Tom Nolle ponders the potential demise of private networking as enterprises increasingly turn to the cloud.
There's been plenty of hype on the topic of the cloud, and whether the cloud could eliminate private IT. Not much is being said about a more pressing question, which is whether we're going to see the end of private networks. Remember the days of T1 lines, DDS, and frame relay? They're pretty much gone. Remember when everybody had their own router and switch networks? They're past tense, in the age of virtual networks. Now we have five new developments that could put the nail in the coffin.
Better equals cheaper
The most fundamental of all these developments is that enterprises think the only "better" network is a cheaper one. For the last decade, network operations managers have told me they are under pressure to lower costs, meaning network total cost of ownership (TCO). The easiest way to do that is to use less and less expensive equipment, and to substitute Internet connections for more expensive private LAN/WAN services. All of these steps will reduce a company's commitment to private networking.
But there's more. Corporate influence tends to track to the size of your budget, and network operations managers have lost ground continually. The number of companies that don't even have a separate network operations group, but have lumped it in with IT, has more than doubled in the last decade. Who speaks for private networking anymore?
Networks served up as services
The next critical point is that network-as-a-service concepts are improving and expanding. Virtual private networks were revolutionary because they reduced or eliminated the number of private network nodes required. Fewer nodes meant fewer boxes and less technical support burden. Now we have things like network functions virtualization (NFV), virtual CPE (vCPE), and software-defined WANs (SD WANs) that could reduce or even eliminate private hardware.
vCPE replaces premises appliances with hosted functions, and virtualizing firewalls and VPN services in this manner is already under consideration. SD WANs can use Internet tunnels and private VPN services in combination to serve more sites at a lower cost, and they facilitate a transition to pure Internet VPNs. If you host SD WAN edge elements as vCPE, you end up with no private network devices at all, and enterprise networks could transition entirely to Internet overlays. With no devices or WAN services to manage, what does the network operations group do?
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