“To prophesy is hard, especially with respect to the future.”
– Mark Twain
Network Virtualization, Phase I: VM Adoption
The “virtualization tipping point” occurred at the end of 2011. Gartner recently reported that now 50% of the installed base of x86 server workload is virtualized. They also report that only 5% of network security is virtualized. Uh-oh.
This has created a measurable and immediate driver behind my first prediction: 2012 will witness the explosive adoption of network/security virtual machines. This is Phase I of network virtualization, because a) the need is immediate and b) solutions are available. It’s so inevitable I feel a little guilty about calling it a prediction, but since Vyatta pioneered this dynamic I hope you’ll give me a pass on the easy one.
Network Virtualization, Phase 2: SDN
2011 had more noise on the wire about SDN-ish topics than ever before. OpenFlow! Controllers! Flat networks or not?! Well, get ready … it’s going to keep building steam.
As the discussion continues, however, it will begin turning to a critical but heretofore almost-undiscussed topic. Until now it’s been, “A new kind of controller…” [from emerging vendors] “… communicates over a new kind of protocol … [OpenFlow or others] “…to some forwarding plane that will support that protocol.” [Empty space. Who?] It’s that last part that now must begin to take center stage of the discussion.
The SDN concept is stillborn until the forwarding plane component is resolved. If you think the big incumbent switch vendors are going to concede power and let someone else control their kit, I have a bridge I’ll sell you. This is behind my second prediction for 2012: Discussion of open forwarding planes will begin to take center stage in the SDN movement. Otherwise the whole concept has legs but no wings.
Network Virtualization Made Real: The New IT Pro
As networking becomes software-based, the skillset needed to design, deploy and manage networks needs to change. The networking team needs to learn about software (hypervisors and operating systems), and the compute team needs to learn about networking. APIs, SDKs and the like are going to cross IT organizational boundaries.
I predict that 2012 will demonstrate the skillset evolution of networking pros becoming software pros as well. Training and coursework in this area will explode. Articles will begin publishing on specific topics. Heroes will be identified by their best-in-class virtualized network designs, with their faces and stories splashed all over the media and onstage.
So that’s it: It’s all about network virtualization for 2012, and it’s going to be a wild ride…
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