Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on meeting the challenges of network management and operations in the age of cloud computing.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Ipanema Technologies.
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.
Thanks for joining this sponsored podcast discussion on the rapidly escalating complexity and consequent need for network management innovation in the age of hybrid computing.
And the emphasis nowadays is on "networks," not "network." Long gone are the days when a common and controlled local area network (LAN) served as the workhorse for critical applications and data delivery. With the increased interest in cloud, software as a service (SaaS), and mobile computing, applications are jockeying across multiple networks, both in terms of how services are assembled, as well in how users in different environments access and respond to these critical applications.
Indeed, cloud computing forces a collapse in the gaps between the former silos of private, public, and personal networking domains. Since the network management and governance tasks have changed and continue to evolve rapidly, so too must the ways in which solutions and technologies address the tangled networks environment we all now live and work in.
Automated network unification and pervasive wide area networking (WAN) governance are proving essential to ensure quality, scale, and manage security across all forms of today's applications use. We're here to explore the new and future path to WAN governance and to better understand how Ipanema Technologies is working to help its customers make clear headway, so that the next few years bring about a hybrid cloud computing opportunity and not a hastening downward complexity spiral.
We're here now to discuss the new reality of networks and applications delivery performance. Please join me in welcoming our guests, Peter Schmidt, Chief Technology Officer, North America, for Ipanema Technologies. Welcome, Peter.
Peter Schmidt: Hey, Dana. It's nice to be here.
Gardner: We are also here with David White, Vice President of Global Business Development at Ipanema. Hello, David.
David White: Hi, Dana. Looking forward to this chat.
Gardner: Let's look at this whole issue of the pain now in networking. The trends around cloud are raising the stakes. Tell us how things have shifted, Dave, over the last several years.
White: Over the last several years, most enterprise customers that we've talked to and, in fact, most enterprise customer in the industry, have moved to using SaaS applications. For example, Salesforce.com is the largest, and is used by most large enterprise companies as a part of their sales force automation. Also, Amazon is doing hosting for hundreds of different businesses providing SaaS applications to enterprises. Peter, do you have any comments?
Schmidt: Another really important trend is that enterprises have added extra networks. They've been building single private networks based on MPLS converted from older technologies like Frame Relay. Over the past few years, we've seen a real trend, where enterprises have been going to the Internet as a backup link for a lot of their offices.
The Internet is cheap bandwidth and it gives some benefits of additional reliability. But now, they've got all this bandwidth lying around, they're paying for it, and they'd like to find a way to make use of that.
As soon as you start using multiple networks, you're in the cloud, because now you're making use of resources that are outside the control of your own IT organization and your service provider. Whether people think about it or not, just by adding a second network, they're taking their first steps into the cloud.
White: I absolutely agree and, as part of that, a lot of customers are looking at things over the Internet that they can use as applications, like Google Apps, that they never could have used even two years ago.
Schmidt: You're suddenly delivering significant applications from Google’s servers over the Internet as an enterprise IT organization. How you get your arms around that is a big question.
Gardner: And, Peter, when we had just internal applications and we are worrying about performance issues with that, that was plenty complex enough, particularly when we want to consider how we brought in new services and new employees, or expanding our organization out to branch offices and whatnot. Give me a sense of how much more complex this is from a network performance management situation.
Schmidt: That’s an excellent point, Dana. I speak at conferences fairly often, and over the past few years, the hot topic has changed a little bit. Even as little as three years ago, the focus was on how to get the most performance for your applications out of your single MPLS network. I am talking enterprises where all of their applications are hosted on their property. They’ve got a single MPLS network from one service provider and they're still struggling to deliver reliable application performance across the infrastructure.
Now, we throw in multiple places to host applications. You have SaaS, Salesforce, and Google Docs. You have platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). People’s critical applications can be hosted in numerous locations, many of which are beyond their control. Then, as I mentioned, these are being accessed via multiple networks, and you have the legacy MPLS plus the Internet.
There are increasing numbers or diversity of models of those networks, whether the Internet connection gets to a service provider POP and then via MPLS to their own data center, or what is the impact of content delivery networks? So we've got a situation where enterprises who are struggling to master the complexity with one data center and one network are now using multiple data centers and multiple networks. Something is going to have to give.
Gardner: For a lot of companies, as they try to push applications out, but retain more central control, perhaps to cut costs with a more consolidated data center strategy, the branch office approach maybe gives them some sense of what to expect as they move toward cloud. In your opinion, Dave, the branch office is sort of a stepping stone to what networking in the cloud ecology or ecosystem is about.
