As SDN and related technologies slowly trickle into the mainstream, a recurring theme is that cultural and staffing issues are the biggest challenge.
In other words, according to Andrew Lerner, research analyst, Gartner, the technology is surprisingly sound, given its infancy.
“Today’s siloed IT organisations are challenged to address software-oriented infrastructure, particularly in the networking space,” Lerner says.
“In addition, for all the talk of DevOps, we see limited penetration in mainstream IT to date.”
As an industry analyst, Lerner has written about these challenges before and they’re hard to overcome.
“Culture change takes time, and it’s a chicken/egg proposition,” Lerner observes, who asks whether new technology should be used to foster cultural/staffing changes or should culture/staffing be moulded first?
“I’ve spoken to clients who’ve done it both ways, neither is particularly easy. That said, simply taking that first step is usually the hardest part.
“To that end, one pragmatic, yet strategic first step is to re-think how to manage your virtual switches.”
In the vast majority of enterprises Lerner speaks with, virtual switches are managed by the server/virtual team, the same folks that manage the hypervisors, typically ESX from VMware or Microsoft’s Hyper-V.
There are also some folks who’ve installed third party vSwitches, such as Cisco’s Nexus 1000V, but according to Lerner, the vast majority of enterprise use a virtual switch from their commercial hypervisor vendor.
“So this is a perfect opportunity to take that first step in blurring the silos,” he adds.
“First, bring the network team into the virtual switching fold via giving them access to virtual switches. Let them dig around, get comfortable and understand the nuances of the virtual switch.
“After all, it’s just a switch, with interfaces, VLANs, QoS, ACLs, etc.
“Next, allow joint ownership of the virtual switching software across both the virtual and network teams (including management, configuration, operations etc.)
“This helps to bring the networking and server/virtualisation teams closer together.”
While acknowledging that it’s a relatively small thing, Lerner believes it goes a long way to getting these teams working closer together.
“Often, this is initially met with some resistance from both sides, but this concern typically settles after a couple of weeks, even in large organisations,” he adds.
“In essence, it is one step back in order to take fifteen steps forward in the march to blur silos, and drive towards a more software-oriented networking future.”