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Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure Management’

The role of the CIO has changed more in the past five years than any other position in the business world. Success for the CIO used to be based on bits and bytes, and is now measured by business metrics. Today’s CIO needs to think of IT more strategically and focus on projects that lower cost, improve productivity, or both, ideally.

However, many IT projects seem to be a waste of time and money. It’s certainly not intentional, but a number of projects that seem like they should add value rarely do. Here are what I consider the top IT projects that waste budget dollars.

Over provisioning or adding more bandwidth

Managing the performance of applications that are highly network-dependent has always been a challenge. If applications are performing poorly, the easy thing to do is just add more bandwidth. Seems logical. However, bandwidth is rarely actually the problem, and the net result is usually a more expensive network with the same performance problems. Instead of adding bandwidth, network managers should analyze the traffic and optimize the network for the bandwidth-intensive applications.

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During last week’s VMworld event, traffic visibility leader Gigamon debuted what it is calling “Visibility as a Service,” or VaaS. Network visibility was a big theme at VMworld this year as VMware launched its NSX network virtualization product.

During his keynote, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger stated that the network is the next IT domain to be impacted by virtualization and, in fact, it’s the limitations of the network that hold organizations back from being able to migrate to a software defined data center (SDDC) or IT-as-a-service.

This sounds great during a keynote, but, practically speaking, virtualizing the network has its risks and complications. I’ve heard many people use the benefits of server virtualization to describe how the network can be transformed and what the impact will be. While I don’t fully agree with this analogy, I do believe that some of the risks are similar. While many companies enjoy the fruits of virtualization today, remember that this technology went through some significant growing pains to get to this point.

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It’s the end of August, which means “Tis the season.” What season is that? It’s now the end of the summer, which means back to school for our kids. It’s also NFL preseason, so all of us going through football withdrawal are close to getting some real football soon – time for Tebow mania, the football equivalent of SDNs. But, for those of us in tech, the end of August means VMworld time. For me, it means my email inbox is full of messages from PR vendors wanting me to “stop by the booth” and check out the latest and greatest.

This week, Arista and ExtraHop got out in front of the impending noise and announced a strategic partnership between to deliver an integrated solution called the ExtraHop-Arista Persistent Monitoring Architecture. Despite the totally unimaginative name, the product should be compelling to highly virtualized organizations or those considering a move to a software defined data center – the obvious sweet spot for VMworld.

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Let’s roll back the clock 20 years and remember what was happening. Mark Zuckerberg was nine years old and learning to code on an Atari computer. Incidentally, I was a big Atari buff, but didn’t monetize it quite like the future Facebook founder. Whitney Houston held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard music charts with “I will always love you,” and Schindler’s List won the Oscar for best picture.

In tech, Cisco dropped a little under $100 million to acquire Crescendo Communications, which gave Cisco its Catalyst 5000 switching line as well as executives Luca Cafiero, Prem Jain, Mario Mazzola, Randy Pond and Jayshree Ullal. Also in 1993, Cisco introduced its Cisco Certified Internetworking Engineer (CCIE) certification to the world to create a high-level, elite certification for networking professionals. In many ways, it was the acquisition of Crescendo that transformed Cisco from a niche router company into a broad enterprise networking vendor. However, it was the creation of the certification program, and most notably the CCIE, that created the dominant network vendor that we know today.

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It’s hard to look at Network World or any other tech site without seeing a bunch of articles on software defined networks. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen almost every network vendor, large and small, lay out its vision for SDNs and then back it up with new products to support the vision. One of the vendors that has been absent from the SDN tournament, though, is Huawei – that is, until this week.

Earlier this week, the giant Chinese equipment manufacturer threw its hat into the SDN game with a new switch series, the S12700 Agile Switch, specifically designed for migrating to an SDN. There are two products currently in the Agile Switch line – a big one (S12708) and a bigger one (S12712). From my briefing with Huawei, it appears that these products will be focused on implementing SDNs across the campus network rather than the data center.

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Earlier this month, F5 announced its ScaleN architecture designed to make it easier for companies to deploy a software defined network and extend virtual networks to the cloud. ScaleN can be thought of as a unified set of virtual and physical infrastructure that has been configured to optimize SDN environments. ScaleN also provides a new feature called iCall, which is an extension of its popular iRules scripting language and gives F5 ADCs the capability of dynamically reconfiguring based on the real-time status of the ADC infrastructure. The iCall technology allows for applications or networks to interface with the ADCs to trigger the reconfiguration.

Looking at this functionality, it’s easy to see that there’s significant overlap with traditional SDN controllers. One of the value propositions of SDNs is that the controllers offer a set of northbound application programming interfaces (APIs) that give applications more control of the network. F5’s iRules has given customers the ability to create custom features to handle network and application events. But iCall brings automation to F5 infrastructure, removing the need for manual intervention. It would seem that much of the value of the SDN controller is being wrapped into the ADC, and why not? The application delivery infrastructure already sits between the network and application tiers, similarly to how many of the SDN controller vendors position their products.

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