Archive for September 2011

A unique solution to help network managers get the right technology in the best spots.

Earlier this year, Extreme Networks oriented its go-to-market strategy around the redefinition of “mobility”–that is, how everything goes mobile–content, applications, devices and people. This vision involves more than a wireless edge, it requires a robust wired core and access edge, which is the sweet spot of traditional Extreme.

Last week though, Extreme stepped out of its comfort zone and launched its first wireless product–the Altitude 4511 wall plate access point or “Snap-On WiFi” solution. The Snap-On WiFi access point is one of the cooler products I have seen in awhile. It’s an access point in a wall jack form factor. Grab any wired wall plate, unscrew it, unplug the wire and plug it in to the Altitude 4511. That’s it. Instant wireless where there was none before.

Sure, there are other ways to solve the problem, you could actually plug a full size access point into the wall jack and mount it on the desk or the wall. Alternatively you could get out your site planning tools and extend the wireless network to that location. But those methods seem rather time consuming and overkill for a product that takes under five minutes to install. It also sits nice and flush to the wall and takes up no actual room. There’s a few different flavors as well in case the installer wants to put in wireless only, or wireless plus a couple of wired ports for anything that might require a cable to connect to the network.

Without sounding sarcastic, the primary benefit of a virtual application delivery controller (ADC) is that, well, it’s virtual. It requires no hardware to deploy making it low cost. It’s mobile so the ADC can be moved from one location to another in real time and it can be self provisioned by anyone, including an application developer. But virtual ADCs have their drawbacks, too.

Historically, ADCs have been physical appliances located between the network and application tiers in a data center or deployed at the edge of a network to help optimize service delivery. The primary role of ADCs has been for load balancing purposes but a number of advanced features such as encryption, security, video optimization and some application specific features have been added over the past half decade. This shift in functionality has added to the need for ADCs across different verticals and company sizes.

This increased demand is why there have been so many more versions of the ADC launched recently, including virtual editions. This begs the question, though, can virtual ADCs replace physical ones in production environments? There’s no doubt that virtual ADCs can be used as a developer tool but the big question is around production environments which leads us to the question of “to virtualize or not to virtualize?”

I’ve come to the conclusion that the adoption of 100 Gig to be much bigger than 40 Gig. To me, 40 Gig was really a step on the way to 100 Gig. Ethernet has historically jumped in logarithmic steps and a 4x jump just doesn’t seem like the bang is there for the buck spent on new hardware and upgrades.

The standard for 100 Gig-E was ratified last year and since then we’ve had a number of vendors, the usual suspects – Juniper, Cisco, ALU and Brocade, launch 100 Gig-E line cards. Recently, I had a chance to discuss the topic with Greg Hankins, Global Solutions Architect for Service Providers at Brocade.  I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the 100 Gig-E market.

When it comes to managing the network, even realtime monitoring isn’t fast enough anymore. You need to be able to predict what will happen next. I’ve recently started tracking a technology that can help with this challenge.  There’s no name for this market but I like to think of it as the Traffic Visibility Networking (TVN) market. 

Let me explain.  IT has evolved more the past five years than maybe any other five year period in history.   We have made our environments more virtual and more mobile.  We’ve brought consumer technologies into our environment and pushed traditional IT out into the cloud.  All of this to improve resource utilization and to create a more flexible IT environment – and it’s worked!

However, there’s a downside to all of this too.  IT is now much more complex that it was even five years ago and this is creating a widely increasing complexity gap between IT skills and IT’s ability to run the environment.  I’m not saying IT is any less smart, in fact the IT guys I know are far smarter and more savvy that I ever was in my day but complexity is outpacing knowledge. 

NIaaS brings “as a service” or a subscription model to network infrastructure.

There were many new products and services announced at last week’s VMWorld event in Las Vegas. One of the more interesting announcements, that I felt went under the radar of most people, was Brocade’s Network Subscription based pricing for network infrastructure (Network Infrastructure as a Service). This isn’t a lease on the network infrastructure, as the current lease and purchase programs remain in place as well. NIaaS brings “as a service” or a subscription model to network infrastructure.

Brocade Network Subscription allows customers to purchase network infrastructure such as the MLX routers and switches, ADX application delivery controllers and the new VDX/VCS data center fabric switches, on a per port, per month basis and then scale the number of ports up or down on as needed basis. Pay as you grow brought to networking.

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