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Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins

Network and security engineers will be sidelined if they don't understand where network virtualization is going, and why they need to go with it.

Network virtualization is great for server admins. Even if they don't fully realize what the impact of a product like NSX means for them, they soon will. It means their traffic can be completely contained and controlled in their virtual world.

The release of NSX and other network virtualization platforms is the culmination of a trend that will, from the perspective of server admins, commoditize networking and change how they use the infrastructure. Network virtualization liberates their workflow from the organizational silos in an enterprise, particularly the networking and security silos. Server admins can finally compete with the public cloud that developers seem to be using more frequently.

It also puts network teams on notice. Server admins can now say to network teams, "Be nimble or be gone, because all we need is fire in that wire." The server team can take care of the segregation, security and compliance itself. No more begging, no more waiting, no more wading through service request processes so cumbersome it makes the federal government seem agile.

Meanwhile, the network teams are still trying to understand what VXLAN and software-defined networking is, failing to realize that they are about to be as extinct as the Dodo bird.

[Get a visual overview of competing SDN models in the slideshow 10 Software-Defined Networking Architectures.”]

As for security teams, most of them barely understand any network overlay technologies, much less the impact of VXLAN and SDN. In many cases, they see server virtualization as an annoyance, something they only use for malware sandboxes. It's an inconvenience when attempting to perform digital forensics or trying to gain insight into the virtual switching environment. They're still trying to figure out how to gain visibility and often demand for the traffic to be tromboned out to some security appliance.

Does this bode ill for virtualization and software-defined networking? Not at all. Sure the neo-Luddites will try to obstruct and block shifts in technology, even though it's better for the business. They'll do it because it means change--and humans hate that.

But if the business sees benefits--faster response to developer requirements, more projects up and running more quickly, less money spent on physical network and security hardware--the business will push obstructionists aside.

Network and security teams don't have to be pushed aside. But they do need to be proactive. Learn to talk outside your comfortable little silo. Grab hands and sing Kumbaya with the server folks. Bring value to the table, not roadblocks.

These inevitable changes in data center technology will grind down obstructionists. They'll be unemployed, but still trying to prove there's value to managing switches via CLI, or that good security comes from having a firewall and an IDS.

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ReturnoftheMus
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ReturnoftheMus,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 7:01:59 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
No, but you certainly don't need as many!
Rob Parten
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Rob Parten,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2013 | 2:47:51 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
And that is the type of responses I wish would be kept inside ones head. The fact you received a response is astonishing and mind boggling at the same time because your response should never warrant a reply because it will only spark anger among the already unnecessary divided culture that exists between "server guys" and "network guys".
Rob Parten
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Rob Parten,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2013 | 2:43:33 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
I wish people would just stop placing their opinions on Virtual overlay networking, and network virtualization in general, to try and gain some celebrity as an accomplished "whateveritisyouwanttocallyourself".

Quite simple, the technology is fairly new and we're still waiting for it to hit the market. Until then, the majority of these articles will only spur arguments among three types of people:

1. Server/VM admins
2. "Old School" network admins who resist it
3. Network Engineers who embrace virtualization

Sadly, server and VM admins generally aren't network savvy but "get by" because networking has always been that one thing you can cobble together and it "just works"...for now. The old school guys will resist it all the way to the unemployment lines and the 3rd type are hybrid people like myself, I have deployed, worked with, upgraded and maintained VMware infrastructures alongside being a multi-vendor network engineer. I find the third type of "engineer" is becoming more common; however, I still run into "system ignorant" engineers but there is a place for them in the world, they just won't always be on the edge with cool stuff like this.

I say until we see NSX out in the wild, let's just keep speculation minimal and instead help promote the benefits of it, to all three types of "engineers".
mythryll
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mythryll,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2013 | 6:56:45 AM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
What you actually mean is that they need to embrace it or IT will die out. Again the terror argument. It does get tiresome.
mythryll
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mythryll,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/23/2013 | 6:53:05 AM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
to the OP: Either you are trying to start a flame war to get attention to your article or you clearly do not understand enterprise networking. The enterprise network still goes on inside the virtual world with all the characteristics it has outside it. You still need to be assigned to a vlan, get an ip address etc. You do have to plug in somewhere, and you simply don't create two differnet vlan domains in the same LAN for virtual and physical world. So the idea that a server team will get the reigns of virtual networking inside the enterprise is in reality very dangerous for the server people. If anyone is in danger of losing their jobs over it, it's them. The possibility that they will create a mess is really big, I have already seen it happen both in the physical and the virtual world (Let's create a huge broadcast domain! It should work right? No). So yes the two teams (or three if you count security team in as well) will need to work together. But it essentially means that they will be working together inside the virtual world, so again your argument has no basis. If anyone has to lift obstructions in order to cooperate, it will be the server people. Unless you are suggesting that simply because the servers have nics, then the server people know all there is to know about networking.
Let's be a little more mature here please. I still haven't seen NSX at work yet. But if it doesn't cooperate well with networking standards used in my enterprise, then it will stay out the door I assure you of that.
A virtualization aware network engineer.
Mrs. Y
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Mrs. Y,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 7:24:10 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
Yes, that was exactly my point. What I frequently hear is rank and file networking people who haven't heard of SDN, don't care or want to be involved in virtualization initiatives and still question the viability of network virtualization. They still seem to think there's some question regarding the validity of this solution, without realizing the discussion is already over and it's moving ahead full-force without them. I've been on systems, networking and security teams and I see the same thing: an utter lack of engagement and communication between said teams. Virtualization DEMANDS that traditional silos disappear, so that they can all work together to solve problems and meet the needs of the business as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the developers will simply bypass them and go to a public cloud (which I've seen many times) and leaving infrastructure in danger of elimination via IaaS or NaaS. The NSX release was like a splash of cold water, but it could be a great opportunity for all these teams to pull together and become a force for positive change.
Etherealmind
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Etherealmind,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 6:44:08 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
We need to move to a more nuanced vision here.

The future of the Data Centre LAN design will have many different technologies. Instead just one technology (hierarchical tree) it will be replaced with many possible options and customers can choose what they want.

There is more than one answer and a much wider market opportunity. Michelle's point remains valid in my view, network teams need to embrace SDDC or lose out on determining their own future.

Today, I can build an lossless L3 ECMP network with 700 10GbE access port for less than $750K which demonstrates that connectivity no longer has value, it's about services that can be derived from the network itself.

Connectivity is commodity.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 5:34:02 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
I read Michele's post from the perspective of organizational relevance. On the business side, the network is a black box into which the company pours money and time (that is, time to get a service or application up and running). Network virtualization and SDN are tools that should, if not cut costs, at least reduce the amount of time it takes to get service/app running. Who wants to own that value? I'm sure the server team would be happy to. I think Michele is saying that network engineers need to run with this, instead of sitting around debating whether it's real, or just hoping this fad will pass.
SDNgeek
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SDNgeek,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 3:36:38 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
Concur! Did server virtualization do away with server admins?
SDNgeek
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SDNgeek,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/22/2013 | 3:36:17 PM
re: Don't Leave Network Virtualization to Server Admins
Sorry Mrs. Y but I've got to concur with Mike. Saying network virtualization will extinct network professionals is about tantamount to saying that server virtualization would extinct server administrators ...

Not at all, your servers and directories still need administrators. Server administration just gave rise to a new skill set. The same is true for network virtualization.
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