White: Absolutely. It's really all focused once again on the branch for the last five to seven years. We’ve had server consolidation where we try to remove any type of issues for the branch and remove intelligence from the branch. As cloud computing has come in, and we are going through what we have just described regarding usage of the Internet and SaaS applications, we are now putting more stress on the branch.
We're not necessarily putting intelligence out there, but we're having 2, 3, 4, 5, or more networks, all coming into the branch at the same time, and that traffic has to be managed. It’s something a lot of people haven’t thought about.
Schmidt: That’s the unknown piece of the cloud story. Most of the cloud marketing and innovation that you read about in the past couple of years is really being focused on a data center. It's as if everything to do with the application happened in the data center. We know it's only the half of the story. You have the network and then the branch itself. As long as the majority of workers are out in branch offices, which is true for a large percentage of especially larger enterprises, making that work is obviously critical for the productivity of the whole business.
White: And, interest going up too. When you look at the announcements that have been coming out and the hype on cloud in the industry, it's all focused on the data center. That’s because most of the vendors say, "That’s where the big bucks are being made. We are going to make money out of the data center."
Ipanema, on the other hand, is focused on application acceleration, and in order to do that, you have to take care of what goes on in the branch and manage it.
Gardner: So, it seems that automating network unification, bringing more governance to this whole WAN, even if it's a complex stew of networks, that's the key. Help me understand what it is at a high level that we need to do to beat this, so that we can do cloud computing and get that return on investment (ROI) in that data center, but without stumbling at the network stage.
White: I'd be happy to. At a high level, the first thing you have do is provide some type of WAN governance, simply meaning that we are going to make sure that you have taken care of the management of your business. Because that’s what WAN governance means -- providing the type of control over your business to allow it to continue to be productive, as you're making changes to your WAN.
Simply put, you first of all have to find out what's going on in the network. You have to understand what's happening on those 4, 5, or 6 different flows that are all going in from different sources to your branch. You have to be able to control those flows and manage them, so that you don't have your edge device or edge router getting congested.
You have to be able to guarantee performance and, very importantly, you also have to then unify, balance, and optimize the performance over those multiple network points that are coming into your branch.
If you're doing it the right way, at least what we would say is the right way, it needs to be dynamic, automatic and, in Ipanema terminology, autonomic, meaning that not only does it happen automatically, but the network learns and manages itself. It doesn’t require extra human intervention.
Schmidt: That's a really critical point. The way the enterprise is going to get its arms around this increasingly complex environment is not through throwing people at it. Throwing people at network management has never worked and, now that the environment is more complex, it's going to work even less.
Quickly and automatically
The whole point of cloud is that you're going to use virtualization and automation to bring up instances of servers quickly and automatically, and that's where this order of magnitude improvement potential comes from. But, if you don't want the multiple networks to be the bottleneck, then you have to apply automation in that domain as well. That's what we've done. We've made it possible for the network to run itself to meet the businesses’ objectives.
The effect that has in a branch office with multiple network connections is really to hide all the complexity that that multiplicity brings, because the system is managing them all in a unified way. That's what we're getting at when we're talking about network unification. The details that bedeviled traditional management just kind of disappear.
Gardner: Thanks, Peter. I see the term WAN governance used a lot, I wonder if either of you could give me a quick primer. What do you really mean by WAN governance?
White: I just mentioned it and I probably should have defined it a little more. We look at WAN governance as really a piece of ISO standard for IT governance, which is an official ISO standard. There is a section in there on WAN governance. In a way, it talks about what you have to do to manage your wide area.
Ipanema strongly believes the WAN governance is really a standard that should be put on the books, but isn't yet. If you're really going to have governance over your IT, since the network is a strategic asset to promote enterprise customers, you need to have governance over the wide area as well.
We've made it a particular issue, as far as we're concerned, in delivery of service. We want to make sure that our customers can have governance over the wide area. Peter, have you got more comments on that?
Schmidt: WAN governance is what the CIO wants to buy. CIOs don’t want to buy a WAN, and they certainly don't want to buy WAN optimization controllers. What they want to buy is reliable application performance across their infrastructure with the best possible performance and lowest possible cost. My high-level definition of WAN governance is that it's the technology and techniques that allow the CIO to buy that.
Gardner: So, as we look at cloud computing and then hybrid computing, there is also a simultaneous trend around mobile computing. As you’ve pointed out Peter, when I've spoken to you in the past, there seems to be this removal of the boundaries between private, public, and personal computing.
