At the IDC Directions conference this week, analyst Brad Casemore delivered a presentation on "Next-Generation Networking for the Intelligent Edge." The talk suggested as new apps, the internet of things and edge services proliferate, enterprises can no longer take a one-size-fits-all approach to edge networking.
In a Q&A, Casemore shared some more details about his research, including how cloud and as-a-service offerings are redefining enterprise networking.
What networking industry trends are you seeing now and going forward?
Brad Casemore: We're seeing that the wide area network has to be reconfigured because of the cloud. There are other factors, but cloud is the big driver. In the past, there was some colocation. But, traditionally, apps were behind firewalls in the on-premises data center.
You have SaaS apps such as Office 365, Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow and a whole bunch of vertical SaaS apps. You also have IaaS [infrastructure as a service] and more workloads going to public cloud, in Azure or AWS. In some ways, [this adoption trend] has changed the definition of the data center.
Apps are all over the place, from on-prem to the branch. In the past, enterprises followed a hub-and-spoke model, with data moving from the data center to the branch and back again, with all the backhauling of traffic over MPLS. From an efficiency and latency perspective, there is just the pure inefficiency of backhauling everything to the data center before going out to the branch.
Not only do we have to change the WAN, we also need to change the management model. It doesn't scale operationally to manually configure network devices by CLI [command-line interface]. The bigger the network, the more of a nightmare it is from a management standpoint. In concert with making WAN cloud-friendly, we realized it needs to be app-centric. We need to deal with it from an application policy standpoint, instead of treating the network as a separate silo. [Enterprise] customers want that.
Cloud is already having an effect among customers. DevOps is very used to the as-a-service model. Customers want instant gratification, going from the swipe of a credit card to running apps up in the cloud.
The whole as-a-service mentality that cloud brought has brought a great deal of urgency in networking -- and certainly out at the edge. You can't tell the DevOps team and line of business, 'I know you want a server and network for that, but we can't do it for 18 months.' It's untenable. That is why many companies have decided to move engagement workloads to the public cloud. Can they build a private cloud that is fast enough to meet demand? Probably not -- these enterprises may need to hire talent.
While it is true that costs in the public cloud are often higher, there is more to it than cost; it's about agility. It isn't good to have a competitor beat you to market by two years. Looking across all the landscapes I cover, whether data center networking or what's happening at the IoT [internet of things] edge, the cloud as-a-service mentality has severely disrupted almost every networking market I cover.
What are your thoughts on the term intent-based networking as it applies to networking industry trends?
Casemore: Intent-based networking isn't a completely new thing. But it is a rebrand and a refinement in evolution. We can abstract complexity even more, declare intent and have the network decide how to act on it. In a sense, it's an evolution of SDN [software-defined networking]. We're going to get to network infrastructure that is more autonomous. Finding the right abstractions and hiding complexity from users by acting on a big enough sample of analytics and telemetry will create a virtuous loop informing that intent. It will be a self-driving network. That's where we're going.
That's where vendors can differentiate the marketplace by abstracting complexity and feeding analytics into intent. Networking has been long pole of the tent for a long time. This is where I think we see a lot of changes. Now, we're seeing innovations from cloud giants and [the] way they do things internally being packaged for the broader market. Financial services don't have the Ph.Ds and development teams like Google. But there are a lot of principles that are at play in other business environments that are applicable, and these capabilities can be repackaged for customers.
What are some of these products that enterprise customers can now consider?
Casemore: Analytics. Cisco has done that with Tetration. When you look at what a lot of the hyperscalers do now, it's in-house. They develop it themselves. Using SDN overlays and systems such as ACI [Application Centric Infrastructure], NSX, Juniper Contrail or Nuage network virtualization, you can tie together availability zones and create rapid snapshots of an environment for disaster recovery purposes.
These are all things pioneered by hyperscalers. SDN itself was pioneered by hyperscalers. But it's still a bridge too far for many enterprises. The challenge for established vendors is to look at best practices in the cloud that are relevant to enterprises trying to build private cloud, SDN or container orchestration with Kubernetes. How do you network for that in a way that is as intelligent and automated as possible?
Brad Casemoreanalyst at IDC
If you look at what's happening with application delivery controllers [ADCs] such as F5, Citrix, NetScaler or A10, they're all having to remake their business for multi-cloud. Because, again, when apps were all behind the firewall, physical ADCs made a lot of sense. It's no longer a sensible model from an app security or management approach. You have to think about it again from an as-a-service model. Vendors are talking less about ADCs and more about application services. Cloud is changing the game.
Previously, IT teams would buy an ADC from a vendor. But now, in the cloud, developers will have no history with those vendors and want a frictionless experience -- no salespeople calling them. Vendors are trying to encourage IT teams to do one-stop shopping and act as broker for DevOps. Many vendors are offering free-to-try developer models for which you don't have to deal with a salesperson.
What changes do you think we will see at the network edge with the rise of SD-WAN or hybrid WAN?
Casemore: In the future, you'll have 5G. And if you're a resource company way out in the hinterland, such as oil and gas or forestry, you may also have satellite. Hybrid WAN will optimally and intelligently deliver apps, based on how much jitter and latency they can handle.
Some have proposed 4G LTE Advanced as an alternative to 5G. How does that fit in?
Casemore: There is demand for that from certain vertical markets, particularly retail. It's a good backup for point-of-sale applications. Similarly, in healthcare, with highly distributed campus environments, 4G LTE Advanced will have some legs.
It will be interesting to see what happens with 5G. Many people think 5G is the answer to everything. But given the way carriers operate, it is going to be priced pretty high for some applications. IoT devices often only send back a few kilobytes of data. I don't see 5G as the hammer for every nail. It will be applicable across the market, but it depends on how it's priced.