Rethinking the Network

Marten Terpstra

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Blog Post

The Next Network Transformation: We Have Only Just Begun By @MartenT1999

Almost every industry will go through waves of change and transformation

Whenever we get to the end of a year we have this tendency to reflect on what has happened in the past year and how we can improve in the coming year. It’s natural to use the change of calendar year as a point in time to think back, even though practically speaking it is usually the most chaotic time of the year between shopping, family and year and quarter end at work.

Almost every industry will go through waves of change and transformation. Real change and transformation is driven by powerful market forces of demand coupled with technology leaps that allow an escape from incremental changes that drive day to day improvements. Networking has gone through several of these transformations. From dedicated main frame based connectivity, to coax based shared ethernet to switches ethernet in local area networks. From 1200 baud dialup serial connections through X.25 (yes, that’s the European in me) to leased T1 to ATM, to Frame Relay, to Packet over SONET to MPLS and various flavors of wide area ethernet services. Some of these were incremental, some of them truly transformational.

When you look back, each of these changes in network technology was very much driven by transmission speeds and complexity, with one or several layers of protocols on top to manage or hide the complexity the physical network provided. Much of the complexity of networks exists because we want the network to appear different than what it is. We want point to point wide area networks to look like a broadcast ethernet like medium. We want ring based infrastructures to look like point to point connections. We create several layers of abstractions, but in reality this is not much different from what happens in CPU and server development and the OS layers built on top.

In the past few years some of the foundations of a next transformational change have been created. But even more important than some of the SDN like technologies that have started to appear in vendor solutions, the far more important change is one of thought process. To really transform something it needs to be viewed differently, treated differently, approached differently. We have (slowly) started to view the network as a consumable resource. And with that apparently insignificant change in point of view, the evolution thought process takes several steps forward. You can now relate the network and services it offers to other consumable resources. And with that process comes a whole new approach on how you can design, implement, provision and manage those resources.

A fundamental change in thinking drives transformational change. At Plexxi we pride ourselves in such a fundamental change in thinking. We believe the network needs to be approached differently to allow it to serve the applications. A new way of thinking is being applied to applications. This new generation of web scale (an overused term i know) applications is fundamentally different than the previous. And it’s not because all of sudden we have a programming language of capabilities. It’s because the approach is different. Those applications need to be connected with a network that thought of with the same fundamental approach. And that is exactly why we require a change in thinking. I am sure we have all at one point to another referred to Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Transformational change takes time. The end of the year reflection makes me smile. The opportunity to change networking is real. We believe it. Our customers believe it. We are almost 4 years young at Plexxi and excited to be part of the network transformation. I cannot wait to see what 2015 will bring us.

We thank you for listening to our opinions and giving us your thoughts and feedback.

From all of us at Plexxi, we wish everyone a peaceful holiday and a very happy and healthy 2015.

The post The Next Network Transformation: We have only just begun appeared first on Plexxi.

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Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.