Tell me how that's impacting things. I know that a lot of the enterprises I talk to are rapidly moving toward mobile. They want to be able to use mobile apps. They want to be able to have their workforce engaging with applications as part of the business process 24X7 no matter where they are.
Schmidt: Absolutely. Anybody who carries a smartphone is experiencing the personal, private, public boundary of operations themselves. But what seems natural to somebody carrying an iPhone or Blackberry is a tremendous challenge to the traditional models of IT.
We're about to release our first iPhone app to provide an interface into our central management system, and it's terrific. It's exactly the kind of thing the CIO would want to have in their hand. That just shows the value of pushing IT to be democratized and put into the hands of all of the people tied to the enterprise.
How does it challenge traditional IT? Control is something that is IT's responsibility, and it doesn't matter that these technological innovations are making that harder. They still have that responsibility.
We think you need to use technology to fight technology. The Ipanema system is designed to provide the full control by giving the enterprise IT organization not just visibility in reporting on every user's access to their IT infrastructure, but also to automatically control all of that traffic in accordance with various policies.
We don't see any other way around it. You're not going to do this manually. You've got to build smarter systems. We happen to think that we are a huge piece of that puzzle in terms of how we control things at the network level.
White: Dana, most of us hire those mobile remote users ourselves. We're all on the road or at home working, which is probably typical for 80 percent of all the people in the U.S. My wife, for example, works for a real estate agency. You wouldn’t think she works at home, but she does, and most everybody does. What's important is that you have to provide full guaranteed performance, regardless of where your users are, because a lot of your users are now remote and mobile and they are accessing critical applications.
So if you have a mobile agent that is a part of your network, all the services need to be integrated for the visibility and control of the applications even to a mobile user. That's what the mobile client does. It's integrated into the whole network and it's nothing separate. It allows enterprises to have control and management over the objectives they have set for application performance down to my desktop.
Schmidt: Or your laptop in the hotel room.
White: Or my laptop in the hotel room, absolutely.
Gardner: And the pace has changed so rapidly, who knows? In two years there might be a totally new class of device out there, right?
Schmidt: One thing that's clear is that putting into people’s hands more power that they're going to be using more often and in more places is the obvious trend. I don't know in which ways smartphones will get smarter, but I'm pretty sure that they will become the dominant end user device over time for all IT needs -- personal, private, and public.
White: If we look at the projections for smartphones, in the next couple of years they're going to have the intelligence that the current laptops we're using now have. That means they're really going to have the performance of a laptop, and they will have applications running the same as we do now on our laptops.
Schmidt: The limitations of the interface versus a laptop are such that it's going to put pressure on some of the more sophisticated computing happening into the back end of the cloud. So, the two really work off each other.
White: I completely agree.
Gardner: While we think about mobile computing now as a B2E, that is to say, how I empower my employees, we're also seeing a lot of enterprises thinking about how to deliver applications to their end users, their clients, their customers, and even finding new classes of customers. This is about application delivery, not just for productivity internally, but increasingly as the means to new revenue and new business. Any thoughts about that?
Schmidt: That really represents a merging of the traditional e-commerce model with the traditional IT. Now we have a similar value delivery mechanism, the app, being used by different constituents of the same enterprise.
For example, we've been talking to a very large, worldwide, well-known consumer brand. Their concern is how do they make the thousands of employees of their enterprise productive using their mobile apps? Also, how do they bring their customers to their website and have them buy that way.
We're talking to both groups at the same time, because it's ultimately a common infrastructure. They need a way to solve that issue from a common platform. That's why they came to us, because we're the only ones who have that platform.
Gardner: Let's look at the ways that we approach these. We've clearly defined that there are a lot of challenges and tremendous opportunities as well. This isn't something that many companies can afford to ignore. This is a problem that needs to be solved. How do we get at this? What are the WAN governance, the autonomic, and the hybrid network unification approaches that we need to consider?
Schmidt: It starts with a change in philosophy, honestly. Traditional network management was done from a very bottoms-up technical orientation. We worried about sites, we worried about routers, we worried about network connection, and we hoped to build from the bottom-up a relatively reliable, relatively well-functioning network infrastructure.
Since you're no longer building big chunks of that infrastructure to move to the cloud, there's an obvious limitation right there in a bottom-up approach. You're going to be buying a service with some sort of service level agreement (SLA). There's a wrapper around that. You don't have those details. In fact, that's what exciting about the cloud. Now you don't have to worry about managing those details.
