As Cisco, HP, Juniper, F5, Amazon, Microsoft, Google and others circle the data center field of battle, one strategic ridge of high ground is in network automation, or the ability to move (or adjust/provision) IT assets at the push of a button without the need for extensive manual intervention. That manual intervention accounts for a sizable portion of the costs, risks and compromises of today’s static networks.
Several of these companies have already made notable announcements in 2009, yet none have yet to let the virtualization genie out of the VLAN bottle completely. When they do, watch out for a new wave of IT innovation.
Last week I listened in to four experts talk about Virtualization and the Future of the Network. After Nemertes’ co-founder Andreas Antonopoulos shared recent findings on the shift in virtualization drivers (from capex savings to flexibility), VMware’s Mark Thiele shared his perspective on how far flexibility could go and the potentially powerful economics of an evolved network.
Instead of isolated data centers around the world Thiele illustrated a dynamic and resilient mesh of processing power capable of quickly adjusting to developments as they occur. That mesh could avoid disasters by simply shifting its applications and processing cycles from one location to another in real time. It could also shift for other reasons, including localized cost increases or brownouts or a sudden change in a cloud providers terms of service or service level agreement.
Thiele makes his point on slide 13 as a hypothetical tsunami prepares to strike the Southern California coastline, applications and servers move in advance of its wake to optimized locations:
Imagine the sheer amount of resources (people, time, expense, etc.) that it would take with today’s static network infrastructure to move servers from one side of a continent to another or even to change cloud providers. Then add a little risk, a few angry users and a mountain of tasks and procedures to ensure that networks stay secure and available.
That’s why infrastructure 2.0 is Virtualization’s Golden Spike; it enables a new level of scale, find ability and flexibility driven by powerful economics.
Thiele has shown that the evolution of IT may very well depend on the evolution of the network. Those players with the experience and technology to deliver on the promise are likely to win, despite offshore competition from low end players or category crossers convinced that the tired “speeds and feeds” mantra will carry them into new markets.
The development of dynamic linkages between physical and virtual infrastructure will unleash incredible innovation and automation. The outcome is inevitable; it makes too much sense.
Disaster avoidance is one of several infrastructure 2.0 payoff scenarios, which include: 1) VMotion between data centers (for avoidance, recovery, economy, regulatory developments, etc); 2) changing cloud providers to adjust to short term service/price adjustments; 3) IT integration from M&A; 4) using disaster recovery assets to provide incremental capacity; and 5) implementing real disaster recovery in smaller data center environments.
The first network vendor to deliver on this promise gains a significant advantage: the ability to sell gear that dramatically shrinks IT opex and enables massive flexibility and scale for a fraction of the upfront expense. This vision is the equivalent of supply chain for IT and represents a new era of computing potentials enabled by an even more strategic network.
If you’re still scratching your head wondering how a case can be made for additional investments in network gear and innovation in a tough economic environment, check out one of Thiele’s other slides on data center costs. He shows how two Tier 2 data centers empowered by infrastructure 2.0 can be build for less than half the cost of a single “Fort Knox” type data center.
Yes, the network is back again thanks to the potentials of virtualization and the new steam locomotive of IT, the portable virtual machine. Market caps of the networking players are bound to fluctuate as one or another reaches higher ground and competitors face increasingly uphill battles.
While some network vendors may see problems with virtualization, those who see the opportunity and can gain the high ground might experience a new era of growth.
Mark Thiele has articulated the payoff from his vantage point of running data centers for a living… for the leader in virtualization. He is also a founder of www.datacenterpulse.org.
I am a senior director at Infoblox. You can follow my rants in real time at www.twitter.com/archimedius.