The cloud computing meme continues to billow as Juniper (JNPR) and IBM announce a cloud management partnership and rumors swirl about heavy negotiations between VMware (VMW) and shareholder/partner Cisco (CSCO). A few months ago it seemed like every cloud discussion included Google (GOOG) and/or Amazon (AMZN); now it appears that “the network infrastructure issue” has finally reared its head and ushered in networking and management leaders into the cloud conversation.
More cloud watchers are discovering that cloud apps - at a minimum - will put more burdens on the network. As IT services decouple from hardware, the network becomes one of the key chokepoints to the realization of system and endpoint mobility. System automation will force network automation, or the evolution of Infrastructure 2.0.
Chokepoints will Drive Innovation
One aspect of the shift to cloud computing is the amount of network traffic (versus motherboard traffic) generated as applications are designed to leverage more resources from the cloud. This was discussed in The Three Horsemen as drivers of the next network revolution.
Netbooks are in essence traffic-rich network endpoints; if that market continues to accelerate it will put disproportionate pressure on the network. Yet netbooks aren’t the only chokepoint for today’s static networks maintained by manual laborers.
Those responsible for managing increasingly virtualized data centers will feel more pain. Most early production virtualization deployments are extensive arrays of hypervisor VLANs, or virtualization-lite.
Each VLAN is its own zone of servers and applications with unique user and/or security/storage requirements. Transforming these smaller containers of “specialized” processing power into vast, fluid cloudplexes enabled by VMotion will require numerous breakthroughs in network and application intelligence as well as storage.
These chokepoints between the status quo and the business case for The Intercloud will drive investment and growth in new innovation as they put new pressures on tired, manually-intensive status quos of network configuration clerks already busy trying to keep up with increasingly automated and mobile systems. They will force network and operations teams to work more closely together, from management to purchasing.
It’s Not Hype, It’s Survival
This new level of cohesion within IT combined with the proliferation of automation will drive new levels of vendor consolidation. This may be why many of the tech leaders have been increasingly aggressive in outlining a cloud computing vision/strategy despite the paucity of revenue. They want to be designed into the core solution that empowers the new economics of cloud computing.
The biggest risk to a network vendor today may indeed be irrelevance to cloud, even though cloud could be five years away from being relevant to the bottom line. If you’re wondering why so much commotion, that’s your answer. Cisco, F5 Networks (FFIV), Juniper, IBM and others understand the importance of cloud relevance to the architectural decisions being made today for the data centers of tomorrow.
This disproportionate preoccupation where IT is going is very understandable. It is perhaps the most significant evolution in IT since… the network.
Disclosure: I am a senior director at Infoblox.