As discussed in the first blog of this series, “CLOUDWAN and the journey to the Edge Computing World,” the network infrastructure of the global enterprise is on a path to decentralization. Convergence is another central theme in the journey to a new generation of IT infrastructure that embraces and enables the Local Edge. That journey and the edge it empowers not only create opportunities for local capabilities and agility, but also enable new business opportunities and create cost reductions for the enterprise.
We see three areas of traditional IT that are part of this journey of convergence:
- Virtualization of the network fabric through software defined WAN’s (SD-WAN)
- Distributed applications being run locally, interacting with IoT and other local resources directly in the local environment (Edge Computing)
- Movement away from hardware appliances in central facilities and pushing containerized Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to each branch or remote location
The convergence of these three formerly separate elements dramatically transforms our infrastructure. Transport (e.g. networks), functions (e.g. appliances) and capabilities (e.g. applications) move away from being discrete silos managed by independent processes to single, dynamic and operationally actioned services.
The failure of infrastructure is that it translates poorly from the idealized whiteboard to the operations console. How many times have we drawn sketches that are reworked and reworked repeatedly in real time at the command line to make it work? Perhaps this is because all three of these areas are independent of one another, with no knowledge of how they should interact as they blindly operate.
Hence, this convergence, much like the IT convergences of the past, will unearth new requirements that will drive centralized management, agility and distributed capabilities. Traditional infrastructures are misaligned to address these requirements.
So, knowing this, how will the next generation transform the enterprise infrastructure?
- Infrastructure will move away from the complex and inefficient patterns we have today to unified, simplified distributed capabilities with centralized stateless management. This means multiple physical devices will be replaced with single local devices that are centrally managed and capable of running virtual appliances. Devices can be replaced, reused and repurposed on the fly with minimal or no downtime to bring new capabilities based on the speed of software and development operations, rather than truck rolls.
- The local capability will be dramatically scaled and change at need. We will have services and capabilities deployed in data centers, cloud or locally. Edge applications will be standard rather than an afterthought.
- Infrastructure, much like we see in many cloud services, will move from expensive and time consuming to a place where we can predict and manage costs and efforts. We will pick and choose based on cost, availability, need and user requirements rather than on what is available – and not just in the cloud, but throughout the enterprise infrastructure, from the cloud down to the remote location. Our need for onsite human interaction will lessen as we will be able to change and deploy, configure or remove at will, and in many cases, drive this by DevOps rather than IT availability and individual skillsets.
Why do we believe this next generation infrastructure is necessary and relevant? The reality is that the consumer marketplace has already moved to the local edge in some respects. On-demand personal network, compute, decision support and capabilities, as well as on-demand personal physical services, like transportation, dining and purchasing, are already standard to a new generation of consumers. Those consumers are demanding that same experience across everything. Why? Because the fragmented, disparate, variegated patchwork of capabilities fails to deliver the seamlessness that convergence delivers.
Against that demand, existing IT services are still struggling with outdated, centralized, one-size fits all “latency defined” services. Inside the enterprise, when services fail to serve their customers, they respond with Shadow IT, or if they are competitors (especially small startups), they are surging ahead – and not because they are better, but because they are not burdened with these legacy system struggles. The next generation infrastructure and the convergence it enables will be fundamental in addressing these changes.
To overcome the challenges of infrastructure and convergence, in the third and final blog of this series, I will share my insights on owning and operating in the new Edge Computing world. What products and services are needed for this journey? What steps are needed to get there?
With CLOUDWAN, NTT i³ is providing enterprises with a single solution to enable a distributed edge. That means speed and agility of overlay networks; delivery, management, integration, and control of NFV and network orchestration; and applications at the edge of the network. Take IT to the Edge. For more information on CLOUDWAN, visit www.cloudwan.io