INSIGHT: How the channel can get businesses on-track for Software-Define​d IT

INSIGHT: How the channel can get businesses on-track for Software-Define​d IT

The channel definitely does understand that the future lies with the provision of software-defined ‘everything’.

Shifting control to the organisation

History has illustrated that when a vendor gains control, the customer loses control of their CapEx, Opex and innovation. There is only one source for products, solutions, architecture and technology, and the vendor is free to dictate all those on behalf of the organisation.

Vendors gain control through vendor lock-in and proprietary technologies. That was the age of mainframes, when computing was monolithic. It is not just hardware supplied by a single vendor, but also the Operating System, applications, storage, memory and even cabling.

The cost of computing fell and pace of innovation rose dramatically during the client-server period as computing becomes “disaggregated” and companies were free to buy PCs or servers, software and applications from any vendor.

Yet today, networking is still very much vendor lock-in as innovation has not progressed much beyond some new protocols and bigger, higher-density boxes over the last two decades.

There may be hundreds of Requests for Comments (RFCs) and IEEE standards to ensure interoperability, but overwhelming complexity drives organisations to source from a single vendor.

Companies and businesses should regain control from vendors with the New IP platform bringing potential with technologies like SDN and NFV. Networking software components should be able to run on any hardware, and support open-sourced, open APIs and open standards.

Is There a Place for Networking Hardware?

As long as virtual machines need to run on physical servers--which need physical connectivity--networking hardware will certainly still be needed. In fact, the physical underlay plays a critical role, as the best of network virtualisation will fail if the physical network breaks.

However, in the face of network virtualisation, the physical network must exhibit higher reliability, greater automation in the network device itself, be able to respond to automation tools and SDN solutions, and provide greater intelligence to the software layer on top.

Gartner recently developed a report positioning Ethernet fabrics as the solution to the challenges of data centre physical networks.

Ethernet Fabrics form the foundation for a virtualised data centre but not all fabrics are created equal, so it pays to evaluate if they have the features needed to work and integrate with network virtualisation technologies.

In the end, it’s all about customer intent.

The biggest challenges we face today is acknowledging the importance of understanding a customer’s intent to adopt these platforms.

It’s very easy to spend a lot of time in this education phase, as we are in the adoption cycle and we need to work very closely to clarify any misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. We find the biggest thing is setting the right steps of a journey to achieve the end goal.

Moving to the SDN approach is not a rip and replace, it is an integration play. Customers will find some of their existing network and equipment will stay and that’s fine.

Our goal is to work with partners and vendor suppliers to fine tune this path. We don’t believe that any one has all the answers and at this point it is critical to re-address plans for future network.

By Paul Barge, Channel Manager A/NZ, Brocade

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