Musings About How Companies are Using New Technologies

Juha Holkkola

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Related Topics: Cloud Computing, Datacenter Automation, Network Virtualization

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Service Automation Creates New Silos By @FusionLayer | @CloudExpo [#Cloud]

The existence of silos has been a common source of challenges in service automation initiatives

Service Automation Breaks Down Old Barriers, Creates New Silos

Services providers have traditionally organized the management and operation of different technologies into several teams with very specific domain knowledge. These teams have been staffed with specialists looking after routing, network services, servers, virtualization, storage area networks, security and various other technology domains. Over time, these functional teams have had the tendency to develop into loosely tied silos.

The existence of silos has been a common source of challenges in service automation initiatives. As most automated workflows span across different technology domains, one of the key requirements for a successful service automation initiative has been collaboration between the different technology domains touched by the project.

To tackle this requirement, many organizations have introduced new service owner roles. The thinking is that if someone's job depends on making sure that the automation project and the ensuing services are a success, one has the incentive to bring all the affected stakeholders around the same table. As most service automation projects have started from the application or more broadly the cloud side of the organization, this approach has often worked out rather well.

However, as new dynamic networking technologies such as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) are making their way into real network environments, they are likely to increase the complexity associated with fully automated service flows. This is caused by the fact that rather than having just one orchestrated process used to deploy server workloads running applications, the number of automation technology domains will triple. The three automation technology domains include:

  1. Cloud orchestrators used to deploy applications and workloads on physical and virtual computing platforms. Examples would be VMware vRealize, OpenStack Heat, Microsoft System Center or any other commonly used cloud orchestrator.
  2. NFV orchestrators used to deploy and configure virtualized network services.
  3. SDN controllers used to activate and configure the underlying networks themselves

As both NFV and SDN markets are still relatively immature, it remains to be seen which vendors will end up dominating areas two and three above. Interestingly enough, however, I have already seen some service providers whose staff is busy creating new silos around them. When I have asked who looks after the interoperability between these three new silos, the typical answer has been a confused look followed by silence.

Therefore, while these three silos are still brand new, my recommendation to organizations expecting to proceed to the next phase of service automation is to first decide how the interoperability between these three technology domains will be implemented. At the end of the day, all these orchestrators and controllers will have to be able to work inside the same networks, so without a solid mediation strategy in place it will be extremely difficult to reap the full business benefits of service agility and automation.

More Stories By Juha Holkkola

Juha Holkkola is chief executive of FusionLayer, www.fusionlayer.com, (formerly Nixu Software) the technology company that streamlines cloud and application delivery in next generation data centers. He joined Nixu in early 2000 and has since held various business and sales management positions. Before Nixu, Juha worked for Nokia Networks and financial services company Danske Bank in marketing and treasury functions.