In a special series on data center networks in August and September we highlighted some big technology shifts making networks faster and smarter. While the technologies are interesting to explore, it’s important to consider what’s driving the innovation.
The main trend here is blurring of the lines between the various traditional enterprise network fiefdoms. Increasingly, an on-prem data center network has to extend to a public cloud, a branch, or a corporate campus. That affects everything from network architecture to network management and monitoring tools to the role of the network administrator.
According to top executives from several leading enterprise networking vendors we recently surveyed, the blurring of these lines will only accelerate in 2019.
"Current data center discussions are partly wrong because they’re always about the data center," Scott Sneddon, senior director and chief evangelist for cloud and SDN at Juniper Networks, told us. "The majority of technological changes in this space are happening because of the cloud. More precisely, multi-cloud. While the data center is central and necessary, it’s not sufficient on its own. In the new year, enterprises must extend the conversation and data center deployments out to the cloud on-ramps that exist closer to the user in either the campus or the branch."
Here’s a selection of quotes to highlight the executives' thoughts on how this trend will impact network technology this year:
Openness and Disaggregation
- JR Rivers, CTO, Cumulus Networks: “The past few years have been all talk, but 2019 will see an influx of enterprises making more concrete decisions about how they want to organize their infrastructure. The options are clear – public cloud, build private cloud, run a set of apps in SaaS, etc. – but for people running complex businesses (and who doesn’t have one these days), they will have to make the hard decisions. Very few people are all-in on tooling, infrastructure, or anything, really, so flexibility and openness will be key for decision makers.”
- Scott Sneddon, Senior Director and Chief Evangelist, Cloud and SDN, Juniper Networks: “As workloads span multiple clouds, data centers, branches and more, disaggregation will be the key to let enterprises run the networking software they need, when they need it, where they need it.”
- Anshul Sadana, Chief Customer Officer, Arista: “Adoption of EVPN with VXLAN will become more standardized, making this the reference architecture for many large enterprises around the world. It took time to solve the problem and go from proprietary fabrics to an all-IP/VXLAN network that interoperates but we are finally going to get there.”
Monitoring and Analytics
- Prashant Gandhi, Chief Product Officer, Big Switch: “Cybersecurity considerations will drive organizations to ‘monitor everywhere’ paradigm, both on premises and in the cloud.”
- Sadana, Arista: “Networking has been a tedious and semi-manual process for the ops teams. Streaming telemetry moves the networking world forward by bringing a whole new level of automation to analyze traffic flows, debug and resolve real-time problems.”
- Rivers, Cumulus: “As infrastructure is built with more scale in 2019, network configuration and monitoring will be tied into the IaaS and PaaS orchestration.”
- Sneddon, Juniper: “The predictive nature of machine learning and AI will allow data centers to streamline troubleshooting and network maintenance, reducing unplanned downtime in the network.”
- Gandhi, Big Switch: “Deep analytics, assisted by predictive (machine learning) algorithms, that support multi-vendor/multi-cloud hybrid environments will come to prominence.”
Automation and Security
- Sneddon, Juniper: “The days that enterprises have disparate automation and security solutions for the data center, branch, campus, SD-WAN, and so-on will soon be gone. When automation and security technology is bolted on separately, the chances of things breaking go up exponentially. Especially as we enter a multi-cloud world, security and automation will be implemented in the data center from the start to ensure they run seamlessly across environments.”
- Sadana, Arista: “The number of engineers that run the network does not need to grow with the number of network devices they manage.”
- Rivers, Cumulus: “Instead of connections happening in a router, they are now happening at the application layer; the future won’t be connecting networks together, but rather data. Companies that are starting their migration to cloud are looking at more traditional VPN-based solutions, but there’s really no need for a VPN tunnel if everything is TLS-encrypted at the application layer.”