Galloping Horse

Networking in the Year of the Horse

Galloping HorseHappy New Year to everyone.  The Chinese New Year on 31st January brings in the Year of the Horse — is this analogous with what we can expect to happen in the networking world through the rest of the year?

Luckily, the horse world is varied, so we can probably draw enough comparisons to come up with a picture of the year.

  • The Carthorse: the trusty, strong engine of the pre-industrial revolution, the carthorse was the mainstay for agricultural Europe.  Although the move to IP-everywhere continues on apace, older systems, including TDM, will continue to be present and facilitate information transport in many instances.  Vendors in this space will not set the world on fire, but will continue to have decent revenues.  The carthorse will be with us for a while yet.
  • The Pony: the small but endearing pet that is there for first-timers and the young.  The market will remain full of ponies — the new kids on the block with interesting ideas that younger people in the networking space will swear will be their focus forever — many of which will be around extensions to SDN.  However, as the people grow up, they will realize that the pony doesn’t meet their needs any longer and will look to other, larger horses instead. A lot of vendors in this space will find themselves becoming a little less loved — less investment; more requirement to prove themselves; more being passed from one owner to another via acquisition.
  • The Nag: the other end of the scale, these are the horses that are on their last legs.  Sway-backed, they have carried the weight of the networking world for a long time, but they are now struggling to keep up with the younger horses around them.  Software defined everything (SDx) is taxing their abilities: it could be that it is the knacker’s yard for some of these old favorites.  Others will buy in younger horses to try and replace the nags, but they will still need to find a way of “retiring” the nags in one way or another.
  • The Hack: useful in general terms for every day work, the hack provides the general backbone for the average user.  SDx will be embraced by vendors in this space — and will allow them to race those that are generally considered more likely favourites. With no real stress being placed on the requirements for the hack, we could see a proliferation of vendors entering the market in this way — particularly from the East.
  • The Thoroughbred: flighty, nervous and sometimes unpredictable, the thoroughbred is what people think they want, but then find that it is expensive to keep, with a need for in-depth skills to stop the horse from damaging itself, and to keep it in top order.  Vendors trying to differentiate themselves from the rest of the stable could find that they often fail to finish in the Network Purchasing Stakes.
  • The Three-Day-Eventer: a bit of a jack of all trades, the three-day-eventer needs to be capable of getting over obstacles, moving at speed and being elegant.  For many, they show expertise in one of these areas and are poor in the other two.  The gold-medal winner needs to excel in all three.  This could be the focus for the larger network vendor — instead of just concentrating on differentiating itself through network capabilities, it could go for the “SDx” play, working to integrate alongside software defined server and storage needs.
  • The Lipazzaner: highly specialized, trained to do one thing to jaw-dropping standards.  Some vendors in the optical space will continue to make inroads with longer-distance, multi-lambda optical capabilities to take metro and wider data transport speeds to a new level.

What is clear is that the networking world is varied in itself — it is not just a case of transporting the greatest volumes of data in a faster manner.  Indeed, many users will find themselves needing a mix of capabilities and so will find themselves running a stable of different vendors to meet their needs.  This could then mean that an external management capability needs to be brought in, with the skills available to run the multiple different systems together, whether solely through SDx or through a hybrid mix of software abstraction running alongside silicon-based capabilities still held within the networking equipment box itself.

Anyway — let the race begin!

Image credit: WikiMedia Commons

About the author
Clive Longbottom