With over thirty years in the industry, $2.2 billion in revenue for their last fiscal year, tens of thousands of customers, and a broad portfolio of business service and IT management solutions, BMC Software knows IT. Naturally, so does BMC's CIO, Mark Settle, who recently sat down with Enterprise Networking Planet to talk SDN, the pros and cons of cloud migration, and more.
ENP: Among the trends we've been watching in the enterprise networking space, SDN is one of the biggest. What are your thoughts on the topic?
Settle: SDN is indeed a hot topic among CIOs at the moment. VMWare's acquisition of the startup SDN company Nicira last year has focused attention on this new technology. I think there's also a sense that many IT organizations were a little late to the party in adopting server virtualization technology, and now they don't want to be on the trailing curve of this potentially disruptive new technology.
In principle, SDN will allow IT shops to deploy network switching software on commodity hardware, significantly reducing the cost of network gear for large, global enterprises. SDN technology also offers other tantalizing features in terms of managing quality of service for different network users and enforcing more rigorous information security policies on network traffic, but initial adoption is likely to be driven as a cost-savings initiative, in which proprietary network hardware is replaced by commodity hardware.
For all the interest in SDN, though, there really aren't any industrial-strength offerings that have been operationally implemented by large, global enterprises. We're at the very early stages of the SDN hype curve.
ENP: Migrating to the cloud is another big point of discussion. What pitfalls should enterprises watch for as they consider moving networks and data centers to the cloud, and how can enterprises avoid those pitfalls?
Settle: At this point, I think large enterprises are exploring a wide variety of initial use cases, in which specific activities like software development and testing can be performed on third-party hardware outside the company's firewall more flexibly and cost-effectively than inside. I don't think the CIOs of many Fortune 500 companies have announced a transformational strategy just yet of retiring a third or half of their existing data center assets and moving the computational activities supported by those assets to the cloud, but I think most shops are developing the operational practices and experience that will enable them to scale their use of third-party infrastructure providers quite rapidly in the future.
The biggest pitfalls being debated at the moment revolve around information security and network congestion/latency. In reality, though, there are a wide variety of encryption and aliasing technologies that can be used to remediate the vast majority of security concerns. Similarly, there are some really stunning data compression and network acceleration technologies available to address congestion/latency concerns.
My personal opinion is that many of the fears associated with security and congestion are misfounded. Even if they cannot be fully resolved, they need to be traded off against some of the scale and agility benefits associated with cloud computing that are difficult and expensive to achieve internally.
ENP: Looking forward, what trends do you predict on the rise in enterprise networking?
Settle: Automating configuration management practices remains a hot topic in enterprise networking. As global enterprises expand through organic growth or acquisition, networks inevitably become more complex. It's pretty rare for IT groups to successfully justify the hiring of additional network engineers or network operators to support this growth, so continual automation of routine management practices across multiple geographies and multiple varieties of network equipment is actually a big deal—it's a survival tactic!
Security concerns add to the complexity. Establishing policies that satisfy legal and business needs, developing control frameworks that can enforce the policies, and conducting efficient auditing practices that document the effectiveness of the controls can take a lot of time. Compliance audits are being conducted with increasing frequency and at significantly greater levels of detail. This is another area where automation can pay big dividends.
Finally, IT shops that have embraced cloud computing practices for managing some portion of their internal data center assets are making increasing use of the "network container" concept to virtually segregate data center network utilization by different development or test teams. This kind of segregation can provide greater security for intellectual property or sensitive customer information.
Stay tuned for our look at BMC Software's network management standouts and BMC's tablet-based MyIT app.
Jude Chao is Executive Editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.