Posted by: Greg Ness | May 20, 2010

From FIRE to Forrester: Thoughts on Network Automation

The Future in Review panel last week on the demands that virtualization and cloud are putting on networks was a sobering contrast to the surge of cloud computing conferences and announcements.  Senior executives from VMware, Cisco, Microsoft, ServiceMesh and a former cloud CTO from Sun all explained how networks would need to evolve and automate in order to address new challenges, including:

1)     connectivity (as more devices are connected to networks);

2)     partitioning (security, access); and

3)     load (a greater share of application communications over networks versus motherboards).

FIRE: Implications of Manual Processes in the Network

Future in Review is Mark Anderson’s annual tech conference, described by The Economist as “the best technology conference in the world.”  Our session on networks and clouds followed Mark’s interview with Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie on “The Complex World of Emerging Platforms, from Cloud to Phone.”  You can read more about the session here.  Our session was Wednesday at 8:45AM.

We introduced the session by sharing research results demonstrating how networks get increasingly expensive to manage (on a per IP address standpoint) as they grow; and then shared Cisco’s Warrior’s prediction of 1 trillion net-connected devices by 2013.  I think this issue alone represents a strategic challenge to most of the cloud deployment models, especially private clouds where users will require differentiated access to a wide variety of applications from an ever-wider spread of locations via an ever larger variety of devices.

In addition to heightened complexity, virtualization and most cloud models introduce higher rates of change for networks.  Increasingly complex networks managed by scripts, configurations and spreadsheets will simply not keep up with servers and desktops created by mouse clicks.  This conflict between system automation (virtualization) and the lack of network automation is perhaps the biggest impediment to the pervasive adoption of virtualization in the data center and the ability to truly monetize cloud as a standalone business.

FIRE: Cisco’s Dasmalchi and Service Mesh’s Thiele with VMware’s McDougall

After we established that most large enterprises are unprepared for the explosion of net-connected devices we discussed how networks would have to evolve and the implications of that evolution for IT.  It seems that we all reached the conclusion that networks were strategic to IT again; they were a critical element in the evolution of virtualization and cloud (that is often left out of the cloud conversation).

In the coming days I’ll post a link to the 30 minute panel session.

Forrester on Network Automation

This conflict between pockets of automation within IT kluged together by manually-managed networks plays into an early June Forrester webinar on Network Automation.  It’s a perfect next layer down in the conversation, with Forrester Senior Analyst Glenn O’Donnell, author of “The Shifting Sands of IT Create a New Landscape for IT Automation Tools” and US Bank VP Product Operations Eric L. Cummings.

You can register here for the webinar.

You can also check out my video interview at Interop on network automation and a recent blog featured at A Bright Fire.

You can follow my (Twitter) rants in real-time at Archimedius.  I am a vice president at Infoblox.



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