains in flexibility and costs until sprawl forces upgrades and new management tools, a kind of Déjà vu for those who once thought that virtualization-lite was the end game. I think we all may have been thinking the same thing.
All of these three recent blogs strike at the heart of the issue as the data center evolves. This takes me to a couple upcoming events on the infrastructure 2.0 frontier: a webcast on virtualization and the future of the network with executives from Cisco, Infoblox and VMware hosted by Nemertes co-founder Andreas Antonopoulos on September 23; and an invitation-only infrastructure 2.0 event at SRI International earlier in the month hosted by some legendary players in enterprise networking.
The Virtualization and the Future of the Network webinar will help networking and IT pros get caught up in the dynamics of how virtualization will impact the network, both in the short and the long term. It is in that grey area between the phase one deployment today and the dynamic infrastructure of tomorrow where much of the confusion resides.
That is why the first infrastructure 2.0 blackboard session at SRI will prove to be very interesting to this discussion. A similar effort helped to establish SNMP more than two decades ago. This session could have a significant impact on the shape of cloud computing, as its goal is to help networks evolve to address infrastructure 2.0 demands. At this point its too early to tell what will emerge, but the lineup of contributors is monumental.
It seems apparent that the network industry is entering a particularly interesting phase, and many are feeling the stresses between the demands of the static and dynamic data centers. Those who embrace automation and integration at the core of the network (ala core network services) will at least be the early winners as virtualization evolves from tactical to strategic, from short term capex to longer term opex ROI dynamics.
Network pros (and vendors) who understand the power and opportunity of automation in this new world of networking will become strategic to the evolution of the network and the data center. And that evolution has already begun…