I’m currently preparing for Gartner’s Infrastructure and Data Center Conference and reflecting on our networking industry. A Bill Gates quote that I think is very apropos for the networking industry is:
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”
When I think back to 2013 and our client interactions, it was all about the data center (fabrics, SDN, virtual switching, overlays, etc.). There was awareness that changing app architectures, increased workload density due to virtualization was increasing East/West traffic. Most folks were ~60% virtualized. SDN was all the rage (VMware had just bought Nicira, and Juniper bought Contrail) and it was all about the controller and separating data and control planes. If you asked anyone about their WAN strategy, the answer would typically be “MPLS”. The most oft-mentioned network automation tools were from SolarWinds, Infoblox and HP (not to mention homegrown scripts). To get systems into network production, it took weeks (on average), but there was hope that SDN would fix that… And of course, the CLI ruled the day as the primary operational interface. On a side note, you couldn’t get an Uber in Vegas, it was all about the Taxi and Netflix had about 40M subscribers.
Fast forward to today, late 2017 and the WAN is hot. SDWAN is all the rage, and the technology is providing real tangible adoption and ROI. Cisco just bought Viptela and VMware announced the intent to acquire VeloCloud. In the data center, on average it is now “only” days to get systems into production (my colleague Joe Skorupa would describe that as “less bad” versus better). People don’t really talk about fabrics anymore, but do commonly deploy leaf/spine architectures managed as a single construct. Organizations are now 80%+ virtualized and things are getting denser as we are also now deploying containers. Ansible for network automation comes up quite a bit, and folks can spell API. Intent-based networking is gaining steam and hype, but still very nascent and largely viewed like SDN was in 2012 – with cautious optimism, if not skepticism. Unfortunately, the CLI still rules the day as the primary operational interface. And yes, the best way to get around Vegas is now via an Uber and Netflix has over 110M subscribers.
So indeed, SDN didn’t cure all evils in networking, but it did change the discussion and paved the way for things like SDWAN. So looking forward to 2021, I won’t make a bunch of predictions but hope and believe that (at least) the CLI will no longer rule the day….
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