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Climbing Aboard the 3rd Platform

Recent news from IBM and Microsoft highlight the upheavals underway as the technology industry rapidly transitions to new realities.

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IBM announced that profits were up even as revenue was down as it continues to shift away from hardware business lines and tries "to convert the future of technology into an opportunity rather than a threat." Microsoft announced its largest layoff ever as it continues to "become more agile and move faster" toward cloud and mobile hardware!

These upheavals are due to the forces propelling mobile, social, cloud and big data into what IDC labels the 3rd Platform, “the emerging platform for growth and innovation.”

"The 3rd Platform will deliver the next generation of competitive advantage apps and services that will significantly disrupt market leaders in virtually every industry," IDC seer Frank Gens said, in laying out the firm’s predictions for 2014, late last year.

When long-time nemeses Apple and IBM climb into bed you know the ground is shaking!

With access to cloud infrastructure and other resources, new companies can be created almost overnight – the advantages of size that large, established companies used to rely on have greatly diminished. Everybody needs to be more agile, more flexible and willing to sacrifice proprietary advantages when customers demand adherence to open standards.

With so much change, no organization can afford to stand pat on the networking architecture of the past. Enterprises are driven to simultaneously improve business processes while reducing IT costs.

In order to move beyond the physical limitations of yesterday’s architecture so they can manage the complexity of the ever more connected world, many enterprises are modernizing data centers. Seeking to transform infrastructure into assets, they are turning to virtualization and cloud computing to drive up availability and transition IT to a services orientation. 

They won’t get there with traditional Ethernet networks that rely on a rigid hierarchical approach that creates inefficient traffic patterns and purposely curtails the scalability. A newer category of flatter Ethernet networks called Ethernet fabrics combine the familiarity of Ethernet networks with the data center-hardened reliability and performance characteristics of fabric technologies such as Fibre Channel to provide organizations with elastic, highly automated, mission-critical networks to meet rapidly changing requirements.

Ethernet fabrics are specifically designed for the virtualized data center environments needed to transition to the 3rd Platform. Rather than focusing on management of discrete physical devices and physical ports, they logically eliminate the management of multiple switching layers and apply policies and manage traffic across many physical switches as if they were one.

Trying to forestall movement to the 3rd Platform is, at best, a defensive strategy that attempts to maintain a static position in an incredibly dynamic environment. It doesn’t make sense to become more stodgy while competitors are increasingly agile.  As the situations at IBM and Microsoft attest, market advantages that once seemed insurmountable can quickly erode in the face of rapid transformation.

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