Enterprises Cannot Have Automation Commitment Issues and Be Successful

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

• Blending intent-based networking with traditional network management paradigms, while a necessary transitional requirement, is fraught with peril.
• Committing fully to intent-based networking will drive all subsequent workflow and product changes and will result in overall better IT.

I recently wrote about the nascent developments around intent-based networking (IBN), specifically, that a system can automate the provisioning of a network based on a very high-level state of what the result should look like. It’s a laudable goal and, I think, still a few years and a few iterations away from reality, but getting there – even any widespread adoption of automation and orchestration – starts with your company’s unwavering commitment to IBN and automation. Read more of this post

Intent-Based Networking: Nascent but Hurdles Remain

M. Fratto

• Intent-based networking (IBN) promises to optimize network operations by shifting IT from a configuration focus to an outcome focus.

• The promise may be a stretch today but IBN is evolving as a technology and a practice and improvements will come from early adopters.

IBN faces significant technical and operational challenges in gaining market acceptance within enterprise IT. The challenges start with defining and understanding what IBN is, but then quickly progresses to include things such as organizational and technical implementation.
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SD-WAN Competition Between Resellers and MSPs Will Heat Up

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • New products, technologies, workflows and architectures used by ISPs as well as IT’s growing acceptance of managed services are laying the groundwork for expansion of SD-WAN managed services.
  • Competition in the SD-WAN segment will increase as existing MSPs and resellers with MSP offerings enter the market.

SD-WAN is disrupting more than WAN services. It’s also the catalyst for the launch of a new round of managed services, which will have a significant impact on the SD-WAN competitive landscape. The clearly defined choice of how enterprises acquire products – via the channel versus managed services providers – is collapsing as MSPs launch new services based on the very same products being sold through the channel. It’s the rare case where a trend that’s great for buyers because of the flexibility it offers is also great for equipment vendors as they can sell more products, but there is a chance for hidden conflicts in the sales cycle. Read more of this post

The Competitive Impact of Cisco’s Acquisition of Viptela Is Yet to Come

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Cisco intends to acquire Viptela for $610 million (USD), but it’s one more SD-WAN product in a sea of products.
  • The competitive impact will take a year or more to be realized, and will largely be determined based on Cisco’s integration strategy.

Cisco Systems intends to acquire Viptela for $610 million. That’s a pretty good chunk of change for a company that already has two SD-WAN products, IWAN on the ISR routers and Meraki’s SD-WAN. Until the deal closes, Cisco and Viptela will be pretty quiet about future plans, but since Viptela will be added to Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Group, it is safe to say it will augment Cisco’s networking portfolio and at least, for a while, be offered alongside IWAN. Read more of this post

Customer Tracking Using WiFi and Beacons Should Be Dead in Retail

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • WiFi and Bluetooth beacons are inconsistent trackers that can tell retailers little more than ‘some device was somewhere in this vicinity for a period of time.’
  • Beacons and RFID on products open up more opportunities for many benefits, including increasing customer touch and understanding their shopping habits.

The National Retail Federation’s 2017 Big Show in New York was a cornucopia of everything retail, from smart displays to supply chain management to social media analytics. One overall theme I kept hearing was how retailers want to enhance the shopping experience with customers and ultimately sell more products. Online retailer sites like Amazon and Best Buy can gather a wealth of information about user behavior and feed that data back into their analytics to track product performance and make recommendations to customers based on past behavior and the behaviors of similar customers. Brick-and-mortar stores don’t have that advantage and are desperately trying to learn more about the buyer and increase sales. Read more of this post

No More IT Stinkin’ Thinkin’

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Vendors promise the world with new products and technology and sometimes deliver. Shift your perspective to what technology can do, not what it can’t do.
  • Pavlovian dismissal of vendor claims is a drag on IT meeting the needs of the enterprise.

