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Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Server Den Asks Infoblox: What's Infrastructure 2.0?

Greg Ness, senior director of the networking automation vendor, talks about managing infrastructure sprawl and offers insight into the standards-oriented Infrastructure 2.0 Working Group, of which Cisco is a member.

The evolution of the data center and of the enterprise network will be the hot button issues of 2010. As virtualization explodes and networks continue to sprawl, there'll be an impetus to rein in complexity. I believe that the desire to more capably manage the technologies at issue--or, more precisely, to fit everything under an easy to grasp intellectual umbrella--is behind the emergence of marketing-inspired monikers such as unified computing (Cisco), integrated infrastructure (HP), and dynamic infrastructure (IBM).

The gentleman we're chatting with today, Greg Ness (picture at right), senior director at networking automation vendor Infoblox, prefers the term Infrastructure 2.0. In fact, he's a founding member of the Infrastructure 2.0 Working Group, which held its initial meeting in September.

The group is hoping to frame a reference architecture for Infrastructure 2.0. In our conversation, Ness was circumspect about the details of the group's work, but that's probably because they're still groping towards a definition of a problem statement, which outlines their mission and just what exactly they intend to deliver.

It's also possible that the reticence to dive into details--Ness says that the Working Group (WG) is currently in "stealth mode"--stems from concerns that non-member competitors might be disinclined to cede standards-making to the horse upon which the WG is riding in on.

Still, the WG is nothing if not a collection of networking glitterati, making it a force sure to be reckoned with. Its founder is Interop creator Dan Lynch. Along with Lynch, Ness, and Infoblox chief technology officer Stu Baily, members include representatives from Cisco, TCP/IP co-designer Vint Cerf, Bob Grossman of the Open Cloud Consortium, and Yahoo's vice president of cloud computing guru Surendra Reddy.

In my interview with Ness, he nicely framed many of the issues confronting the group as well as the next-gen networking arena in general. A quick aside: As for his enthusiasm for the automation of core network services, I get that Infoblox has some skin in this game. Yet that doesn't negate the value of what Greg has to say. Here's an edited transcript of our chat:

InformationWeek: Let's dive right in. Define the issue, as you see it.

Greg Ness: If you look at networks today, the way they're operated, run, and configured hasn't really changed for the last several decades. There's a contrast between today's networks and today's systems. The systems are getting increasingly automated, while the networks are still very much in silos. If I were to articulate this in one sentence, I'd say that today's networks are run like yesterday's businesses.

InformationWeek: What's the impact?

Ness: If you wanted one other big-picture contrast, the CIO today is essentially blind to the status of the network and the operations infrastructure, when compared to the CFO, who has the real-time visibility. That contrast is becoming increasingly apparent as networks get larger and more dynamic, with more devices attached.

InformationWeek: Yet network sprawl shows no signs of abating.

Greg Ness: When virtualization entered the production environment, it had two impacts. One, it enabled the growth in VLANs, because networks really weren't ready for virtualization, and what better way than to create these pockets which have security policies and where users can access similar types of applications? However, that's kind of run its course.

You have a second aspect, which is cultural. This is when people can see that they can create, spin up, and move up a server with a mouse click, and yet they have to wait for hours--if not days--for a server to be moved.

I was talking to a vice president of cloud for a large enterprise. He commented that it cost about as much to move a server as it does to buy a new one. There's something wrong with this picture. The gating factor is the static, manually configured notion of the network, which is decades behind the automation that's taking place in systems today.

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