All I Want For Christmas Is Some Dumb IP

Christmas GiftWell, it’s that time of the year – the time when we’re thinking about what we want for Christmas, and what we will get our friends and family. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for that network manager in your life, try getting some dumb IP, otherwise known as plain old Internet services.

Why would a network manager want some dumb IP? To use as a WAN connection, of course! To help understand why this makes sense, let’s go on a journey with the Ghosts of Network Managers Past, Present and Future:

First up is the Ghost of Network Managers Past. This ghost looks very old and has no ability to consider that corporate applications and data can be stored anywhere but a branch office or one of the company’s data centers. The Ghost of Network Managers Past is very angry at the concept of trying to use the Internet connection as a WAN replacement, and warns, “Don’t use the Internet for business traffic – it’s not guaranteed! Only our expensive MPLS connections will do!” He then rattles some chains and fades off into the fog. A decade or so ago, this kind of thinking was all too common. In fact, I worked for a CIO in the MidAtlantic area that wouldn’t even consider using an Internet VPN to connect small locations.

The next ghost that visits us this holiday season is the Ghost of Network Managers Present. Times have changed since the Ghost of Network Managers Past was running the environment — cloud based applications were the exception then, but are certainly the norm now. My forecasts show SaaS revenue growing from about $30 billion in 2013 to a little over $80 billion in 2019 making SaaS easily the fastest-growing segment of the application market today. The Ghost of Network Managers Present is a strong advocate for using Internet connections to augment the traditional WAN in a hybrid environment. The quality and speed of Internet pipes has increased dramatically over the past couple of decades and prices have continued to fall. The hybrid WAN powered by dumb IP is just coming into its own.

Our last ghost is a scary one. The Ghost of Network Managers Future. He takes us out on a journey to a graveyard and we see hundreds of tombstones in the thick fog. We ask him, who lays in this graveyard? From underneath his dark robe, a bony finger points to the gravesites and he states, “Here lies the career of every network manager that refused to adopt a hybrid WAN model. These individuals didn’t change with the times and wound up costing their organizations millions. Network costs became prohibitively expensive and the cloud applications that line-of-business managers invested in performed poorly because all traffic went through a single choke point.” (At this point he begins choking himself, like the traffic on a legacy network) He then points far out in the distance and tells us that this graveyard, the one for legacy network managers, sits adjacent to the graveyard for telecom managers that didn’t embrace VoIP, and another one for mainframe administrators that didn’t believe in the Windows computing paradigm.

Today, the shift to a hybrid WAN does require many leaps of faith but the shift will happen over time as it’s aligned better with the future of enterprise IT – the cloud. The dumb IP connection provides an excellent, low cost alternative to closed, expensive network connections with very little, if any, degradation in performance. So, this holiday, don’t be a Scrooge, and get your favorite network professional some dumb IP so he or she can avoid their career heading towards the graveyard.

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the issues facing enterprises seeking to implement a Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) solution, as addressed in the Open Networking User Group white paper, “ONUG Software-Defined WAN Use Case”.