It has become an intellectual tug of war to determine which is more important in the “connected” or “digital age” – networks or applications. Silly argument I hear you say, it’s obviously the …… not easy to answer. In the pre-connected world (if it really did exist), personal computing was as personal as possible, with no connectivity to / with anyone else. Local application, local storage, local processing and a local user made the need for a network superfluous. Fast forward to the present day with distributed processing, “the Internet”, streaming, “always on”, cloud based interaction and a socio digital culture with collaboration and engagement at its core. Without a network, the media rich, highly collaborative now fundamental “always present and connected” mode we embody at work or play is at best compromised and at worst eliminated.
We cannot envisage a world where the network doesn’t work, whether mobile carrier based entities or the home Wi-Fi, if you can’t connect you won’t connect. I spend most days in positive disruption mode challenging colleagues and customers to rethink the traditional approach to enterprise networking with the onus on automation to unlock agility and consolidation to drive simplification. The enterprise networks that underpin today’s digital reality are a wonderful amalgam of technology, people, process plus twenty years’ experience of “getting things to work”. But more is required by the network than a functional existence, as the carrier of our “Digital DNA” an optimised, flexible, agile network holds to the key to many of our future successes. It’s time to be “bold” – to embark on the network evolution required enterprises must dare to dream and envision the secure transport layer required for enhance current user interaction and energise future business outcomes. And when the dream presents the storyboard of how things should or must be, “make it so”.
Technical feature wars labouring the technology based rationale for network modification will be fruitless with a dead heat between vendors the likely end result. Only a user experience driven or business change inspired network transformation agenda will contain the intellectual and emotional energy required to overcome the cultural tides ahead. Wait and see changes and nothing, the time for change is now. With the right network, with tomorrow’s network today a potentially business limiting factor becomes business enabling. And not forgetting, if you get stuck – drop me a line.
“If you can’t connect you won’t connect”
Until next time.
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK – Networking and Security.
The year 2020 has a nice ring to it.
2020 sounds like the type of year discussed in science fiction Hollywood movies as a transformational year far away in the future. But it’s not that far away, it’s five years’ time and IT services and solutions is definitely not Hollywood. Is 2020 too far away to plan for or so near it shouldn’t be feared – in my opinion it’s a resounding NO to both. 2020 and the impact of information technology on future business outcomes should be top of mind for every IT professional. If IT decisions are being made now that will deliver the technology platform for growth and change not just for today but equally over the next 5 years and beyond, 2020 vision is essential today.
At this point it may be easy to reply, “but surely not much will change in five years’ – to that statement, I can’t agree. In my opinion we will see “right size, right use” IT deliver levels of such resounding change & value over the next five years that today’s IT architectural perspective must shift and shift now. Starting with networks, in five years’ time the SDN euphoria may subside as many of today’s networks will be well on the way to a degree of fabric aligned convergence underpinned by optimised hardware that leverages automation and orchestration seamlessly. As a starter for ten all of the benefits of an intelligent programmable network dont just make cloud computing work, its fundamental to a successful cloud future. This healthy amalgam of hardware and software will deliver a friction free, dynamic application transport fabric still benefiting from the intelligence and inputs of highly competent network architects, but enhanced by software and automation. And why am I so confident of this state – “because the tangible benefits realised will be immense and too compelling to ignore”. The potential and business benefit of a network capable of changing personality (to a degree) on the fly, calibrated by real time application or user requirements will lead to the most optimum network performance level delivered “in that moment”. Surely that must be a real world business benefit that delivers material and repeatable value to any user or business.
But it doesn’t end there, 2020 must see a different security look, feel and outcome delivered by IT products, services and solutions. If organisations currently fear the in situ advanced persistent threat often in play as we speak but undetected within even the best protected enterprises across the world, by 2020 the mental acumen required to launch such an attack will be greatly reduced. Whether the attack is out tasked to a “hacker for hire”, occurs via an even more proficient malicious insider, or as a result of a seemingly harmless mistake (a laptop left on a train), the ramifications of breach or data loss will be colossal. If many believe we are on a journey starting now to digitise the enterprise, by 2020 many organisations may be exploiting their digital DNA to its full potential (often via enhanced the use of accessible data analytics platforms like Hadoop or Splunk), with the result a security breach or attack could halt an organisation short term or even permanently almost like a digital cardiac arrest. And lets not add the unknown benefits and effect of a growing internet of connected things (IOT) often unseen but very easy to access and manipulate. To that end security transformation plans today without 2020 vision top of mind may be destined to fail.
