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Legacy Runs the World

by Andrew Lerner  |  May 1, 2014  |  9 Comments

A few days ago, fellow Gartner analyst Gunnar Berger (@gunnarwb) tweeted:  “Legacy Runs the World”.  This really struck a chord with me both as an analyst and my prior life running corporate networks. Most of the Gartner networking analysts have 500-700 client interactions per year and because clients often come to Gartner for “what’s next” or “what’s coming” guidance, it is easy to get wrapped up in the future-looking stuff.  But as Gunnar indicated, legacy does run the world indeed…  For example:

In the Data Center…. amidst all the hype, buzz and marketecture around SDN and related technologies, as of January 2014 we estimated there are less than 500 global production SDN deployments.  Prior to SDN, the “next big thing” in data center networking was Ethernet “fabrics” which came on the scene in 2011.  That said, to date; only about 15% of Gartner clients are actually running fabrics. That means most are running traditional 3 and 3+ tier hierarchical networks based on STP and/or MLAG.   Legacy runs the world.

In the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) world, many of our client conversations start (and too often end) end with “Load-Balancing”. While Load-balancing is a key feature of ADCs, they can do so much more (SSL-termination, Content Optimization, Connection Management, Web App Firewalling, IPv6/v4 Gateway services, etc etc.)  This is reiterated by the fact that search volume on gartner.com is 35% higher for “load-balancer” versus “application delivery controller” (Note: ADC vendors tell me the ratio is 15%/85% based on Google searches). Keep in mind, this is despite the fact that we publish a Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers as well as this oldie-but-goodie:  Load-Balancers are Dead.  This is reiterated in client interactions as there is still a LOT of Cisco load-balancing products deployed out there, including ACE, CSS, CSM (and probably some local director too I bet…).  This is despite Cisco exiting the ADC market in 2012.  Again, Legacy runs the world.

Outside of the networking space, maybe you’ve heard about this whole “cloud” thing.  If you talk to Gartner analysts Lydia Leong or Bob Gill (who cover IaaS), they’ll tell you that the majority of workloads in IaaS are non-production.  The majority of mainstream enterprise production apps don’t run in the cloud…  And on the desktop side, there seems to be a lot of talk about XP…  Again, Legacy runs the world.

So I concur 100% with Gunnar that legacy does indeed run the world, and we recognize this fully even as we guide organizations looking for a little “forward-lean”… Perhaps this sentiment was best captured by a former boss (@andyzolper) who once told me “Don’t get too far ahead of the Ski’s, Andrew”….

Regards, Andrew

Category: adc  networking  sdn  

Tags: legacy  legacyrunstheword  load-balancer  spanning-tree  

Andrew Lerner
Research Vice President
4 years at Gartner
19 years IT Industry

Andrew Lerner is a Vice President in Gartner Research. He covers enterprise networking, including data center, campus and WAN with a focus on emerging technologies (SDN, SD-WAN, and Intent-based networking). Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Legacy Runs the World


  1. Andrew,

    That’s a great point. For anyone working on building the future, It is easy to get tunnel vision and forget the reality of the world. I wrote a post on this topic from a vendor and product management perspective. http://theadaptivemarketer.com/2013/09/20/the-gap-between-you-and-your-customers/ You may find it interesting

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