VMware NSX and Cisco ACI – IT nirvana or a Kafka-esque nightmare?

storyIn the Franz Kafka novella, Metamorphosis, traveling salesman Gregor Samsa awakens one morning to discover that he has transformed into a hideous creature. Shunned by his family and despite his best efforts to adapt to his new conditions, Gregor eventually withers away and dies alone in his bedroom. Can Kafka’s story serve as a cautionary tale for those IT organizations trying to force transformation into their IT infrastructure too quickly?

 

Transformation is another word for metamorphosis. It is defined as "a marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal.” 

With all the talk in the industry that IT has to become more service provider-like in order to ensure their own survival, is it possible that some organizations could bite off more than they can chew and undergo unintended changes that inadvertently bring about their own demise? 

 

While change can indeed be good, often, prudence is the better part of valor. In other words, rushing headlong too quickly into an IT transformative initiative can be potentially fatal. Perhaps that is why we are seeing a very gradual adoption of software-defined networking (SDN) technologies.

 

Case in point, VMware’s NSX and Cisco’s ACI SDN platforms have seen a relatively slow uptick in adoption over the past couple of years. VMware reports that they now have over 700 customers using NSX while Cisco claims a number slightly north of that. To be sure, many businesses may be slow to invest in these SDN offerings due to a variety of reasons—high initial investment costs, concerns over product maturity, and the added complexity of managing physical networking infrastructure alongside a centralized software-driven networking environment. 

 

Perhaps a simpler explanation as to why SDN has not enjoyed more success to date is the fact that many businesses are still in the throes of completing their server virtualization initiatives. According to ESG research, only 15% of businesses to date report having achieved an IT Zen-like state of transformation. In this blissful utility computing nirvana, end-users have on-demand access to IT computing and application resources, virtualized and/or containerized workloads are provisioned near instantaneously, and water is turned into wine. These 15%er IT alchemists represent a relatively elite faction and quite frankly, it’s possible that some of these folks are overstating how far along they are on the private cloud automation front.

 

On the flip side, approximately 60% of businesses report having an “advanced internal cloud” (defined as having a high percentage of their servers virtualized). And 30% report having a basic internal cloud (virtualization of development, test, and IT-owned applications, low-to-medium percentage of servers virtualized). There appears to be a loose correlation with the number of SDN adopters and the number of businesses reporting they have achieved IT-as-a-service nirvana. Rarefied air for sure. 

 

The simple fact is most businesses may be holding off on virtualizing their networking environment until they can get their virtualized server houses in order. After all, forcing change too quickly could result in a Kafka-esque nightmare scenario. 

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Topics: Networking Cloud Services & Orchestration