I spent the last couple of weeks preparing for the Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam. Coming from a long history of on-premises data centers, I find the messaging and training from AWS to be totally different. In VMware training, we spent a lot of time looking at designing and setting up networking and storage. The remaining time was spent creating and managing VMs on the infrastructure. In more advanced courses, we looked at automating these configurations. More recently, courses have covered deploying software-defined networking (SDN). But always, we directed our effort toward making sure the VM was up and getting the resources it wanted. In Amazon Web Services, the ability to deploy vast numbers of VMs and have multi-tenant SDN is a given. It’s not even the interesting part of the AWS platform. AWS is all about the services that supplement the applications inside your VMs.
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In a shock announcement on Wednesday, Martin Casado announced that he was leaving VMware’s Networking and Security business unit, the group that owns the NSX product, to join the venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner. Casado was co-founder and CTO of Nicira, the network company that VMware brought for $1.2 billion in 2012.
This closes the circle for Martin, whose first institutional investor at Nicira was Andreessen Horowitz. Ben Horowitz of the company served on Nicira’s board and acted as Casado’s business mentor.
It’s the end of the year, and a good time for thinking back. I’m thinking back to a dark past long ago, when physical servers ran server operating systems, and ran applications—when those servers plugged into a switch, and each endpoint was a single server. The network team could see every device, endpoint, or switch, and could trace packets from end to end. Network admins would tell you that those were Golden Days, when troubleshooting was easy and networks were simple. Then, ten or so years ago, along came server virtualization. All of a sudden there were multiple servers on any given endpoint, and worse, the servers would move between endpoints not only at will, but mid-flow. Troubleshooting became Hard, with a capital H.
However, who outside of Silicon Valley and the Fortune 500 companies truly knows the details of a software-defined network?
Yesterday I was reading about Cisco’s fourth quarter earnings results, as you do when you are bored and waiting for the next episode of EastEnders to start—well, we all have to take a rest from SDN goodness every now and then. Now, this was interesting for two reasons. It was the last quarter under the leadership of big bad John Chambers and the first announced by new head honcho Chuck Robbins (sounds like a cross between a cage fighter and a liberal comedian). Firstly, congratulations are in order on the results—Cisco exceeded analysts’ predictions of $12.6 billion in revenue, with $12.8 billion and a per-share profit of 59 cents, up almost 4% over the previous year, and an overall year-over-year increase of 4%.
In previous articles, we discussed IT transformation in general, IT transformation and security, and the top-down and migration approaches to IT transformation. Now, it is time to discuss a method of IT transformation I call “no changes to management.” With this method, IT transformation happens by natural, existing means within the data center, by adding software to aid and augment existing management software. That software forms the core of a transformation engine that, in effect, migrates and manages your cloud presence from your on-premises existing management suite.