After virtualization and cloud, what’s left on premises?

Extreme virtualization leaves just switches, access points, secure routers

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The advantages of this almost “everything-as-a-Service” (EaaS) approach are numerous:

  • Availability
    Given that EaaS infrastructure is resident in the cloud, and cloud is connected to the Internet, required services are available from anywhere connected users happen to be. Note that there is no difference in security provisions between premises and Cloud-based infrastructure; the same requirements, procedures and solutions apply to both.
  • Reliability and resilience
    Cloud suppliers will compete not just on capacity and features, but also on availability, reliability, and resilience. As there are already and will continue to be multiple suppliers in the cloud-services domain, end-user organizations will specify and receive these assurances in agreements and contracts as a matter of course.
  • Scalability
    More capacity required? No problem. Suppliers will also compete in this dimension as well. Additional capacity will, in many if not most cases, be available on demand with no advance notice, and at a market-set competitive price. And smaller firms can have “big company” IT and networking that they can grow with from Day 1.
  • Controlled evolution
    Upgrades and enhancements have traditionally required large budgets, careful planning, and staged deployments. The EaaS model places the responsibility here into the domains of service providers who will develop significant experience and expertise in these activities. Moving to, for example, an SDN-based infrastructure will involve minimal effort on the part of organizational IT, network, and operations management, with end-users seeing minimal if any interruption to service.

As is almost always the case, competition will reduce costs to the absolute minimum possible, with additional improvements over time as suppliers enhance their knowledge, methods, and procedures, and amortize these via economies of scale across potentially very large customer bases. Our conversion of CapEx to OpEx is thus complete, with the potential, we believe, for massive savings across the lifecycle of any given installation.

We can even extend our extreme virtualization concept all the way to the edge of the network, into devices used to access the network. While BYOD has become the norm here today, end-users are still left with the burden of maintaining those elements of their device’s functionality not covered by the organization enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions. Imagine instead a device-provisioning model based on renting or “borrowing” a device on a temporary basis. Choose a device from a local cache of these, on demand, and otherwise selected based on the form factor desired at a given moment in time, insert one’s smart card (which could be a USB key), authenticate with a password or other second factor, and voilà – one’s (virtual, of course) “desktop” appears. Appropriate management and control functions, replacing the traditional OS, transparently assure a given device’s configuration, integrity, and reliability. All done? Remove the smart card, and you were never there.

Transitioning to extreme virtualization

The overarching concept of extreme virtualization is simple: continuous access to appropriate computing and information, even as requirements evolve over time, largely replacing traditional capital investments and the ongoing maintenance of network and IT infrastructures. Note also that the extreme virtualization model could even extend into premises infrastructure, leasing as well the rather limited set of hardware elements we noted above from a service provider, and thus representing a real opportunity for carriers and integrators to extend their business models – and, once again, with competition here benefiting end-user organizations.

One potential issue for many will be the requirement for continuous network connectivity, both client and WAN, for normal operations. Let’s face it: The viability of offline IT activities expired some time ago, as today’s real-time, collaborative model for information access means that anyone off the network is truly out of the loop. Again, the extreme virtualization model is initially driven by the requirement to minimize ongoing costs, but the provisioning of the enhanced reliability and availability required here ultimately seals the deal.

One final point: We do expect meaningful impacts on the business models of traditional network equipment suppliers as the transition from products to services proceeds. For many of these, however, the evolution to extreme virtualization will introduce new marketplace opportunities and thus keep the network equipment industry viable and growing.

We expect the transition to extreme virtualization to take at least 5-10 years, but managing the cost constraints that began this discussion ultimately dictates that such will be the only direction forward. And many of us, to be sure, cannot wait.


Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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