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It’s pretty in fashion these days to talk about datacenter innovation. After all, it’s where the cloud folks are. It’s where a lot of the security focus is. DevOps? Yeah, that’s mostly a datacenter thing in most peoples’ eyes. Microsegmentation? Datacenter. White box? You guessed it—datacenter.
 
But I think that access is shaping up to be a potentially more interesting part of the network over the next 5 years. Why?
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A quick survey of the top technology trends in networking would certainly include things like DevOps, SDN, NFV, overlays (microsegmentation), and now intent-based networking. Each of these has arrived on networking’s main stage to much fanfare about the transformational changes they promise.
 
But have you hugged your midsize enterprise network engineer today? If not, go find her and ask her how much time she has spent today working on these technologies. 
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There has been a lot of news in the past two weeks about intent-based management. Though the trend certainly predates Cisco's entry into the space, whenever the industry leader coopts a term, the technology gets a whole lot more attention. 
 
Coming out of the news, I had an interesting exchange with analyst John Fruehe from Moor Insights and Strategy. He wrote: Actually, #IntentBased will bring an interesting opportunity for “intent-based architects” but none of these exists today. 
 
It’s an interesting concept, and it gets to the idea of who ultimately architects the intent in an intent-based management model.
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There is probably no greater lie in networking at the moment than the blanket statement that disaggregation leads to commoditization. That’s not to say that there is not going to be persistent pricing pressure in networking (spoiler alert: there will be). But it misses the real dynamic, and because of that, the common refrain can lead to uninformed decision-making. 
 
So does disaggregation lead to commoditization? What actually drives pricing? What the heck is really going on here? 
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Network management has been the problem child of networking for decades. The whole notion of managing a heterogeneous set of devices and software from a single tool was going to be difficult at best. The companies that tried to rise to the challenge quickly learned that staying current with other vendor commands and configuration was nigh impossible, never mind the fact that no vendor wants to cede control to someone else.
 
The industry basically decided that we would collectively pursue more open solutions. But while we all debated what the open solution would like, it seems the rest of the world went and changed the user interface on us. 
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The greatest trick the public cloud ever pulled

by Trusted Contributor ‎05-29-2017 07:40 PM - edited ‎05-29-2017 07:40 PM

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There is a memorable line from the movie The Usual Suspects. Kevin Spacey’s character Verbal Kint says “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” 
 
In IT, there is a near equivalent. As the world accelerates towards cloud everything, it seems a near certainty most enterprise workloads will move to the cloud in some form or another. As they do, we will collectively look back on these formative years with awe and wonder at how the major cloud providers managed to convince the world they are “public”.
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Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the new orange in networking. The most common storyline is that algorithms will drive behavior. The theory is that they represent another logical opportunity for vendors to move “up stack”.
 

 

shoot-foot.pngAnd while it is true that algorithms will (at least initially) provide a proprietary means of making solutions better, they aren’t the only lucrative aspect of a move towards a more self-driving network.
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There is probably no group of companies in the infrastructure space more envied than the major cloud properties. Senior executives across the globe are actively engaged in discussions with their teams to determine how to evolve their infrastructure operations practices. They throw out words like DevOps, automation, and machine learning, all in a bid to transform their practices to be more agile and scalable. 
 
But some of the most foundational principles that make cloud operations work are too often overlooked.
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Automation is certainly a top theme in networking. Virtually every networking vendor has automation as a key pillar in their stated strategy. Tools companies, typically oriented around server and application side automation, are seeing traction in the network engineering space. And companies who are adopting cloudy operations practices are filling up conference speaking slots globally.
 
But tool adoption is not really an industry-wide phenomenon. It more closely mirrors programming languages. There are different flavors, each relevant for different sets of problems. And that means the automation market will be necessarily fractured. 
 
So how does anyone navigate a fractured market?
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Disaggregation and the Tyranny of Or

by Trusted Contributor on ‎05-10-2017 12:36 PM

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Disaggregation is a common topic in networking. Especially when people discuss cloud economics, the topic of white box comes up. By separating the hardware and software, the general sentiment is that the combined price will drop. 
 
But the principles of disaggregation are not limited to just hardware and software. There are lots of components that make up the technology stack. And understanding the dynamics driving some of those components will allow people to plan for how this will unfold across the networking industry at large.
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