Infrastructure 2.0 Outlook: Timing Is Everything

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by: Gregory Ness

As infrastructure 2.0 is turned on it will represent an irreversible transformation in the way IT services are delivered. The timing of product releases, investments and deployments could make all the difference for a range of companies and organizations.

Those who could be impacted include the cloud vendors (including Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Rackspace (NYSE:RAX) and Savvis (NASDAQ:SVVS)), the virtualization vendors (VMware (NYSE:VMW), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS)) and the network equipment vendors (including Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), HP (NYSE:HPQ), Juniper (NYSE:JNPR), F5 (NASDAQ:FFIV), Brocade (NASDAQ:BRCD) and Extreme Networks (NASDAQ:EXTR)).

This evolution of the enterprise network begins with the automation of core network services (unified real-time visibility and management of the physical and virtual network) and continues with the introduction of cloud switches, new levels of visibility across virtual and physical infrastructure and the adoption of IF-MAP, a vendor-neutral standard which enables network-attached objects to communicate with each other in real time.

The following is a list of milestones circulating between some of us following the emergence of infrastructure 2.0. Within these milestones are waves of data center solution and practice impacts. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a high level guide to the types of innovations in process and in the future:

Infrastructure 2.0 Milestones

1) Automation of Core Network Services

2) Introduction of Cloud Switches

3) Integration of Cloud Switches with CNS Automation

4) Introduction of the IF-MAP Standard

5) Deployment of Dynamic Mesh Architectures

6) Policy Automation Overlay on Unified Meshes

7) Unified IT Management / Automation

The first 6 milestones set the stage for milestone 7, the establishment of a unified, dynamic IT mesh which would allow a multitude of diverse systems to be managed holistically and by policies (versus scripts, configurations, committees, spreadsheets, etc). That unification, with the previous deployment of new classes of network (cloud) switches (like Cisco’s UCS and Arista Networks Cloud Networking Platform) could set the stage for massive reductions in IT service costs (especially for large data centers), including power consumption and labor expense.

You can read more about these developments at www.infra20.com in coming weeks.

The mesh would mean substantial opex savings as a result of capex investments, a formula that could drive a new network equipment spending cycle and set the stage for another age of innovation.

The switch could be fast and profound, enabled by the return of economic stability, ongoing daily fluctuations in energy expenses (peak vs off-peak variances) and the emergence of new classes of cloud solutions enabling IT services driven by policy automation versus extensive manual labor.

The Telegraph and the Pony Express

Let’s go back in time to find a precedent for a similar shift. The demand for transcontinental communications initially required entrepreneurs to throw bodies (horses, riders and stations) at the problem. As soon as technology evolved the horses and riders quickly became a colorful part of US history.

Pony Express horses had a range of about 20 miles and that drove how far apart the stations had to be, how much could be carried, how far each rider could travel and the length of time required for transport. Before the telegraph it was the fastest transcontinental parcel trip. Yet each trip required plenty of horses and stops.

click to enlarge

Click to enlargePhoto of St Louis Pony Express statue courtesy of Wikipedia

For the period the Pony Express was an incredible feat. It came to symbolize the taming of the frontier and the old west in the United States. Yet it lasted only two days after the completion of the transcontinental telegraph (according to Wikipedia):

The Pony Express announced its closure on October 26, 1861, two days after the transcontinental telegraph reached Salt Lake City and connected Omaha, Nebraska and Sacramento, California.

Interestingly enough, early telegraph stations were also built about 20 miles apart, yet that foundation quickly changed the landscape of communications (again, from Wikipedia):

Prior to the electrical telegraph, all but very small amounts of information could be moved only a few miles per hour, as fast as a human or animal could travel. The telegraph freed communication from the constraints of geography.[39] It isolated the message (information) from the physical movement of objects or the process.[40]

Virtualization has already signaled the beginning of the end of the Pony Express of processes, spreadsheets, committees and laborers required to assign and track servers, endpoints and to secure and prioritize traffic flowing through the network. It decoupled applications from specific hardware (location) and automated movement/change within VLAN containers.

The telegraph meant new levels of mobility for communications as well as reduced costs. It seems likely that the rise of the telegraph was a key contributor to the decline of the Pony Express.

Back to Today’s Shift

Recent Nemertes research on virtualization drivers is already showing a shift from capex to flexibility, and VM density is becoming a problem in larger environments. The emergence of flexibility as a driver as well as new cloud switches signal that the infrastructure 2.0 evolution is already underway.

Like the Pony Express, the horses and riders thrown at the transportation problem were of limited value to telegraph operators using new technology.

The job of telegraph operator replaced Pony Express rider as demands shifted, and new kinds of infrastructure were required. The shift ultimately came down to speed and economics, the key drivers behind infrastructure 2.0, the foundation for just-in-time IT services.

You can follow my rants in real time at www.twitter.com/archimedius. You can follow the infrastructure 2.0 conversation at www.infra20.com.

Disclosure: Long VMW, SVVS