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The Technology Meta-Trend that will Impact your Business

By CK Lam, Director, Data Center Fabric and Virtualization, AP, Brocade

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CK Lam, Director, Data Center Fabric and Virtualization, AP, Brocade

The technology industry operates on micro and meta innovation cycles. Micro-cycles happen every hour, day, week, and year. But each meta-cycle is approximately 20 years, bringing fundamental disruption that changes the industry and ripples through every other business to change the way we work and live. We are now entering the next meta-cycle.

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, the mainframe terminal and host model was the primary platform for business innovation. Analyst firm IDC calls this the “First Platform” for innovation. The network for the First Platform included private line connectivity and IBM’s proprietary Systems Network Architecture, which was created in 1974.

Flash forward 20 years, to the mid-1990s, and we saw the dawn of the next meta-cycle. The Second Platform for computing innovation was based on the client/server and LAN/WAN models. As a result, the IT industry shifted to IP networks—and of course, the most famous of all IP networks: the Internet.

But it wasn’t the Internet like we know it today. In 1995, there were only 16 million users on the Internet and 2,700 Web sites. Moreover, there were fewer than 100 million mobile phone subscribers—and you couldn’t connect your mobile device to the Internet. But over the next 20 years, the Internet would change every industry it touched.

Today we see the advent of the Third Platform for computing innovation, driven by the cloud, mobile, social, and Big Data. And the pressures and opportunities created by the Third Platform are once again changing everything.

Unfortunately, none of this will happen without a corresponding new approach to networking. After all, traditional IP networks simply were not designed for the modern requirements of the Third Platform—and those networks are starting to crack under the weight of new business expectations and user demands.

That’s why a new approach to networking is needed—what many in the industry are calling “the New IP.”

With two billion people connected to the Internet, a billion Web sites, and more mobile subscribers than people on the planet, we’ve gone from connecting places and people to connecting things. Billions, eventually trillions, of things that love to make and consume data that needs to be stored, managed, moved, and analysed. And they all need the New IP.

Don’t Fall into the IT Relevance Gap

Some industries and market segments are already embracing the New IP, such as Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) like Amazon and Google. But their success has created new challenges for others.

For instance, the low cost of delivery and speed of innovation of CSPs are creating a relevance gap for traditional service providers and IT departments. Every day, users are bypassing these IT groups to purchase services and applications directly from the cloud. That’s because user expectations for self-service delivery, and the pace of innovation, are rising higher every day—yet traditional IP networks are too rigid and outdated to meet these needs.

This relevance gap results in additional pressure for IT departments. And if the IT budget goes mostly to maintenance on the existing network, there’s no money left over to modernize the network, let alone the time to re-engineer it. IT careers can stagnate, as innovation moves into the cloud or through small DevOps (operations development) teams that can iterate quickly on virtualised infrastructure.

Traditional IP networks have served us incredibly well—a testimony to their elegance and resilience, and the good news is that we don’t need to toss them out completely. But we do need to embrace the New IP if we want IT to become relevant again—meeting the needs of the Third Platform, the modern era of digital business, and the unique pressures these elements create.

The New IP Is All about Innovation

The New IP is designed for today and the future—and the needs of the cloud, mobile, social, and Big Data. The New IP is software-centric and hardware-optimized—and it offers both business and technology benefits.

The comparison between the Old IP and New IP is stark. The Old IP is based on closed, proprietary systems. Innovation cycles are constrained by custom hardware, and provisioning network resources is difficult and manual. Security is bolted on, vendors are at the centre of the ecosystem, costs are high, and innovation is slow.

"With two billion people connected to the Internet, a billion Web sites, and more mobile subscribers than people on the planet, we’ve gone from connecting places and people to connecting things."

In contrast, the New IP is based on open source code that leverages commodity hardware and merchant silicon. The provisioning of network resources is automated and self-service. Security is built in from the start, interoperation is achieved through open APIs, and the customer is at the centre of the ecosystem. CapEx and OpEx are lower, and innovation happens at the speed of business.

When you embrace the New IP, you can achieve impressive results:

  • The data centre goes from the back office to the front door—from being a cost centre to becoming a revenue engine.
  • The data centre is now without walls, which means it can scale out as easily as it can scale up or down.
  • The network IS the data centre, and the data centre is the network. Applications can be network-aware, and the network is aware of the application and its needs. Network services, security, and quality of service can be attached to, and move with, each application.
  • There is no longer an edge to the network, at least as we know it today.

If your goal is to keep IT relevant and ensure that your business continues to thrive in the modern digital era, the New IP is your first step on the road to success. And the good news is that you can easily get started today.

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