Earlier this year, Forrester conducted research into the data center networking market. In the report titled The Forrester Wave™: Hardware Platforms for Software-Defined Networking, Q1 2018, lead research analyst Andre Kindness looked at a number of criteria split across current offerings, strategy, and market presence. Andre concluded that there is a palpable changing of the guard in the networking space, driven largely by technology changes in the virtualization and cloud spaces.
Following that research, we invited Andre to spend time talking through some of his findings in more detail:
Summarizing the Research
Forrester reaches a number of important conclusions in their research and presentations. Given the rise of virtualization and cloud, Andre outlines a future that will be more software-defined and highly automated. In a bid to simplify networking, enterprises will look to adopt these technologies as they roll out what Forrester calls “business-wide fabrics”.
He notes that for those in stages of cloud migration where it’s necessary to choose hardware today, it’s essential to consider how that selection sets up their infrastructure for flexibility in the future. Forrester evaluated 40 different criteria spread across both product capabilities and surrounding services and support. The chief conclusion of the report is that these new requirements are ushering in a new wave of vendor leaders.
Developing an Enterprise Strategy
In both the IDG and "Top Tips for a Successful Data Center Redesign" webinars, guest speaker Andre Kindness has words of advice for his enterprise clients:
- Become current. Andre observes that many enterprises still struggle with fully understanding the newest technologies. Terms like SDN and NFV have become difficult to decipher as the industry has used them broadly to refer to a number of different areas. This leaves enterprises ill-equipped to truly evaluate new solutions and develop plans to move forward. Enterprises must invest time developing their people so that they can better understand skills, processes, and even metrics required to be successful with the new wave of networking solutions.
- Develop a network strategy. While it seems obvious that enterprises should have a top-level network strategy, the reality is that many enterprises do not have a fully-developed approach to networking. Without a destination, any step is in the right direction. Enterprises looking to exploit the latest technologies will do well to explicitly document their plans and then share them across the enterprise to guarantee alignment between stakeholders—both users and service providers within the company.
- Be opinionated. While an enterprise strategy will be informed by vendors, enterprises should be opinionated in their plans. That is to say that enterprises should be careful of completely ceding their architectural point of view to vendor advisors who lack the context and accountability to adequately plan the future.
Guiding Enterprises Forward
With a strategy in tow, Andre provides additional tips for making progress in evolving the network for cloud and multicloud architectures:
- Lay the runway out. While technology is changing the industry, the real impacts of cloud and multicloud are operational. And that means that people, process, and tooling are all important components to navigating change. Andre suggests that enterprises need to understand where they are today and then meet their people where they are, elevating the workforce in preparation for change.
- Don’t force it. While change is necessary for survival, forcing change on an organization that is not prepared for it or at a pace that exceeds their ability to execute will simply create chaos. Enterprises should use naturally occurring refresh and expansion opportunities so that they can use the company’s momentum to successful carry these projects forward. They can also begin with hardware selections while keeping options open in the evolving industry of software-defined componentry.
- Measure effectively. Andre notes that most companies still use things like network uptime as their primary metric. But in a more software-defined world, things like time to recovery and the degree to which automated operations are relevant are key to tracking progress. Having the right metrics will go a long way to aligning the company and getting resources working on the right things.
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