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Twice a year, the Open Networking User Group, or ONUG, hosts a user-focused conference, where IT executives and analysts come together with the same purpose in mind: to advance open networking.
Each conference features an impressive lineup of keynote speakers and sessions, addressing topics ranging from software-defined WAN and hybrid cloud to IT infrastructure and automation. Founded by Ernest Lefner and Nick Lippis in 2012, ONUG offers the chance for IT leaders to share goals and concerns. The ONUG Spring 2017 conference will be hosted by Gap Inc. in San Francisco, April 25 and 26.
SearchSDN assistant site editor Jennifer English talked with Lippis to discuss the major topics that will be discussed at the spring conference.
This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
What will be the broad theme of the upcoming ONUG Spring 2017 conference?
Nick Lippis: I think most people will come away from ONUG Spring 2017 with three major themes. One is that we've come to the realization that the way we do IT today will be fundamentally and totally different in three to five years. We're in a really accelerated pace of change, and I think the way that will manifest itself is in the types of tools that are used and the skills needed to use them. All the ways and processes in which IT was done before are being rewritten.
The second theme is the architecture of choice is very much grounded in automation. It's also an infrastructure that is a lot more dynamic, versus the static one from the last 20 or 30 years. It's hard to put a name on this, but I've started to call it software-defined cloud -- or a more elaborate term like a cloud-based software-defined infrastructure. Automation and the dynamic behavior of the infrastructure really identify this.
The third theme -- and you could argue that it should have been the first -- is around what's driving all this: digital transformation. It's about how companies now have to be digital. What it means for IT people is that this is a once-in-a-career opportunity. It allows them and enables them to become key business creators for their companies. I think every industry defines digital transformation uniquely, but it's really the manifestation of both mobile and cloud computing, and how the ways in which companies now interact with customers and deliver products and services to customers is digital.
Why did ONUG choose 'Do network engineers need to understand programming?' as the subject of the great discussion?
Lippis: That's fundamental to the third theme of digital transformation, but it transcends all three themes. The way IT organizations are structured is that IT operations tends to be the biggest group with the largest budget. Those folks who do design, procurement and capacity management are the ones who, more than likely, will not make this transition. We think the operational group will shrink by at least a third over the next couple of years.
The new group that will really rise is the group of infrastructure DevOps people, or full-stack engineers. The way the vendors have been selling to the enterprise marketplace over the last couple of years has been around one size fits all, and enterprises then have to spend money trying to customize. Now, what's happening is it's all about APIs and stitching together the fabric -- whether it's monitoring, security or infrastructure fabric. To do that, you need programming skills.
While we think a third won't make it, we think this is a great opportunity for others. You have to get new skill sets, but the bottom line is that it's going to pay.
What new topics should attendees expect at ONUG Spring 2017?
Lippis: On the second day, it's all about cloud consumption -- in particular, hybrid cloud. For the first time at ONUG, we have Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Equinix coming. The ONUG hybrid cloud working group aggregated some of the biggest barriers of entry for cloud adoption, and we shared that with all of the cloud providers. Each of them will be responding to that. They will all get a certain amount of time to tell how they're approaching these problems, how they can be solved and how cloud consumption can increase. That ends with a discussion of, 'What did we learn?' and next steps. I think this is the beginning of a journey in which the cloud providers are fully engaged with ONUG, which is really exciting.
What have the other ONUG working groups been doing?
Lippis: The software-defined WAN group is going to publish its first API that will enable a cloud connectivity component with the SD-WAN space. This API can be used for cloud providers supporting SD-WAN connectivity, as well as for corporations and service providers that want to connect multiple SD-WAN networks together.
The security group has taken an abstracted architecture and is now publishing a framework focused on how to secure assets in a software-defined world, regardless of whether the workload is on premises or off premises. They've done a deep dive into components of their security framework and will be publishing a paper.
What else has caught your attention in the networking industry?
Lippis: What's been interesting over the past couple of years is the language vendors and IT execs use to communicate has become broken. What I mean by this is when an IT exec talks to a vendor about a problem they're having that needs a solution, the vendor usually hears something to the effect, 'This IT exec wants me to open up my solution and open source it so they can use it for free.' And when a vendor talks about its solution for a particular problem an IT exec has expressed, the IT exec usually hears, 'They're just trying to lock me in for the next five years into an architecture that's too rigid and won't be able to change.'
Now, IT execs have cloud providers and open source software they can use as leverage against the vendors. There's a new dynamic and language happening in the industry that isn't necessarily helpful. We want to start to explore that at this ONUG and look at a way we can communicate with one another. How do we move forward as an industry with these new elements, like open source, cloud providers and so forth? It's not something that gets headlined, but it's something that happens every single day between buyers and sellers.
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