You've got to go the rest of the way, and Ipanema has pioneered a unique approach that stems from the idea that all that matters is that end users are able to get good performance from their applications, because that’s when they are most productive. When application performance slows down, end users start surfing the web. So, ensuring the performance of the application is critical. That’s what the enterprise needs to reorient itself toward.
The fundamental input into our system is a list of applications and their performance. The system itself is intelligent enough to monitor and dynamically control all of the traffic to achieve those objectives on behalf of the business. So, it’s imposing the business’s will on the network.
The first step
The first step is the change in orientation to understand that application performance is the fundamental thing you want to buy, and to realize that it could be achieved top-down through a system like ours.
Gardner: Tell me a little bit about the history of Ipanema. How did you get to this point? Dave, what’s the history that led up to your innovation and ability to look at this a little differently?
White: It starts with our three founders who got together and took a look at what the needs were from an application perspective. Their goal was to find a way to ensure that, as users, we all had the performance we needed and that enterprises could deliver performance from an application perspective to their users.
That’s what they started out with. Then they took a look at how you would deliver that service and recognized the best way to provide for the delivery of the right type of consistent application performance is to do it over the wide area and to look what happens over the WAN.
They were very visionary in recognizing that application performance over the wide area is going to be the single most critical piece of the puzzle, when it comes to taking a look at how we as users of enterprise deliver service and do it in conjunction with major service providers and network providers, because they are the ones that deliver the wide area connections.
When they started out, they were told that they were wrong and weren't looking at it the right way. When you see what’s happened to the network and how it’s evolved, particularly now that we are moving into the cloud generation, they were focused exactly in the right area. Although we have a lot of new features, the basic architecture has been there for years and it’s been proven in major service provider networks and is installed on a global basis.
Gardner: Peter, we are going to get into some more technical detail about Ipanema’s approach in an additional podcast, but just to round this out for our discussion today, what is a little bit of the secret sauce? What is it that differentiates you technically in terms of being able to accomplish autonomic networking and hybrid network unification?
Schmidt: There are a couple of things that are the secret sauce, but the easiest one to explain probably is the fact that our appliances actually cooperate with each other, and this is unique. Our appliances know about not just the traffic that’s impinging on their network interfaces, but they actually know about the flows that are active everywhere on the network.
It’s actually not that that simple. They really only need to know about the flows that might conflict with the flows that they are managing. But conceptually, every device on the network knows about all the other flows it needs to know about. They are constantly communicating with each other -- what flows are active and what performance those flows are getting from the infrastructure, which includes the whole WAN, but also the data center and the service. So what does that enable?
Sharing this information means that all of the decisions made by an individual device are made from a global perspective. They're no longer making a local optimization decision. They each run the same algorithm and can come to the same result. And that result is a globally optimum traffic mix on the network.
When I say globally optimum, that’s a valid technical term as opposed to a marketing term, because the information has been collected globally from the entire system. In terms of optimum, what I mean is the best possible performance from the most applications using the given network infrastructure and its status at that point in time. So, it’s a hard definition of what optimum means.
Gardner: It sounds like you are taking metadata in a real-time environment, almost applying business intelligence to what’s going on in the network. Is that what you mean by WAN governance or am I overstepping the definition here?
Schmidt: Forgive me, Dana, but that’s how a data center guy would describe what we are doing in the network. We're network guys. From what I know about metadata and the applications built back in the data center, that sounds pretty good. The fundamental point is that the traditional approach to network management required a human being in the loop, and the human being had to look at low level metrics, like what percent full was a particular circuit, what was the ping time between two sites, and then try make a judgment about what that meant in terms of the health of the infrastructure.
Their primary indicator about the health of the infrastructure was, and remains, helpdesk calls. I was at Interop speaking at a panel last year, and the analyst who was monitoring the panel and said, "Everybody in the audience whose first knowledge of an application performance problem is a call to the helpdesk, raise your hands." Three quarters of the IT professionals in that audience raised their hand -- and the other quarter were lying -- because it's really impossible with traditional network approaches to understand what's going on at the application level from the network.
There are a couple of theoretical reasons for that, but Ipanema said, "That’s too hard. It's probably not even theoretically possible. So, let's do something different. Let's measure the application performance directly and then share those measurements" -- and that’s the key.
White: The point I'd like to make is that it's absolutely impossible to measure it in a cloud environment as an enterprise network manager, because you only see a piece of the network. Unless you’ve done something different, which is what we provide, than the way you are going to look at your network, if you are looking at it the way you’ve done for the last 10 or 20 years, there is no way that you can see everything.
