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Rent-a-Network May Be in Your Future

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There was a time when you couldn’t buy the largest, most popular computer processing system. That was prior to 1956, when the U.S. Justice Department strong-armed IBM into consenting to change its business practices. Rather than only leasing its “tabulating and electronic data processing machines,” Big Blue would henceforth make them available for sale, as well as provide parts and sub-assemblies for use by customers and third parties.

The reality was that few businesses could afford to pay for those monsters, but they were able to rent time on mainframes operated by third party service bureaus. This “time-sharing” process enabled the computer operators to make sure their systems were fully utilized, while their customers only paid for what they used. That model eventually broke down when the availability of relatively low cost minicomputers, then PCs, made it easier for their businesses to buy their computing capacity.

Back to today, many companies are eschewing purchase of hardware and other technology in favor of web-based capacity they can purchase on an as-needed basis, using easier to manage operational expenses budgets, rather than making capital expenditures with hefty up front commitments.

So, now you can get virtually anything “as-a-service” over the network, except for the network itself. Well, it turns out Brocade in 2011 began offering a network subscription model to provide such an option. 

“Organizations typically buy more port capacity than they need, but as demand grows, that capacity gets used up, requiring a new purchase,” Mike Fratto, then editor of Network Computing, wrote after Brocade announced the program. “The purchase cycle also forces companies to assume all the risk and cost of acquiring new equipment, which poses significant up-front expenses for new projects and companies.”

Sure, you could lease networking equipment and while that would shift the expense from CAPEX to OPEX, it would also lock you into a fixed term without the flexibility of scaling up or down as business needs dictate. It likely also would add additional fees such as origination costs, termination charges, and financing charges.

“Your network is a utility. You pay for the electricity you use. You pay for the water you use. Why not pay for the networking you use?" Brocade CEO Lloyd Carney recently told government officials. "The storage guys do that. The server guys do that. Why not networking guys? Why shouldn't we offer the same flexibility for your data center as a service – as a utility – that everybody else does?"

According to Brocade, the network subscription offering provides organizations with the same level of flexibility and agility as a cloud-based network.  So you can make modifications with no penalty or added costs beyond the additional capacity being utilized.

That drew the attention of Rackspace from the get go. As Paul Rad, Rackspace VP of technology and private cloud, described his company's use of Brocade Network Subscription: “The pay-as-you go model reduces our capital outlay so we can invest in other growth areas of our business.”

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