IT Networking Organizations In a State of Transition

In a number of recent blogs, I've described an ESG thesis called data center networking discontinuity. Simply stated, data center networking discontinuity describes the growing gap between data center scale and complexity on one hand and legacy data center networking equipment and manual management and operations on the other.

According to ESG Research, enterprise organizations are addressing data center networking discontinuity, albeit quite tactically. For example, many firms are implementing switch clustering, embracing network convergence (i.e., common Ethernet transport for storage and data traffic), and moving to 10GbE as their standard server -to-network interface. In addition to technical changes, ESG also found another transition within the networking organization itself. The research indicates that:

  • 47% of organizations say that their networking teams are collaborating more with other functional IT groups than in the past
  • 38% of organizations say that their networking teams are assuming more operations tasks that were formally performed by other IT groups (i.e., security operations, patch management, etc.)
  • 37% of organizations say that their networking teams needed additional training with other areas of IT (i.e., web applications, server virtualization, storage networking, etc.)
  • 33% of organizations say that their networking team's compensation model is more closely tied to business and/or overall IT objectives
  • 33% of organizations say that their networking team is now integrated into multi-disciplinary IT groups focused on specific projects

These changes are a microcosm of broader changes across IT organizations. Yes, you still need strong functional skills in areas like network engineering, tuning, and troubleshooting, but this data indicates:

  1. The network is the computer. Or at least a big application backplane. As such, networking folks need new skills for new tasks. This is a critical reality for enterprise IT strategy over the next few years.
  2. The network is a bunch of other stuff too. Little things like security, business intelligence, and business processes. Thus the networking team needs to understand its responsibilities in this context.
  3. While other groups (like security) are responsible for defining policies, the networking team is in charge of enforcing policies and day-to-day operations. This alone changes the overall function, value, and time management associated with the networking team.

You can read Jon's other blog entries at Insecure About Security.

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking