There is a fundamental shift happening in information technology as it moves toward software-based and services-led architectures, and this trend will resonate more than ever in 2014. This translates into some significant changes in how we evaluate and deploy networking functions. Join me as I outline the IT networking concepts that will take shape in 2014.
1. The hypervisor-centric SDN model will reign supreme.
The hype and interest around software-defined networking is at an all-time high, and while the industry continues to sift through the endless marketing messages and potential deployment options, I believe we will see hypervisor-based SDN models win out over switch-based SDN for seamless control of the network. Many IT departments don't have the money or resources to forklift their existing switching and routing infrastructures. And while vendors will continue to get wrapped around the axle with open standards, we will see more vendor-driven SDN architectures, which will continue to win out over the pure open standards.
2. Virtualized datacenters will enable new Layers 4-7 service-oriented deployment models.
The increased adoption of virtualization in the datacenter will result in more point-and-click service enablement directly from the virtual domain. This new model of service delivery will rely less on complex network configurations and expertise. By separating network services from physical equipment and underlying network infrastructure, these services can also be abstracted and orchestrated as a common pool of resources for end-users.
As such, the tools for provisioning, configuration, and management of those services can be radically simplified and automated. Network services, once exclusively the domain of networking specialists, can be virtualized and off-loaded to virtual administrators and application owners responsible for an application's experience. The combination of these benefits makes network virtualization -- and virtual network services in particular -- essential components to realizing the software-defined datacenter.
3. Networking as a standalone job function will come under attack.
Virtualization and SDN have started to make legacy networking expertise irrelevant. A next-generation IT organization will start to develop. These organizations will look for diversified skillsets that combine networking, storage, and virtualization expertise. We are beginning to see the early stages of IT organizational shifts happening today. Functions that were once the sole domain of the network administrator are now becoming part of the virtual administrator. And network administrators looking to deploy services and features in a virtual environment are finding they need to learn the skill set of the person who manages virtual machines.
4. Increased cloud deployments will put more focus on WAN and Internet performance.
The Internet is often the weakest link in a cloud deployment. In 2014, more enterprises are expected to shift their focuses and investments from private cloud services to public or hybrid cloud deployments. This means more data and applications get further away from users, who will continue to gain access from remote offices over the Internet. This will put added pressure on the IT department to ensure both the network and applications are fully optimized for a seamless and uninterrupted cloud experience. And since the Internet poses network bandwidth and quality issues, we will see WAN optimization deployment models evolve to address both SaaS and IaaS services.
5. Cloud-based replication and backup services will become mainstream.
As storage becomes more virtualized and cloud services take off, the cloud becomes a significant driver of network bandwidth demands. The business case for cloud replication becomes favorable, and as the cost of cloud storage keeps coming down, we will see storage administrators start to focus more on the total cost of ownership.
6. Forced network hardware refreshes will accelerate the shift to software services.
Many customers will be facing a vendor-imposed hardware refresh in 2014. This will drive IT organizations to evaluate software-based alternatives. New flexible billing models and usage-based pricing will accelerate a move from hardware to software, and single purpose, proprietary Layers 4-7 hardware will start to become obsolete.
7. Internet VPNs will displace MPLS networks and will eat into MPLS market share.
With cloud services becoming easily accessible over the Internet, users will start to realize that if they can connect to the cloud over the Internet, they can also use it everywhere else. Therefore, the managed service provider market will reshape itself around the Internet value-add.
David Hughes is CEO of Silver Peak, a software-based WAN optimization company.