Posted by: Greg Ness | February 2, 2010

The Network beneath the Clouds

Lew Tucker’s response to the Lew’s Law blog further helped to clarify the point I was trying to make about the rise of IT automation and the network’s pivotal role:

While I’m sure this is more obvious than brilliant, the cost of computing will continue to fall bounded only by the cost of the power to produce the computation. We’re simply turning electricity into computation and communication using electrons to move around bits.

What cloud computing does is to use automation, scaling, multi-tenancy, and a competitive marketplace to bring us closer to this lower bound for the cost of computing.

For those of us familiar with the network equipment industry, the suggestion that computing costs will fall to the cost of power should at least raise some eyebrows within cultures that for the most part have been driven by manual labor and specialization. 

While the network powered the automation of business practices it has managed to insulate itself from the competitive forces it unleashed between competing supply chains and operating models. 

I think that the automation of the network is at least partially in response to: 1) the threat of consumerization; 2) the growing significance of new initiatives like IPv6, virtualization, DNSSEC and private cloud; and 3) rising network complexity (more endpoints, higher rates of change, ongoing labor specialization).

Now add to that lineup of manual opex pain a recent Gartner prediction that 1 in 5 businesses will dump their IT assets by 2012 (Jon Brodkin, Network World):

The analyst firm predicts that 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets by 2012, a shift that will have a major impact on IT careers


Anyone still clinging to their manual DDI (DNS, DHCP, and IP address management) scripts and spreadsheets, for example, after reading this sobering and yet provocative prediction will likely join the legions of “middlemen” who were eventually retrained as network-enabled supply chains replaced similar business processes.  This transformation has today set the stage for the coming conflict between the real-time enterprise and the increasingly inflexible network.

The recent ESG 2010 Outlook and Gartner DDI MarketScope for DDI appliances are harbingers of a new shift in how networks are managed; and a host of vendors and professionals who embrace automation stand to benefit.

A reduction in the operating expense of networks could vastly expand the market for network solutions that are easier to manage, more powerful and connect ever larger populations of systems and endpoints.  Enterprises will be forced to automate or outsource to those who do.

This new network will be all about availability, flexibility and economy and will set the stage for a new resurgence in network spending and the rise of network software.

If you’re attending Cloud Connect, we hope that you’ll attend one of the three panels dedicated to this and related discussions.  James, Urquhart, Lori MacVittie and Richard Kagan are putting together some provocative panels with some of today’s infrastructure 2.0 thought leaders.  I would love to hear your thoughts…

You can follow my rants in real-time at Archimedius.



  1. […] Note: Automation within IT is both ironic and inevitable.  According to Lew Tucker, IT costs will increasingly track to the cost of electricity.  You can read about Lew’s Law and network automation at the infrastructure 2.0 blog.  You can also read more about the links between network and IT automation at The Network beneath the Clouds. […]

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