As organizations of all sizes seek to transform themselves into digital businesses, the need for an agile IT infrastructure becomes ever more acute. Network virtualization (NV) can increase IT agility, according to emerging case studies and user feedback.
Here’s an example of one of the challenges in IT agility: A virtual machine (VM) can be provisioned in a matter of minutes. But the networking resources required to support that VM still often require weeks to provision. At a time when many IT organizations are trying to maintain control over application workloads that are being moved into public clouds (which are simpler to provision), lack of network flexibility has become a pressing issue for IT leaders.
Users Demand Agility
As we’ve demonstrated in our research reports, agility and flexibility consistently emerge as the top characteristics desired by users. The leading NV suppliers know this – and they are constantly looking at ways to use NV to increase IT agility.
At the recent VMworld 2016 conference VMware revealed that, after years of effort, more than 1,700 customers are now paying to use its NSX network virtualization software. Rajiv Ramaswami, executive vice president and general manager for the Networking and Security Business Unit at VMware, says about 40 percent of those customers are implementing NSX as part of a larger IT automation project that is being driven by the need for greater agility. Another 40 percent are implementing NSX to specifically address security issues, while 20 percent are implementing NSX as part of a disaster recovery project.
Regardless of the impetus, Ramaswami says, each use case generally leads to a rapid expansion in usage of network virtualization.
“A lot of organizations start with one use case,” he says. “Then they find a lot of other problems they can solve.”
Upside for NV to Increase IT Agility
One case in point is Columbia Sportswear Company. John Spiegel, IS/global communications manager for Columbia Sportswear, told VMworld attendees that, after adopting NSX in its data centers, the next big effort the retailer faces is to extend NSX out to its remote data centers. In effect, Columbia Sportswear will be leading the charge to employ NSX as a software defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) – which Ramaswami also told conference attendees echoes VMware’s own NSX ambitions.
Despite all this progress, however, the IT industry as a whole still has a long way to go when it comes to NV. At 1,700 customers, NSX today is only being employed by a fraction of the VMware installed base. Paula Musich, an industry analyst with Current Analysis, observes that the market penetration for network virtualization remains small, even when all the other providers of NV software are accounted for.
“When you think about it, 1,700 NSX customers is a drop in the bucket,” says Musich. A big part of the problem, she notes, is that when it comes to NV software the learning curve for most IT organizations is steep. As a result, the rate at which IT organizations are moving to network virtualization, compared to server virtualization adoption a decade ago, is greatly extended.
Unfortunately, not every organization makes the connection between increased IT agility and network virtualization. The simple fact of the matter is that there is a direct correlation between how adroitly network resources can be managed and the overall agility of the IT organization. The real challenge now facing network vendors and the IT organizations they serve is finding ways to master NV quickly in order to hearten their business units – which every passing day are losing more of what little remaining patience they have with inflexible IT environments.