Talking about new ways to “fix” old problems or enabling functionalities that weren’t even possible before by introducing something that goes against established doctrine, can be an interesting experience.
The flip-side of the coin is that a lot of “new ways” are greatly oversold, of course a certain technology or product can’t fix ALL your problems, keep asking the tough questions.
But by keeping an open mind maybe you can see value that wasn’t there before, maybe by embracing change your world can become a whole lot more interesting, maybe you can become the automator instead of eventually becoming the automated.
“You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure.”
But, but, if we would implement that we would loose x-y-z…
Back in the days of the mainframe (wait didn’t IBM just release the z13?, anyway…) you could do end to end performance tracing. You could issue an I/O and follow the transaction throughout the system (connect time, disconnect time, seek time, rotational delay,…), this worked because the mainframe was a single monolithic system, it had a single clock against which the I/O transaction could be measured and the protocol carrying the I/O cared about this metadata and allowed it to be traced. Today we have distributed systems, tracing something end to end is a whole lot trickier but that hasn’t stopped us from evolving because we saw the value and promise of the “new way”. What we have gained is much greater than what we have lost. Where you differentiate yourself has changed, the value you can get from IT has moved up the stack, we live in a world of abundance now, not a world of scarcities.
It’s all about the use case stupid!
I work for a vendor, and I evangelise a new way of looking at networking by doing network virtualisation/software defined networking (God I hate that I need to write both terms in order not to upset people, who cares what we call it, seriously). Obviously this stirs up a lot of controversy among “traditional” networking people, some of it warranted, some of it not. Just like it did when we first started talking about server virtualisation. In the end it comes down to the use case, every technology ever created was done with a specific set of use cases in mind. If those use cases make sense for your organisation, if they can move your business forward somehow maybe it is worth a (second) look.
I won’t spend time talking about my specific solutions’ use cases, that’s not what this blogpost is about.
A very interesting new way (at least in my humble opinion) of looking at things in a software defined world is this concept of machine learning. Systems that use data to make predictions or decisions rather than requiring explicit programming for instruction. What if the network can look at what is happening on the network, combine this with historical data (historical analytics) and make autonomous decisions about what is the best future configuration (maybe do things like redirect traffic by predicting congestion (using near real-time analytics), rearrange paths based on the workload’s requirements (using predictive analytics), etc.)
This kind of thinking requires a capable and unbound platform, something that can quickly adapt and incorporate new functionality. We now have big data platforms that can give us these insights using analytics, combine this with a programmable network and we have a potent solution for future networking.
Someone who is very active and vocal in this space is David Meyer, currently CTO for Service Providers and Chief Scientist at Brocade. I highly recommend checking out some of his recent talks, transcripts of which you can find on his webpage at http://www.1-4-5.net/~dmm/vita.html or have a look at the YouTube video below for his presentation during Network Field Day 8 where he talks about the concept of Software Defined Intelligence.
*Regarding the title, yes I am a warhammer 40k fanboy 😉