Posted by: Greg Ness | October 22, 2009

IT Innovation will Require Network Innovation

A recent article by Larry Dignan about how IT has fallen behind the Tech Curve laments how slow and cumbersome enterprise IT has become relative to consumerized technologies. Larry covered a session at the recent Gartner Symposium and was advised by Gartner analysts that IT pros want the world to proceed in an orderly fashion and are weighed down by the legacy of previous choices.  That’s a fair statement.


Gartner’s solution, or at least that posed by analysts David Mitchell Smith and Tom Austin is for IT to simply let users buy their own gear:


“Now Gartner has been on this user-provided IT pitch for a while now-the research firm equates the company laptop to the company car in the 1970s-and the prediction hasn’t exactly become the norm. However, the move to let employees bring their own gear increasingly makes sense. Why? Employees are already bringing what they want to work anyway. Exhibit A: The iPhone. Exhibit B: Google. Exhibit C: Facebook. You get the idea.”

                        Larry Dignan – How Did IT Fall…, Tech Republic October 2009


This notion –to simply let users make their own consumerized choices as a cure to the “crotchety” world of IT- misses the core of the problem; that is, the lack of the necessary network automation, integration and real-time visibility. IT won’t keep up unless the culture of manual labor, scripts and spreadsheets changes.


The “consumerize or fail” strategy is also fraught with risk to enterprise-centric market caps and IT careers.  I think it is more likely for creeping consumerization to force enterprise IT shops into another wave of network solution investments that enable consumer equivalent automation and control.


While Cisco, VMware, F5 and others have taken the lead in articulating the need for network evolution, IBM earlier joined the conversation with a “dynamic infrastructure” campaign which also included a Juniper partnership.


Gartner may call it real time infrastructure, others call it infrastructure 2.0 or dynamic infrastructure; but the point is that today’s network infrastructure is expensive to manage, error-prone and inflexible.  That is the core of the gap between IT order and the fluid world of consumer tech innovation.


Virtualization brought flexibility to within the VLAN, but for the most it stays confined there thanks to the messy collision between static networks and dynamic systems and increasingly dense VLANs.  It was enterprise IT’s first opportunity to catch up yet the network wasn’t ready or engaged.


For example, in some environments it costs almost as much to move a server as it does to buy a new one.  That was one of the drivers of virtualization-lite, immediate capex reduction by allowing systems teams to manage, move spin up, etc new servers in minutes and at a fraction of the cost. 


Yet that capex bonanza comes with an opex component:  higher rates of change and increased density within ever-increasing populations of VLANs ends up creating more complexity (think more pre-automation opex).  Now according to Nemertes research, virtualization drivers are shifting to flexibility (versus capex).


Virtualization only postponed the reckoning by enabling admins to manage more server pool within VLANs.  The old world challenges still wait at the border of the VLAN.  And that where be where new fortunes are made or lost, depending upon how vendors and IT departments invest in coming years. 


If enterprise IT is re-architected then consumerization at worst is only a cultural threat.  If it remains a bastion of manual labor consumerization may be just one more albatross to be acknowledged at yet another industry conference.


Rather than merely accepting the consumerization of enterprise IT or the “eventuality” of public clouds, why not focus much needed attention back at the network, which was once and should perhaps again be the driving force for IT and business innovation?


I am a senior director at Infoblox.  You can follow my rants in real time at



  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by SolutionsPath: Security Blogger IT Innovation will Require Network Innovation: A recent article by Larry Digna..

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