Back in the day, when I was failing at car sales (in our fail-fast social fabric, does that mean I was successful?), a sales manager pulled me aside and urged me to avoid “stinking thinking.” He’d point to the sales people huddled by the sales phone who were complaining about lack of leads due to too few walk-ins, the ‘up system,’ or the weather. What they weren’t doing was working the phones or client lists or performing other tasks that would lead to sales. Worse, stinking thinking was infectious, and if a sales person was caught up in the sphere of influence, they got pulled in and started complaining. I would have starved if I stayed in sales, but I took that lesson to heart. Read more of this post

Intentionally Making the Most of SD-WAN

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • Successfully deploying SD-WAN means moving from rigid, static policies to dynamic enforcement of your intentions.
  • Static rules should be a thing of the past and alternative equivalent controls should be evaluated for any lingering static requirements.

Few technologies make me sit up and say, “I want that!” when I see them, and SD-WAN is a game changing technology for organizations that have more than a handful of remote offices and want a better, more efficient way of interconnecting branches and a better, more efficient way to manage them. Regardless of the product you choose, and I discuss them in “SD-WAN H1 2016 Market Update: Vendor Snapshots Show a Crowded, Competitive Field Attempting to Diversify,” the benefits of SD-WAN will seem remarkable, fantastical even, until you see it in action. Implementing the routing, firewall, VPN, link load balancing, application performance, failover, failback, and cost management with traditional branch office equipment is very complex and even more complex to change, including adding new sites. Read more of this post

One Box to Rule the Branch, Yet Again?

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • As companies refresh branch IT products, it’s a good time to evaluate new architectures for a better fit.
  • Network function virtualization (NFV) was born in the service provider space, but the basic concept has legs in the enterprise.

Every five years or so, vendors old and new refocus product development on the branch in an effort both to add capabilities in remote offices and to reduce management overhead as well as the number of trips IT has to make to locations for moves, adds, and changes. There’s always been tension between adding even more appliances to a branch office and consolidating down to fewer multi-function appliances. Having multiple single-function appliances improves performance and increases versatility because functions can be swapped out by replacing hardware, but at the expense of increased management overhead and cost; while utilizing consolidated, multi-function devices promises lower costs, consolidated management and simpler networks at the cost of less versatility in swapping out functional components and the possibility of a failure having a greater impact. Read more of this post

VMworld 2016: VMware’s Plans for Cloud Domination

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • One key strategy VMware employs is attempting to commoditize infrastructure through abstraction and virtualization.
  • Cloud providers need to watch as VMware’s strategy unfolds, ensuring they aren’t commoditized as well.

With Cross-Cloud Services, VMware wants to commoditize cloud services just like it sped up the commoditization of x86 servers. During the keynote demo of the tech preview, VMware replicated much of the functionality found in various cloud dashboards, but more importantly, Cross-Cloud Services consolidates the views into a consistent and cohesive dashboard. I think it’s a pretty impressive effort and I’m curious to see the final product, but as impressed as I may be, I can’t help but consider VMware’s endgame as it tries to manage all the clouds. Read more of this post

Cisco ACI and VMware NSX: Will Those Two Kids Ever Get Along?

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

• Cisco and VMware partner on many integration projects, but the lack of integration between Cisco ACI and VMware NSX has gone on too long.
• Bread crumbs of hints that collaboration between the two SDN units of each company may be a portent or wishful thinking.

Some might see CRN’s article Cisco CEO: We’re Talking With VMware About Closer Software-Defined Networking Relationship” where Cisco’s CEO, Chuck Robbins told the author “…I think our teams are talking about where there might be points that balance the competitive nature of the [Cisco – VMware] partnership, but also meet perhaps some of the emerging customer asks. So I think it that’s to be determined” as a positive assertion that the two companies are going to integrate the ACI and NSX. At last year’s VMworld in San Francisco, executives at VMware made a similar, albeit cryptic, statement as well. That these little bread crumbs are dropping may be a precursor to an announcement as early as this summer, but frankly, I’m not going to speculate on what the two companies could be planning.
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