This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the Gestalt IT Networking Field Day 13 event in Silicon Valley. This is the fifth event in the Tech Field Day series that I have gotten to attend, and to be asked back is an honor every time. I was joined by a small panel of fellow “delegates” in the networking field, to hear deeply-technical briefings from a handful of Silicon Valley tech companies — some industry stalwarts and some startups.
Networking Field Day events offer a great opportunity to see where the industry is going, and hear from a variety of vendors, some of whom are H.A. partners. In this blog post, I wanted to recap a few of the overall themes I noticed during the NFD13 event.
Software-Defined WAN. It’s real, and it’s only getting bigger. I still think it’s a bad name for the technology, but the IT industry has a long history of latching onto bad names for good ideas. SD-WAN solutions allow a network administrator to intelligently leverage multiple WAN connections (be they dedicated/private or Internet transport) to carry numerous applications by routing the application traffic over the link(s) best suited for them at any given time. The “standard” SD-WAN feature set usually also includes an easy-to-use interface, and central administration and orchestration for the entire network. SD-WAN will be the way we build wide area networks moving forward (even Gartner says so!). One big question, however, will be whether to build or buy your SD-WAN. I discussed my thoughts on that in an article on my personal blog, Herding Packets.
Security and the Zero-Trust Data Center
The next big theme I saw at NFD13 was a deep focus on security solutions. Information security takes many forms, and these days, network security isn’t just about having a firewall at your organization’s Internet edge. Micro-segmentation is gaining steam as data center SDN solutions, like Cisco ACI, offer real capabilities to build a zero-trust data center environment. Further, visibility fabrics enabling security monitoring and data collection at numerous points in the network are also becoming more prevalent as enterprises deal with security threats from within, as well as from outside the network perimeter. Testing our infrastructure against planned changes to see what impact those changes may have, and how infrastructure security may be effected by those changes, is a third facet we heard about at NFD13, which many enterprises are not doing at present.
As we continue to hear at an increasing pace about larger and larger data breeches all over the Internet, every enterprise should be taking a very hard look at enhancing their security posture.
There is a bit of an inside joke amongst Tech Field Day delegates these days when hearing about any new product: “But, does it have an API?” This stems from the fact that we are moving toward code-driven infrastructure where changes to networking, compute, and storage platforms are not always done by an engineer interacting directly with a product’s interface, but rather by a script or piece of software doing the bidding of the IT administrator.
I noticed that just about every product we were briefed on at NFD13 had two things in common: 1) It was all about the software, the extensibility, the integrations and much less about the hardware. 2) Yes, there is an API. Four or five years ago when the term “Software Defined Networking” first hit the networking industry, this was not quite what most of us envisioned, but I think these two elements — software extensibility focus, and the ability to drive the solutions from a software wrapper — have come to define “software defined.”
Cloud integration goes hand-in-hand with the software-centricity theme, and this too was very apparent among the NFD13 presentations. As we move toward a hybrid IT world, any solution coming to market has to be able to run locally, run in the cloud, or move between. We should be expecting this from just about every new solution we look to deploy in the modern enterprise IT environment.
Overall, Networking Field Day 13 reminded me that we are moving toward software-driven, automated, orchestrated infrastructure, with a new eye on security at all layers. This brief post really didn’t do justice to a few of the presenters, so I strongly recommend taking some time to check out the NFD13 event page to read some of the other blog posts written by fellow delegates at the event, and view video recordings of the presentations. You can even learn how to become a delegate yourself in the future!
Additionally, please contact an H.A. office or your H.A. Account Manager to learn more about any of the technologies or solutions mentioned in this article. I’d be happy to discuss them with you!