Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My 2011 Update and Thoughts on What’s Coming in 2012

An Eventful Year with Many Changes
It’s been an eventful year for me and I thought an update was in order. On the work front there have been a lot of changes. I joined Juniper Networks in November. I’m focused on technical marketing for data center and cloud. This is a return for me as I was at Juniper before moving to Cisco in 2007. It’s interesting how the world turns, and I’m excited to be back.

When I was interviewing at Juniper I was asked what attracted me to the jobs that I had. Of course there are many things, but being a techie what stands out for me is working on market leading products and I’ve been fortunate to have worked on some firsts. At Lucent it was the Portmaster (formerly Livingston), the first digital remote access server. At Redback it was the SMS (Subscriber Management System), the first broadband aggregation platform. At Entone it was a suite of products for IPTV that preceded FIOS and UVerse. When I first went to Juniper in 2005 it was the Peribit WX, the first WAN Optimization devices. At Cisco I got into cloud computing and marketed data center solutions including virtualized network services that ran on the UCS compute platform. At VCE I marketing the first pre-engineered converged infrastructure platform for private cloud computing.

So the question is what brought me to Juniper? Working at a company that continues to innovate in the networking space was a big draw. The opportunity to be on a newly formed team that is focused on critical areas of the network and to be the lead for data center and cloud computing was important. My role in technical marketing is to bridge the gap between the capabilities of the networking equipment and the value delivered to the business in terms of application performance and availability. I believe that the network design is critical to delivering a superior user experience and enabling applications architected for the cloud. As I looked at how applications are becoming more complex and more highly distributed I saw how Juniper’s innovative QFabric switching platform was ideally suited to meet the requirements of this trend in application architecture. So the short answer is the opportunity to market data center solutions based on QFabric.

Here are a few areas of interest that I expect to be writing about in the coming months.

Intelligent Networks for Intelligent Applications
I expect to see more intelligence in the applications and more intelligence in the network. Applications that are built for the cloud are not like legacy Enterprise applications. They are highly distributed, even across data centers in some cases. They run on banks of servers dedicated to a particular process. They have built in resiliently functions; they can spawn multiple instances, and failover to other sites. All of this complexity creates an opportunity for the network to add value. There is a need for high performance in the data center created by the massive east-west traffic patterns of highly distributed applications and there is a need for optimized performance across the WAN to create a good user experience and scalable interconnect methods to enable distribution of workloads across data centers.

The interesting thing about applications built for the cloud is that they don’t need to use virtualization. They have built in intelligence as I described above. Virtualization is used as a way to breathe life into legacy applications by enabling better utilization of compute resources and higher availability through mobility. This won’t be as important as applications are built for the cloud. Virtualization is also used to provider containers for hosting applications for customers of public cloud services and I imagine it will continue to find utility there for running batch jobs and to host applications that aren’t at the scale to have their own dedicated resources. However as result of the move to applications built for the cloud I expect that virtualization will lessen in importance over time.

New Cloud Service Opportunities
Recently I’ve been marketing what amounts to Enterprise utility computing. This is often called IT as a Service when performed by the internal IT department and Compute or Infrastructure as a Service when done by a Service Provider. IaaS is a market that has been developing over time and there are many Service Providers with an offer. It is an increasingly competitive market place and Service Providers are seeking ways to differentiate their service that are more granular. While there is still life left in offering hosted virtual machines as a service I expect that Service Providers will be looking for new ideas for offering value added services on top of their IaaS infrastructure. Many offers have been tried such as VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) as a Service or Storage as a Service. I feel that for most use cases it is either a competitive market or there isn’t a good ROI. As a result service providers are looking for new service models. (See, Cloud Computing Buyers Demand More, Survey Finds).

Software and Platform as a Service
An area where I expect to see continued growth is Software as a Service and the related Platform as a Service for developing the SaaS applications. (See, Worldwide SaaS Revenue to Grow 21 Percent in 2011: Gartner). As the Enterprise looks at the high cost of running applications themselves and as they move away from obsolescent legacy applications they will look more and more to the service model. This trend has already been happening for some time and I expect that it will accelerate. There are some applications that may linger on in the Enterprise Data Center due to regulatory issues and business decisions around core services and the private cloud utility computing model still will see some traction but I think the trend will be towards Software as a Service puts increasing demands on the data center and the network. SaaS offers a business opportunity for the Service Providers. The opportunity is to host the SaaS applications and use their data center and network capabilities to deliver a better quality of service for customers who value committed service levels for uptime and network performance and are willing to pay a premium for this. Scaling the data center infrastructure, MPLS traffic engineering, VPNs, QoS, security and intelligent networking will be critical in building the network for service assurance in the cloud.

Big Data Analytics as a Service
A new area of interest that Service Providers will look at is Big Data Analytics as a Service. Big Data Analytics is a growing area of interest for Enterprise customers as they can use it to gain valuable insights in to their customers buying habits but they will struggle to deal with it. The amount of data to be analyzed is massive. The methods that need to be used are not like the old Business Intelligent processes. New software tools to manage the workloads and processes need to be developed and a number of startups are emerging to tackle this need (See Employees From Yahoo, Google, And Facebook Are Flocking To These Start-Ups). The demands on the data center are formidable. One could make the case that data centers will be designed just for running large scale Big Data Analytics jobs. The IaaS monolithic infrastructure often deployed for private cloud, based on blade servers and virtualization and SAN storage is not suitable for this job. Big Data Analytics will require banks of computers that are dedicated to a particular task and communicate with other banks for computers performing another task. They will need to be connected by a flat layer 2 network providing any-to-any connectivity and with low latency for the highest performance. Moving workloads between data centers will require secure high speed WAN links with optimized routing and intelligence to determine the right location to move them to. Some service providers might even act as hubs and broker workloads to participating data centers.

That’s it for now. Obviously these topics are complex and I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ll be digging deeper in to these topics and others soon. I’ll be blogging more about what Juniper is doing in the data center and cloud space as well as how the network can meet the challenge of delivering distributed applications that are designed for the cloud.

Here is the link to my blog on the Juniper Network's blog site, see link

Backstory: This is my first blog since returning to Juniper Networks. I've decided to share more of my thoughts on this and in upcoming blogs.

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