But in the midst of this 2020 chronicle of interest (networking), must do (security) there is a story of real excitement (UC) as we end this overview. UC will allow 2020 users to engage with greater productivity with 2020 users – let’s call it REAL collaboration. Unified Communications has struggled to date within the enterprise due to circa fifteen years of potential and promise but with the result for many no more than a digital dial tone. But with 2020 in mind all of that is set to change with user pervasive UC a “must have” element within any “good to great” enterprise. The social network user persona is no longer the template of the teenage smartphone user, it’s the norm for preschool children, babies (with digital tablets and intelligent toys), the digital savvy Y & Z generation, the “baby boomers” for everything from shopping to collaboration with friends abroad and retirees who just want to stay in touch. And how do they achieve this, via a smart phone capable of communicating via different communications channels (video, voice, IM, social, browser) unified together by the network unified on a single device. In short if UC is starting to work now, driven by the growth of social ideals, the smartphone and tablets within modern enterprises by 2020 as they reach critical mass, enterprise UC will be the communications glue that keeps organisations, their users and their customers – “communicating”.
This ends my short roundup on 2020 and the potential our 2020 future holds. But 2020 isn’t far away and business decisions that drive IT change (or IT change that enables business innovation) happening now without 2020 vision in mind may be built with failure by design through the core. Now is the time not just to plan, but to do – no one wants to be the victim of a digital heart attack.
Until next time.
Chief Technologist: Networking, Security & Communications.
Software defined networking (SDN) continues to be a major customer discussion within both the specialist networking and enterprise datacenter arenas. After bubbling under in the mindshare league well below cloud, virtualisation and mobility for quite a while SDN is starting to move up the ranking. However this is not without a fair degree of murmured discontent.
Enterprises, whilst digesting the technical concepts behind SDN are struggling to understand the most effective SDN solution design approach and focus in on the business problem / outcome resolved by SDN. At the highest most strategic level, there are numerous benefits that can include operation efficiencies, network agility and simplicity to name a few. But however compelling they all are, they currently do not seem compelling enough (unless a convenient infrastructure upgrade requirement is often factored into the SDN discussion). This could be the result of looking at something so hard that the some of the more obvious benefits are overlooked and in the case of SDN one said benefits is certainly security.
Networking in software (prior to SDN) had already found its home in the middle of a hypervisor as part of a virtualised compute environment, with the result some degree of understanding of the use of software in enterprise computing to realise networking outcomes is already known. But with the unrelenting growth of server virtualisation beneath a hypervisor with the resulting change to network traffic flows (much of it remaining within the hypervisor or physical host) a hidden challenge became the norm – securing virtualised workloads. The drive by many towards a virtualised enterprise changes decades of traditional design norms of physical perimeter security device placement with the requirement to reproduce a revised ideal for the virtualised workload world.
Enter software defined security (SDS) included within or as a by-product of an SDN strategy. The ability to micro segment virtual workloads using internal virtualised firewalls and controls in software with the reduced need for traffic to flow out of the virtual environment and back to determine the security state is surely a “killer outcome mobilised by SDS or SDN. And before you state it, a secure environment in a virtualised context can be realised today without the use of SDN and software defined security implementation, but SDN makes it much easier, tightly couples it with management and automation frameworks with the result reduced time to value. There are numerous software defined security approaches from standard functionality within specialist SDN overlay networks through to dedicated SDS (software defined security) solutions from specialist vendors with next generation security at the heart. And with enterprises wrestling with the urgent need to secure physical, virtual, hybrid and cloud environments working together as one, a new approach to solving this KEY enterprise IT infrastructure security challenge is surely required.
Software defined security alone isn’t the answer, SDN in isolation isn’t the answer but they are both serious and viable considerations to deliver security outcomes today aligned with problems of tomorrow. To that end, software defined security (SDS) may well be the “killer outcome” that kick starts the SDN change.
Until next time.