For the last several columns we've looked at the key factors affecting WAN performance – loss, latency, jitter and bandwidth – and various ways of addressing these issues. As 2013 begins, I'd like to step back and look at the bigger picture, before any further dives down into the details.
A long-time networking guy, I've been passionate about Enterprise WANs for a decade now. I became passionate about the basic idea of this Next-generation Enterprise WAN (NEW) architecture after talking with a prospective customer in 2008 about how he had leveraged server virtualization to consolidate the 40+ different applications his company was using onto four Dell superservers, which he deployed at a colocation facility. That was my "aha!," light-bulb-over-the-head moment.
I'm not sure whether the term "cloud computing" was in vogue yet or not in 2008 (it certainly soon would be), or if people were still using the term "utility computing" for the data center computing portion of this, but being already familiar with what was going on with networking technologies for the enterprise WAN, this was when I first understood the possibilities of, and power behind, combining these technologies together, and how it was going to change enterprise networking even as "cloud computing" was changing how we think about computing. And one of the most exciting parts is that this change in the enterprise WAN would both be fueled by, and help accelerate, the changes going on with cloud computing, and public and hybrid clouds in particular.
I chose the title of this column to help convey my passion on the subject. "Generational change" in enterprise computing or networking typically only happens once every 10 to 15 years. With "next-generation" in the title, I quite deliberately have chosen to focus on those of you innovators, early adopters and the earliest of the early majority who are seeking to gain a competitive advantage for your companies and/or your careers by finding and riding one of the next waves.
We've spent a fair amount of time discussing the five technologies I consider the key components of the NEW architecture: WAN Optimization, server virtualization, distributed/replicated file service, colocation, and WAN Virtualization. And we most certainly will be discussing each of them further, including their roles and their interactions, in the months ahead. The existence of these technologies is, of course, critical to the NEW architecture. In 2008, when the general idea of this first dawned on me, it was still too early for this kind of a sea change in architecture to occur. Almost five years later, the time has arrived. Here, I want to look at the broader networking and computing conditions that make the timing ripe now for this next-generation approach.
Sinek claims that part of the power of "start with why" is based on biology and about appealing to people's intuition. I don't know about the biology part, but let me lay out the things that you probably need to believe if you are to buy in to this generational change I see coming.
Said another way, if you don't believe most of the following things, then you probably either won't like, or won't be particularly interested in, most of what you are likely to see in this column in 2013.
If you do believe most or all of the above, then I hope you'll stay on for the Next-generation Enterprise WAN ride in 2013. I think you'll find it worthwhile. Rather, I believe that you will!
A twenty-five year data networking veteran, Andy founded Talari Networks, a pioneer in WAN Virtualization technology, and served as its first CEO, and is now leading product management at Aryaka Networks. Andy is the author of an upcoming book on Next-generation Enterprise WANs.