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CIO Review >> Magazine >> April - 2013 issue

Networking Infrastructure: The Missing Piece in Cloud IT Architecture

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Sunnyvale based PLUMgrid provides network virtualization solutions to companies building and managing data centers. Founded in 2011, the company has raised a total funding of $10.7 million from Hummer Winblad, Venture Partners and US Venture Partners.

New applications with new demands are forcing providers to rethink how IT infrastructure is built, consumed and delivered. There is a clear shift in the delivery of services from a traditional IT infrastructure to a cloud-based IT infrastructure. This shift is fueling a new approach to build the three pillars of IT infrastructure: compute, storage and networking. The cloud requires an agile, secure and on-demand delivery of services. To fulfill this vision, the network and its functions must first be virtualized so that the operational benefits of virtualization can be realized. Second, it must be automated so that the provisioning and delivery of services can happen instantly. Virtual Networking Infrastructure will play a critical role in this shift to a cloud-based IT delivery model.

However, today, Virtual Networking Infrastructure is the missing piece in cloud IT architecture, preventing providers from delivering on the ultimate dream of on-demand, anywhere-anytime, simple, secure and efficient delivery of IT services. It is a hot area of innovation and the industry is frantically working to get solutions to the market.
Infrastructure virtualization coupled with automation will lead to the simplification of the IT operational model. The need for agility, security and on-demand provisioning of compute and storage will drive the adoption of Virtual Networking Infrastructure and services.

Automated Virtual Networking will fundamentally change the way cloud services are delivered and consumed by end users. Cloud-based IT will be simpler, cheaper, self-serviced and on-demand.
While cloud IT delivery disruption is well on its way, significant challenges remain for IT infrastructure providers in adapting their offering to the cloud model of building infrastructure. These challenges are not trivial to overcome. Often times they require combining innovative new products with the resolve to cannibalize old business models to meet cloud IT expectations. Startups are well-positioned in this environment to fulfill the new needs of cloud IT customers, who have either changed, or are well on their way to changing, their IT buying behavior.

Cloud IT infrastructure in the near future will not be provided by a single vendor. It will be a nexus of ecosystems of best-in-class products, provided by a set of incumbents and startups, based on open APIs and SDK, delivered within a commercially feasible time frame.

Constituencies and Stakeholders increase the Challenge

The challenge for entrepreneurs continues to be the same old.The entrepreneur needs to understand the customer pain point and deliver innovative and unique solution that removes the pain and delights the customer with a simple and easy to use product.

In an enterprise environment, the presence of many constituencies and stakeholders makes the task even more challenging. But the fundamentals remain the same. Addressing relevant pain points towards solving a business problem by offering a clear ROI through an innovative and viable product is a strategy that works. Elements of disruption in business, delivery and operational models also help.
Infrastructure transformation happens over time. Cloud IT is not an exception. The movement towards clouds is cautious and measured today, but it is accelerating at a rapid pace. The greatest challenge for an entrepreneur in the cloud IT infrastructure space is to stay focused and execute flawlessly, while keeping execution synchronized with customer expectations. At the same time, the entrepreneur must develop and maintain the agility to change and make adjustments as business needs evolve.