The closing point here is that the first step is visibility into the network, and the next step is providing the control. You need to do that in the cloud environment, and that's what Ipanema does.
Gardner: When Peter mentioned that he thinks about things of course from a networking perspective, I tend to think more at a data center level, but these two worlds need to stop colliding or being separate to come together. How does what Ipanema does can allow that? Can we bridge this cultural gap between the data center mentality and the network mentality, because I think that’s what's going to be essential for cloud computing?
Schmidt: It's all about application delivery. The enterprise is beginning to understand that. We talked about the founders’ insight in realizing that what really matters is good application performance across the WAN and how the WAN is a critical asset and it's the most highly variable asset, especially in the cloud. So, there is a lot of value to getting control there.
But, the data center is its own highly complex environment with networks and multiple tiers of different computing going on. Clearly, a huge amount of work and innovation has gone on in there by companies other than Ipanema to master that complexity, and in fact, automate all sorts of interesting activities to make the data center a much more responsive, flexible, on-demand infrastructure.
But, the thing that needs to happen is that there needs to be an end-to-end view of how to deliver the best possible application performance to the end user, given the resources that have been deployed or could be turned on, because that’s the new dimension here. In the data center, we can now turn on more servers dynamically. Ipanema has the ability to dynamically send the traffic over multiple network paths. So, there's an affinity there that we need to exploit. In fact, we're actively working on partnerships to help realize that connection.
Gardner: We are just about out of time, but I would like to look at the future and even through the lens of the user. Is there someone that you are aware of, a use case that perhaps is a bellwether of what more organizations will be dealing with looking at this architectural perspective, the visibility, but also with this being so essential to their business having a real impact on the bottom line?
Is there an example that might illuminate where other people are going to find themselves in the few years?
Schmidt: We have an excellent example right now. A very large enterprise, a major logistics company, is in the process of a multi-year IT project that is critically strategic to their entire business. They're moving from a legacy IBM mainframe infrastructure that's running their entire business today -- order taking to warehouse management to truck dispatch, the whole nine yards.
They're moving to an SAP system. A critical enabler of that is the fact that they're going to buy a managed service from a global service provider that’s partner of Ipanema’s, BT. BT has an intelligent managed service on top of the Ipanema platform. So what are the benefits the customer is buying?
Well, the number one thing caused them to adopt this approach was their concern that if there is poor application performance with this SAP suite of applications, it's not a theoretical productivity reduction. It's a measurable, millions of dollars per hour or more, hit to their bottom line. So there is a very high value of having full control over their application performance on their WAN.
I think the fact that they could buy it as a service from a major service provider was also a big attraction to them. They're a very large company. They're used to dealing with very large IT service providers. The fact that our platform has become the basis for a proven globally deployed intelligent application based managed service gave them a lot of confidence that this is really going to work for them.
Although this example is a case of going from mainframe to a modern SAP distributed implementation, I see the benefit that they are looking for being the same as people who move into the cloud are looking for. They're looking for revolutionary improvements in their IT infrastructure, whether that turns into a factor of 10 cost reduction or a factor of 10 up-time or reliability improvement or whatever the other strategic metric may be. The promise of cloud is that by using this new model, you can revolutionize your IT.
One of the big risks there, of course, is that you step into this world of greater complexity and you can have the productivity gains completely undone by the fact that it is complex and you need to be able to figure out how to manage that. So, this company is actually a pretty good example of what people are going to be struggling with as they move into the future and look at cloud -- how they migrate their critical business activities into a new distributed infrastructure -- and we have a piece of that answer with WAN governance.
Gardner: I'm afraid we'll have to leave it there. It was a very interesting discussion. We've been talking about automated network unification and pervasive WAN governance as essential ingredients to quality, scale, and managed security across the many forms of today's applications use, working more towards cloud and hybrid models.
I want to thank our guests. We've been joined by Peter Schmidt. He is the Chief Technology Officer, North America, for Ipanema Technologies. Thank you, Peter.
Schmidt: Thank you, Dana.
Gardner: And David White, Vice President of Global Business Development at Ipanema. Thanks so much, Dave.
White: Thanks, Dana. It was a pleasure.
Gardner: This is Dana Gartner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You’ve been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for listening, and come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Ipanema Technologies.
Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on meeting the challenges in networks management in the age of cloud computing. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2010. All rights reserved.
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