For months the infrastructure 2.0 blog has talked about the automation of IT from a network perspective, including the automation of the network itself. While few may question the need for network automation most businesses today still run their networks like they ran their “supply chains” decades ago, before the network.
This great irony is about to change. Here’s why:
As virtualization entered the data center it became an accidental standard bearer for network automation. The power of virtualization helped to drive a cultural (including x as a service) shift in expectations, just as Nicholas Carr was declaring war on traditional “old world” IT with the help of Google, Amazon and a host of other cloud (and not so cloud) players.
IT directors watched operations pros create VMs in seconds while network teams could take hours (or days) to simply move an existing server. One visionary IT exec told me that an outside firm had calculated that moving a server cost his company almost as much as buying a new one. This was a very large network, but nonetheless increasing complexity was driving increasing cost and a need for more efficient strategic orchestration across ever larger pools of endpoints.
Years ago networks were the drivers of massive change. Today they often symbolize a resistance to change.
This is no doubt part of the appeal of cloud computing, and why Carr’s promise of IT as a plug and play utility is so compelling. Enterprise IT has not kept up with innovations it has, ironically, helped to enable. And the foundation for many IT departments is that inflexible, manually configured, kludge network.
Those who bet on the continuation of manual labor, processes, scripts, checklists and spreadsheets (to manage their network) will lose as they continue to be saddled with rising network management costs, inflexibility and the mounting pressure of IT consumerization. Those who embrace automation will likely have a strategic advantage… if they automate the right processes.
We’re now watching packs of IT vendors form to deliver containers of integrated solutions, pitting former partners against one another, partly in an effort to standardize the silos. I think this marks a mere transitional phase between the static network and the dynamic network.
The first pack to break from the complex, static network model into infrastructure 2.0 will likely win, as it will be able to demonstrate substantial opex reduction with increased IT agility. The other camp will be force to discount their goods in order to make up for the OPEX slaughter their customers will face.
The opportunity for substantial reductions in opex with heightened flexibility is simply too compelling to be passed by, for users and vendors.