There can be little doubt that the networking business is going through what can only be described as a watershed moment. Whether it be in the cloud, virtualization, all things wireless, the speed of network transformations to all-IP, we stand on the cusp of dramatic change no matter where one looks. And, one of the big questions that arises from all of these changes is, "So how is all of this going to be managed?" There is also an addendum, "Can it be done, efficiently, effectively and securely?"
With that in mind, I’d like to share the observations of Dan Joe Barry, VP at Napatech, as he gazes into his crystal ball and takes a look at what lies ahead in 2013 in the network management business. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, the perspective offered is certainly food for thought.
From communication to management
The first trend Barry addresses is the expansion of Ethernet and IP from the Enterprise into Telecom, Financial, Federal and Manufacturing networks in the past decade. As he correctly points out, the industry had over whether IP/MPLS and Ethernet were the right technologies for communication are over. “IP Routers and Ethernet switches have prevailed,” he notes. Indeed, they have.
He further observes that, “At the same time we have seen the Internet evolve from a communication and entertainment platform to a commercial and business process automation platform with the emergence of cloud services. Having an on-line presence is now as much a priority for businesses as having a physical presence. It is not a question of whether you are using the Internet, but how you are leveraging it to support your business model.”
What Barry believes is work to be done is in understanding how we manage Ethernet and IP networks to support the business processes we are trying to implement on-line. It is a complex puzzle where all of the pieces need to be properly put together for optimal results.
For 2013 Barry states that, “We are going to see an increased focus on network management. It will come in many guises, such as end-to-end network visibility or Quality of Experience Management or Customer Experience Management. But, what will be common for all these discussions is the underlying realization that we need to understand how Ethernet and IP networks are behaving, in real-time, to better plan and optimize business processes as well as reacting to issues and, more importantly, opportunities, as they occur. Better network management means better insight. Better insight means agility. The agility to react decisively.
Two terms in the above stand out. In what I have called, “The Age of Acceleration,” real-time is not becoming the only time, in many ways it is viewed as too slow since there is a rising premium on being proactive. I also would like to amend his statement by saying that using business intelligence is not just about reacting decisively, but as noted it is also about be proactively decisive as well.
From 1G to 10G to 40G to 100G
What also is accelerating is network speeds. In fact, as Barry points out, the issue that remains is how fast these networks need to operate to keep up with demands. It is acknowledge that for a variety of reasons a tsunami of data traffic is heading service providers’ ways. It must be accommodated. Barry predicts that following the move in 2012 of mass transitions from 1G to 10G, and the first implementations of 40G Ethernet networks that in 2013, “We will see an increase in these trends with 100G Ethernet emerging.
From his network management perch, he notes that as a result of all of this traffic, the stakes have increased considerably as all of that data traveling fast in your network gives network managers less time to react. His view is that, “Thinking ahead will be paramount in 2013, ensuring that the right network communication and management infrastructure is in place that can scale to meet demands.”
Is 2013 too early for SDN?
The final observation/prediction is about whether Software Defined Networking (SDN) is going to be a major factor in network planning considerations and implementations in 2013. Barry correctly notes, and I will admit to being a party to some of this, that SDN is the hype topic of the moment. What he questions is if the SDN market is going to follow Gartner’s (News - Alert) hype-curve theory. In other words, are we setting ourselves up for a journey through the “trough of disillusionment.” He is predicting that if we are heading for the trough than look for it to begin in 2013.
Interestingly, he does not predict that the trough is a foregone conclusion. In fact, he notes that, “With 40G and 100G networks presenting a host of challenges that will demand a rethink of how networks are planned and operated, SDN concepts can play a part in these considerations already next year. This can drive development of more mature solutions and network management of these solutions in particular.
My own suspicion in listening to vendors and data center operators is that disillusionment on SDN is avoidable. The reasons are that of the three major components of data center transformation—computing, storage and the network—realities are that managing all of that traffic inside the data center and assuring interoperability amongst data centers is not just a priority, but SDN’s provide a solution that while still needing some kinks worked out appears to be the path forward.
In terms of the three phases of technology purchasing, i.e., awareness, consideration and purchase, it appears that awareness is blossoming, consideration is taking hold and 2013 will be the year when leading edge customers test the waters. However, as Barry’s comments illustrate, if the management piece of all of this is not rethought as part of a holistic approach to transformation, SDN’s are going to become a victim of possibly promising more than they can deliver at the moment. I end where Barry does on this one, “we shall see.” 2013 is going to be one very interesting year.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli