Finding the industry networking powerhouse
Andre Kannemeyer, CTO at Duxbury Networking, says that customers who are dealing with the digital transformation of their enterprise are often perplexed by the myriad paths available to deliver better business outcomes. Questions around which company is perceived to be leading the networking industry are frequent.
“If you consider this question from the perspective of many notable historic contributions and proprietary technologies and the myriad complex legacy protocols that are part of our day-to-day lives in networking, then a default knee-jerk response to this question is common. However, if you consider which company is driving the technology and changing the networking industry to a more resilient, more secure, more agile future that enables the delivery of better applications and better software to power change and improves business outcomes – then the answer is the Big Three – namely the cloud titans Google, Azure, and AWS,” he says.
“It may be true that the installed base of legacy networking gear comes from a titan of yesteryear. Much like the correcting Selectric was once the installed base leader for typewriters, before the advent of the word processing era, PCs, and Microsoft Word. But the titans are dominating the evolution of our networking future,” Kannemeyer points out.
Kannemeyer says that it’s important, though, for customers to stop thinking in the context of a CLI in the rear-view mirror of yesteryear, but to look forward and anticipate the future of networking. This is important because infrastructure investments not only have to last a long time, but customers should be on the lookout for companies and ecosystems that are in alignment with the evolutionary forces driving our industry. Just like the wrong DNA that doesn’t adapt to market forces ultimately declines or even becomes extinct, so too do networking road maps and technology directions that don’t align well with the paths being blazed by the titans. Moreover, being on the wrong path will ultimately put an enterprise at a disadvantage.
“Approximately two-thirds of all workloads in the cloud run on Linux. The Linux open-source project is now ginormous and the rate of growth in its sophistication is directly attributable to the many contributors that do so on behalf of their cloud-centric workloads. Generally, the titans embrace open source communities and are often major contributors, if not founding contributors. What would networking and application deployment be without Linux?” says Kannemeyer.
“We also need to consider containers. Though Docker did their best to take the early container capabilities of Linux and make them more consumable, Google gave the world Kubernetes; and the world has jumped on board. Containers are the basis of how Google has been running its own networks and applications for years. As the external world took notice some many years after Google, Kubernetes became a ‘thing’. It quickly amassed a huge community and sucked all the oxygen out of the room for other approaches to containers. It also pointed the way for everyone else to the evolution of the old school virtual machines. Containers are the definitive way to make hybrid cloud networking actually work. To whit – even VMware has now announced aggressive support for Kubernetes and containers,” he adds.
“Honing in on the switches and routers of networking, let’s talk data centres, SDN, and automation. Google was first to put a form of SDN to work and at massive scale. They didn’t use legacy networking OSs with an old school CLI or pseudo SDN proprietary solutions. They built the Andromeda SDN project. This project has subsequently influenced the direction of the world’s largest telecom carriers. At the same time, the data centres for many of these titans have been influenced by large scalable networks using the guts of the world’s largest network, which we all call the Internet. The Internet works day to day because of BGP. That is how many of the titans have built their data centres,” Kannemeyer continues.
Each of the titans has taken a slightly different path to automation, according to Kannemeyer. Yet, each has taken an approach of resiliency, simplicity, agility, and continuous development and continuous deployment. The vast majority of the time they are using industry-standard silicon. In today’s classic enterprise data centre, aside from how VMware might cooperate and ‘manipulate’ the network, in general, the software that underpins the network itself is very rarely updated by enterprise customers. By contrast, a titan may be making many changes per day.
“An example is that most people routinely update their phone’s network OS. If we thought that a bad OS update was likely to block our phones or knock us off the Internet or from cellular services for a day – we would never update them. This is the situation for many enterprise customers today. However, as the enterprise network OS evolves and begins to mimic the microservices model of the titans, the full CI/CD dev process and the levels of automation of the titans, over time enterprises will begin to trust these new models and ultimately reap the same rewards that the titans have achieved; and that we, as their customers have derived,” says Kannemeyer.