Goldman on the Changing Network – “Fat Core, Thin Edge”

July 28, 2010 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

“IT spending in the edge is greater than in the data center, and is undergoing similarly transformative and disruptive changes as a result of the shift to Cloud Computing.”
– Goldman Sachs, Techtonic shifts reverberating from the Data Center Core to the Network Edge, July 13 2010
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Lest we forget, clouds in the sky always cast shadows down on the ground….

Today’s thought leaders are rapidly acknowledging that the architectural shift to Cloud Computing is driving a new set of requirements at the Network Edge.  Goldman Sachs refers to this shift as “Fat Core, Thin Edge” — apps and data shift to the physical center, and edge connectivity must necessarily become radically more efficient in high-performance, secure access to that compute resource.

It’s a logical progression:  If you place assets somewhere in the distance, network performance must improve accordingly.  However, since Network Edge already accounts for a larger proportion of IT spending than the data center, two things have to happen simultaneously:

  • Edge Network infrastructure must perform better with even more functions; and
  • Edge Network cost has to be far less than the sum of the traditional parts.

Faster, better… and lower-cost.  It’s that last part that creates the step-function change in infrastructure requirements.  In technology history, whenever this degree of change is required, new system architectures triumph.

For Edge Networking, this is being addressed with “integrated systems” where multiple networking functions are conducted on a single device, and virtualization is going to be a key enabling technology.  Vendors have begun to move in this integrated direction slowly over the past few years, but it’s about to accelerate like never before.  From Goldman:  “Specifically, we think the infrastructure at the edge can be collapsed further, possibly with a single hardware appliance (using virtualized and cloud-based services, including routing, security, application/WAN acceleration, compute, and wire/wireless network access) handling all the requirements outside the core.”

That’s a great visual:  collapsing the infrastructure.  And key leverage points for getting there?  ” .. the emergence of new integrated routers that provide additional functions/services, as well as virtual routing appliances, that run on lower cost industry standard hardware…”

This consolidated scenario has multiple benefits:  lower capital costs, reduced operating expenses (in lower equipment maintenance costs and smaller branch IT staff), and improved performance and security.  In all, collapsing the Network Edge while improving its performance and cost-effectiveness will allow CIOs to better manage the transition to Cloud Computing.

That’s what Goldman thinks, and they have good reason to — because the industry’s already begun to act.  NEC’s recent virtualized network edge solution with Vyatta shows they believe it.  Our major telecom customer definitely believes it.  Riverbed’s RioS solution with Vyatta and others shows they think it.  Each of these solutions have common themes:
1.  Virtualization
2.  Integration
3.  Standard hardware leverage

This is a trinity that’s been in Vyatta’s veins since our inception.  It’s exciting to see how quickly things are changing…

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