As HP unveils it's new FlexNetwork Architecture (stories on ZDNet, InformationWeek and Network World), they seem to be making a bold statement about the future of corporate networks. And that is that changing requirements are inevitable, so why not build out a network that can support all the new cloud and mobile tricks you know about ... and the ones you don't?
Aside from the HP versus Cisco narrative that the press loves, there is a major need for a convergence on networks, but it's not just a convergence with the networks themselves, it's a convergence with the rest of the enterprise and the rest of the cloud and mobile requirements bubbling up fast. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
A future-proof network is more about management and security than hardware and platforms. And it's also about ecosystems: HP is partnering extensively with Citrix, Microsoft and Riverbed. No one vendor can or should be the sole network IP supplier (just like there should no be one cloud provider).
What's more, the virtualization trend that begets the cloud trend that supports the mobile trend all require intelligent networks that have security ingrained -- not gained after the fact. As workers depend more on cloud and hybrid computing services, the network is the cloud.
When I hear people complain about the risks associated with cloud, I dare them to look closely at their own mission critical networks. Often what they find are existing, in-place risks that dwarf what they fear most about the cloud. The fears about security, reliability, control, data and privacy: These risks already live on their disjointed networks.
Those networks, incidentally, are the weak link between their nice, safe, controlled data centers on premises and all the people and partners that actually need to use them. The boundary is not the enterprise, it is the ways in which their networks can adapt.
Fear your old network first
So if you fear cloud, you should probably fear your current network, for all the same reasons.
And that's because in this day and age all large-scale IT for enterprises is supported by WANs and how they play with the global stew of network service providers. This is for apps, data, communications, VOIP, media, VPN, branch, mobile ... you name it.
My modern network needs to be comptaible and secure for data center, campus, branch and WAN activities. And I need to stream and move large objects more than ever. It doesn't make sense for the CFO to ask workers to use the cloud (because it saves data center resources) when the network can't support cloud workloads and requirements, does it?
Whether you have to revisit your network architecture because of performance, costs, compliance, security or just new payloads like mobile and media, you might as well do it right. The network really should not be the weak link in the enterprise. Not any more. Not for any longer.
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